It’s getting both easier and harder to stay in touch with family members. As jobs call relatives across the country from ‘home’, the distance can be negated by long distance calling, Skype and other ‘George Jetson' calling programs. But seeing family members face-to-face is a special time to plan and look forward to enjoying. F Family reunions are still the best way to catch up, trade stories and give Grandma and Grandpa bear hugs! It may seem like a daunting task, but planning a family reunion doesn’t have to be. With a little forethought and some delegation of duties, getting everyone together will feel like the good time it’s meant to be rather than the end of a long and arduous task.
If you schedule the reunion during a major holiday or in the month when everyone is planning a vacation somewhere else, it’s not going to be successful. Before choosing a date, ask for input from each individual family. It may be that everyone wants to get together for Christmas or Thanksgiving, but early spring might be better. You won’t know if you don’t ask.
Make a list of everything you’d like to see happen at your reunion. Some families enjoy having a silent auction at their reunions to fund one for the next year. Others love to fish or play games together. Do you want a potluck or would you rather have it catered? Will it last for just one day or for a whole weekend? Where will you hold your family reunion? As you begin to brainstorm, include other family members and begin formulating a plan.
Trying to take care of each little detail by yourself will make you a nervous wreck! Assign family members with items on your list or, if your family is large enough, form small committees to get each job done. As coordinator, follow up to make sure there’s not a problem and offer advice as needed, but allow others to help. That will make it everyone’s reunion and not just yours.
Once a venue has been chosen and confirmed, look for local events or landmarks that might be interesting to family members. If there’s a goat cook-off or carnival scheduled in the area, it might be fun to take the whole clan and invade … or attend. Local Chambers of Commerce have brochures containing points of interest, celebrations and unique places. Take advantage of them and create special memories with your family.
A family reunion shouldn’t feel like a day at the office or in the classroom. Pretty obvious, but some families so over-schedule events in the reunion that there’s no time to visit. Plan free time where people can mingle, play dominos or yard games or nap!
Kids today have a harder time entertaining themselves than any other generation before them. They depend on electronic gadgets or television to kill time. Instead of giving them a DVD player and a stack of movies or an iPad or game system, why not plan some activities with them? Games that you remember from your childhood, new games or activities that you look up online or activities that are already at your venue will allow kids to interact with the grownups in a positive way and will pass along some of those old traditional games to the next generation. Make games that they’ll enjoy available for their ‘free time’ and, of course, give them limited time with their gadgets. (Just make sure it doesn’t take up the whole reunion!)
There’s no such thing as a perfect family, or a perfect family reunion. If something goes awry, don’t freak out. Plans can change, activities come and go, but these people will be your family for a long time. Don’t stress (or create stress) over a schedule.
Once you get everyone together, make sure it’s recorded for family prosperity! You can either ask everyone to upload their pictures to someplace like Flickr! Or Shutterbug, or you can purchase a dozen throw-away cameras and leave them lying around for everyone to use. Have a basket available to drop off the cameras once they’ve been used up and develop the film yourself. (That’s where a silent auction comes in handy!) Upload the pics and ask people to identify themselves and what’s going on in each image. Create an online photo album where everyone can enjoy them.
Family histories used to be kept in a Bible and passed down word-of-mouth. Provide ways for relatives to record special events that have happened in the past year(s). In another spot, have paper and pens ready to record any story they remember hearing from grandparents, great-grandparents or other sources. While these stories may not always be entirely accurate, they will provide a portrait of your family through the ages.
At the end of the reunion, make sure everyone lends a hand in clean up. There’s no point in having a great time with the family and then exhausting yourself cleaning up for everyone else. Many people make big messes, but many hands make light work.
Finally, while everyone is already together, begin to plan for the next reunion. Provide spiral notebooks for input. You might write questions at the top of each page and allow relatives to respond, then gather the information and begin to make plans. You may be more comfortable with a large family meeting where they can respond and brainstorm as a group. Avoid putting it off – you may not get a chance like this again!