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How to plan a family reunion: The ultimate guide to a fantastic event

Follow these steps when planning a family reunion to remember

family reunion tips
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Whether relatives live close together or they're separated by miles, getting everyone together isn’t easy with wintork and family responsibilities. Distance certainly makes it harder, but even families living within close proximity have trouble meeting up. Planning a family reunion can be especially daunting though. Logistically, planning a family reunion in advance where all participants can mark the calendar and save the date makes for an ideal plan, but the reality is that is easier said than done. If you have been wanting to get the entire family together, we can help. Here's how to plan a family reunion everyone will enjoy.

Difficulty

Moderate

Duration

3 hours

What You Need

  • Calendar

  • Planner

  • Invitations (paper or email)

  • Name tags

  • Vacation planning app

  • Zoom

Since most family reunions are multigenerational, putting one together seems like an enormous project, and it is. When it comes to how to throw a family reunion, the trick is not to have one person responsible for all the planning and execution. It’s not fair to expect a single family member to organize and throw a reunion. Luckily, there are ways to make the process less overwhelming and it starts by dividing and conquering to come up with great family reunion ideas.

A family on vacation taking a break to look at the view
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Decide on a representative from each family unit

The old adage “too many cooks in the kitchen” describes trying to plan a family reunion. When a large group of individuals tries to plan an event, usually, things go array. Instead, choose a representative from each family unit. Plan on connecting via Facetime or a Zoom call a few times throughout the planning and execution stages of organizing the family reunion.

Girl With Glasses Holding Book
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Choose a date

Once the relatives are on board for a fun family reunion, get the calendars out and pick a target date. Have each family toss out three options. Will the family be holding a week-long, weekend, or one-day reunion? Get these issues hammered out first.

The essentials to teach teens how to make a budget
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Budget

Money is typically an uncomfortable family conversation. When planning a family reunion, especially one involving multiple days in lieu of a vacation, A budget is important because everyone’s financial situation is different, particularly if kids will be in the mix.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while you're figuring out budget concerns.

Step 1: Before you can start planning a family reunion, sit down and hammer out a budget. Have the family representatives hold a budget meeting to figure out what's a reasonable budget for the event.

Step 2: Factor in travel expenses when planning a budget, since some family members may be farther away than others.

Step 3: Consider money-saving options like booking the reunion during off-season times when rates are cheaper.

excited family boarding an airplane for family renuion
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Pick a destination

Having one family host a large reunion is asking a lot unless they have a compound on Cape Cod like the Kennedys. A better idea is to have a destination reunion. All-inclusive cruises and resorts are earmarked for a destination family reunion because all the relatives know ahead of time about cost and can plan accordingly.

Cruises and resorts also offer a wide range of activities to accommodate multigenerational reunions, which means there's something for families with children and singles to do. National parks like Yellowstone are another consideration for a destination reunion, as are camping trips.

Try these steps when picking a family reunion destination.

Step 1: Have the representatives talk with their respective families to compile a list of possible reunion destinations.

Step 2: Designate one representative to create a Google form with all the suggestions. Email each family and individual attending the reunion the Google form and make sure they complete it by a certain date.

Step 3: Assign one representative the task of calculating and announcing the results.

Step 4: Once the final vote is tallied and a destination is chosen, use a travel app that can make planning a destination family reunion easier.

Step 5: If the final vote is for a one-day event, have family representatives meet and decide on a venue.

Fun invitation for a family reunion
KGaspar / Shutterstock

Send out the invites

Once the family representatives have locked in the date and destination for the family reunion and set the budget, get those invitations mailed or emailed as soon as possible. This way, all the relatives have ample time to clear work, school, and extracurricular schedules in order to be able to attend the reunion.

Teen girl sitting at computer smiling
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Volunteers

Once the invitations are sent, it’s time for other family members to step up. A reunion is a logistical nightmare to plan. Make things easier by having volunteers take care of the different tasks, such as tracking RSVPs, ordering reunion shirts, making reservations, greeting family members on the day of the reunion, looking up parking information, and other pertinent details that make the family reunion run smoothly.

Step 1: Send out an email call for volunteers.

Step 2: Have the family representatives meet and decide on a list of reunion tasks, such as keeping track of RSVPs.

Step 3: Assign each volunteer a task with a date to complete it by. Some tasks may be on the reunion day itself or in the time leading up to the event.

Step 4: Appoint one or two family representatives to check in with volunteers to ensure the tasks are being completed.

kids playing soccer at a family reunion
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Activities

For one-day family reunions, be sure to have some fun backyard activities, such as capture the flag, cornhole, flag football, and Wiffle ball on tap along with quieter pursuits like a family history trivia game.

If the family reunion is a destination event, map out group activities for everyone, like an evening cruise or a sightseeing tour, but leave some time for families to enjoy on their own. No one appreciates being overbooked on a vacation.

Family enjoying food during a reunion
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Menu

Like things to do, the menu is important. If it’s a one-day reunion, take food allergies into account when working with a caterer to plan a menu. All-inclusive resort family reunions will have more food flexibility, but try to reserve times for the family to share at least one breakfast, lunch, and dinner together.

Step 1: Have the family representatives generate a list of food allergies and dietary preferences, such as gluten-free or vegetarian.

Step 2: Make sure the volunteers in charge of the menu have the list of allergies and dietary issues before it's time to order food.

blank name tags to use for family reunion
Billion Photos / Shutterstock

Remembering names

Reunion tees are a nice touch, but simply making nametags can be a practical way of assisting all the reunion party members in remembering names. If families are spread apart and don’t see one another frequently, it can be difficult to remember Uncle Bob’s second wife’s name or cousin Mary’s new baby.

Step 1: Assign a volunteer the task of ordering or making name tags for all reunion attendees. Name tags should be reusable if the reunion isn't just a one-day event. Reunion tees with a family logo on the front and individual names on the back are another option. Tees are a great idea if your family reunion is a destination event or if it's taking place on multiple days.

Step 2: Mail out name tags or reunion tees before the event so attendees can wear them at the event.

man checking off list for family reunion
Pasuwan / Shutterstock

Confirm

Prior to the reunion, make sure all is well by having the designated volunteers and family representatives confirm all the details.

two toddlers walking through a large puddle in their rain boots
FamVeld / Shutterstock

Have a backup plan

If the reunion is in a park or outdoor venue, it might be a good idea to have an alternative plan if Mother Nature decides to rain on the parade.

Step 1: During the initial planning stage, make sure to build in a backup plan.

Step 2: Choose a rain date for the event.

Step 3: Order tents if the family reunion is outside.

Step 4: Decide early on if the family reunion is a rain or shine event.

calendar organizer
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

RSVP headaches

RSVP comes from the French phrase "respondez s'il vous plait." The meaning is simple; please respond. While the meaning of RSVP is straightforward and everyone knows what it means, people don't necessarily remember to do it.

When planning a family reunion or any party for that matter, having all the RSVPs by the due date is very important. You need a headcount when organizing a family reunion for a variety of reasons from making reservations to ordering t-shirts to creating nametags. So, what is the RSVP volunteer to do?

Step 1: Before sending out the invitations, decide on how the RSVP will be done. The two obvious choices are mailing back the response card with yes or no checked off as well as texting or emailing the response.

Step 2: Set one telephone number and email for responses. There's less likely to be confusion if one person is in charge of collecting RSVPs.

Step 3: Have a chart with the names of family members invited. Check off yes or no when you receive the response.

Step 4: Chase down the answers if people don't respond by the due date. This won't be a fun job, but it will need to be done if people don't RSVP by the date asked.

Holding a reunion, whether annually or to mark special milestones like a 100th birthday celebration, is a wonderful way to honor the importance of families. While relatives may have their differences, everyone is related, and large or small, that’s something to treasure. Putting together a family reunion is like planning a wedding, but with these family reunion ideas as a staging point, organizing one isn’t as daunting.

Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
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