If you’re getting ready to attend a family reunion, planning (and surviving!) a successful one may range from fairly simple to daunting. There are several key points to consider such as:
1. The size of your family. Smaller-member family reunions are easier to handle cost, venue, and intimacy-wise. With fewer family members, you can get away with just having the group over for a sit down dinner or an informal backyard barbecue. There’s more opportunity to re-connect as a family with less people. If you have a very large family, you may want to do separate reunions in smaller groups – say one for your mother’s side and one for your father’s.
2. How close everyone lives to each other. If your family members live in Europe or on the other side of the country, this may make it harder for certain family members to travel to the reunion. Time off from work, kids off from school, all has to be arranged, so giving enough lead time in sending the invitation is necessary. Unless one relative lives somewhere in-between everyone and agrees to host the reunion, deciding on an in-between venue location will also take a little time, especially if you’re doing it online and over the phone. You may have to make a trip to the venue to coordinate things with an on-site event planner.
3. Are you a close knit group? Do you see and speak to each other frequently, or only at weddings and funerals? It’s always harder to reconnect as relatives if you haven’t seen people for a while. Grown children may not have ever met certain relatives and may be uncomfortable initiating introductions and conversations.
4. Does everyone get along? You don’t want your family reunion to go down in flames when Uncle John and Uncle Bob get into the same fight they always have because they never could get along. You may have to make the decision not to invite certain family members but this will likely also cause friction with other family members.
Here are a few basic guidelines from professional party planners that may help you successfully pull off a fun and happy family reunion.
1. Plan your guest list carefully. Taking into consideration some of the points mentioned above, make sure the people you invite are going to enhance the party rather than cause it to fail.
2. Choose the right place. If you have a big enough home and grounds, you can eliminate venue cost by having the reunion in your backyard. If not, check out local parks and Recreational Centers who often rent out their Pavilion spaces, pools, etc, for all types of parties. Private banquet halls are a choice as are local restaurants (for smaller member family reunions). If family members need to travel to get there, you might look into renting a banquet room at a local hotel and block rooms for your traveling family there. You may also want to have them stay at your home, if you have enough room. Be sure the outdoor venue you choose has nearby restrooms and some shaded space.
3. Invitations. Be sure it’s clear where, when, what to bring, directions if necessary, and the all-important RSVP instruction – regrets only, coming yes or no by a given date – and a contact phone number and/or email address. Nothing’s worse in party planning than guests who don’t respond either way to an RSVP marked invitation. You don’t know to include them in the food and drink count or not, and it’s awkward for both of you to have to call and ask.
4. Food and Refreshments. Keep it simple – the easier your menu is, the less likely things will go wrong with the food. Decide if you will have alcohol. If some of your family members have alcohol problems which may lead to arguments, fights, destroyed property, and the police being called, you may want to leave alcohol out. Coffee, tea, soft drinks may be a better choice.
5. Activities. If there are a lot of children in the family, you might want to have planned activities like relay races, volleyball, badminton, swimming (if there’s a pool) etc. Giving people something to do besides sitting all day encourages guests to interact with each other and adds to the fun and good moods.