Family Reunions 101
With families separated by hundreds of miles, a family reunion is often the only way to get everyone together. A reunion can be the best time for family members to reconnect with each other, meet new additions to the family, and create the bonds that keeps a family together.8 Simple Steps to a Successful Family Reunion
1. Decide who to invite.
Which side of the family are you inviting? Will you invite just close relatives or all descendents?
2. Get feedback from guests.
You don’t want to go to all the trouble of planning a reunion if no one will be able to attend. Mail or email the guests to get their feedback on dates, proposed reunion types, and location.
3. Form a committee.
Choose five or six family members to help with the planning. Assign each member to one major aspect of the reunion.
4. Select the date.
Decide on a date that will best accommodate the majority. Also, decide if your reunion will be a one-day event or an event that last for several days.
5. Choose the location.
Try to choose a location that is most accessible and affordable to the majority of attending guests.
6. Create a budget.
The budget will determine the food, decorations, location, and activities provided. If you have no other source of income, create a per-family registration fee to help with the cost.
7. Decide on a theme.
Choosing a creative theme will get family members excited to attend the reunion. A theme can help determine food, games, and activities.
8. Choose activities.
While most adults will be entertained just talking to one another, the children will need some activities to keep them entertained. The reunion site will help determine what activities will be provided or what things you will need to bring.
Fun Family History Activities
If you have large group of extended family, identify each family with a certain color tee shirt.
Ask family members to bring a historic family photo. Display the photos or scan them on to CDs and hand them out to family members.
Create a form with a list of questions on it in which family member will have to ask other family members in order to get the answers. This provides a great chance for interaction between family members. Family Tree Wall Chart
Display a large family tree chart on a wall. Include as many generations as possible. Family member will be able to see where they fit into the family and will be able to fill-in or correct any information.
Ask family members to submit their favorite recipes or recipes that have been handed down from previous generations. Compile these to create a heritage cookbook.
Have family members share funny or interesting stories about their families. Storytelling can bring about wonderful laughs and sometimes even tearful eyes. If possible, video record the story time and send copies to the family members.
Use your imagination to create family awards to be handed out at the reunion. Try to come up with fun, creative categories. Here are some examples:
Youngest family member
Oldest family member
Person or family who traveled the least distance to attend
Person or family who traveled the greatest distance to attend
Couple with the most children
Couple with the most grandchildren
You can also come up with silly awards. For example:
"Say Cheese" award for the person who takes the most pictures
"Busy-body" award for the person who got to know the most people
The invitations, food, decorations, dress, and activities of your reunion can all be based around a theme. Here are a few examples:
Send out “wanted poster” invitations. Encourage family members to wear cowboy hats, boots, and belt buckles. Barbeques are ideal for a western themed party
A luau is a great theme if you are going to be located near water. Send out invitations that are covered with brightly colored tropical flowers. Family members can dress up in Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, and flip-flops. Leis can be handed out to each family member as they arrive.
Perhaps you could attach your invite to something like a mini sombrero or maraca. You can use a regular sombrero to serve chips and salsa. Kids will love swinging at a piñata and the adults might like to try Latin dancing
Center your reunion around the birthday of one of the grandparents or great-grandparents. Send out “You’re invited to a birthday party” invitations. Decorate with balloons, streamers, crepe paper, and other birthday decorations.
Location, Location, Location
Where you decide to hold your family reunion will determine what type of reunion you will have. Your reunion can be casual or formal, one afternoon or an entire week. Whatever you decide, here are a few suggestions:
Church History Sites
Two of the popular reunion location trends popping up recently for LDS families are Book of Mormon and Church history sites (such as in Latin America, Nauvoo, or Palmyra). If you are interested in a reunion of this sort, be sure to check into escorted tours to help you coordinate the event.
For the family who wants to stay indoors yet still have room for everyone, staying at a hotel and reserving a conference room is a good option. The kids can swim and play games, the adults can relax in an air-conditioned building.
A reunion at a park is always a success. Children can play on the toys provided, or parents can bring items like wading pools and bicycles from home. For adults, croquet, volleyball, or badminton can be set up.
Camping provides privacy and a chance for special bonding. Staying up late, roasting marshmallows, and having intimate conversations around the campfire will create ever-lasting memories.
If you are looking for a reunion that doesn’t require a ton of planning, consider a restaurant. Not having to prepare food or make food assignments will cut down significantly on your planning.
If you’re looking for an indoor reunion, a chapel cultural hall may be your ideal solution. Food can be refrigerated, frozen, or reheated in the kitchen.
Activities for All Ages
Games provide a great opportunity for family interaction. Here are a few ideas: sack race, red rover, capture the flag, family trivia, three-legged race, board games, pie-eating contest, or musical chairs.
Cover a table with butcher paper and put out all sorts of craft supplies (construction paper, scissors, glue, stickers, paints, markers, and crayons). You can either specify a craft, or let the children be creative with the supplies available.
Family Talent Show
Tell your family members there will be a talent show in advance so they can bring any necessary items. You can give out awards for different categories.
Allow branches of the family to put on short skits for the rest of the family. You can assign skits to be acted out or allow them to come up with their own.
Keeping in Touch
Try to find ways to keep in touch. You could send everyone home with a birthday calendar and contact information sheet, or you could also start a family newsletter or website. Email and instant messaging are free and easy, and don't forget the tried-and-true phone call. Don't wait until the next reunion to nourish all of those rekindled family friendships!