Tips For Making Your Family Reunion Great
January 10, 2020
Each year we look forward to summertime. The sun is brighter, the days are longer and everyone is a little more relaxed. The lazy days of summer can also be a great opportunity to get extended family together and take advantage of the slower pace and (generally) more open schedules.
Easier said than done though, right? Coordinating a family reunion can seem daunting–people are separated by distance, work schedules, school–you name it! But with a little planning and organization, a successful and fun family reunion is definitely possible.
Family parties can be hard to make happen on a regular basis, so there can be a lot of pressure on doing the few that do happen right. Never fear, we’ve rounded up some of our best tips to help set you up and get you on track to plan the kind of party you’ll hear family talking about for years to come!
Create the Invite List
Determining your guest list is where you decide between immediate family or extended family. It’s probably been some time since you’ve seen or even heard from some of your out-of-town, extended family members. You may even need to track some of these people down! Get your list together so you can start planning.
Find the Right Location
Family reunions are like real estate in that they are all about three things: location, location, and location! Sure, in theory a reunion in Hawaii is a great idea. But unless you’re the Kardashians, there’s a good chance not every family member can make it to paradise. Pick a location that has traditionally good weather, but is within driving distance for the majority of people invited. Keep in mind that you are dealing with all age groups (families with babies, students, elderly, etc.), so pick a place that allows for as many people to attend as possible.
Once a city is selected, there are still some choices to make. Beach? Camping? Theme park? Bar crawl? The options are virtually endless, but make sure to pick a venue that will allow the most people to have a good time. Also, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and pick activities that might be unfamiliar to your family. Kayaking, hiking, or even visiting a horse ranch are a few cool activities that will get people out of their comfort zone, but also don’t require a high level of athleticism.
Pick A Date & Invite Your Guests
Whatever route you decide to take, make sure you book a date with the venue, park, or location you plan on hosting at. Naturally, your chance of securing a date with the venue depends on how early you book it, so always make sure to pick a date and venue as early in the planning process as possible!
Once the date is selected, the invite list is made, and the venue has been secured, the next step is to invite your family members so that they can mark their calendars. Have them RSVP to you as soon as possible, so that you can get a list of attendants for the rest of the planning process.
Help Out of Town Guests Find Accommodations
If you have family coming from out of town–and we hope you will–it’s important to arrange accommodations for your traveling guests, especially if they aren’t familiar with the area. Depending on how many guests you have coming, you may need to set them up with local hotels or have a few local family members volunteer space in their homes.
Pro Tip: Always book one or two extra rooms, as there will always be one or two guests who need to crash for the night. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
What’s on the Menu?
Providing food and beverages for a large, disparate group of people is not an easy task. When planning for a large group, it’s best to go with either a buffet or a prix-fixe menu with a options at one fixed price. These are both good ways to balance variety and cost. Make the meals memorable by including some family favorites, or dishes native to the location of the event. Also be sure to always make sure people with dietary restrictions (gluten allergies, vegan, etc.) can be accommodated.
Music and Entertainment
In the era of seemingly endless options to stream music, a professional DJ might not be necessary. However, a DJ definitely adds something to the event. Whether you’re outsourcing the music to a professional, or making playlists yourself, here are some tips:
- Make Everyone Happy Pick a variety of songs that appeal to all age groups and demographics. The kids like Fetty Wap, the parents like Jimmy Buffet, and the grandparents like Tony Bennett–there’s no reason there can’t be a little of each to make everybody happy. You might just expose people to new music they’ll actually listen to when the reunion is over.
- Pacing and Flow are Important Nobody wants three hours of high energy dance music in a row (even the Jackson 5 had a few slow jams). These events are marathons, not sprints. Build some breaks in intensity in your playlists to give everybody a chance to catch their breath, enjoy the meal, or maybe even slow dance with their spouses.
- Classics are Classics for a Reason There are some songs that never get old. They’ve become staples at weddings, graduations, and family reunions for a reason. “We Are Family,” “Family Affair,” “YMCA,” “The Electric Slide,” and “September” are just a few of the songs that often get labeled as “corny,” yet still pack the dance floor at most events. There are plenty of places to break out new music and show people how cool you are, but a family reunion is not one of them.
If you plan on having adults and children in attendance, you’ll also want to plan activities that everyone can take part in together. Some ideas are a wiffle ball tournament, trivia, horseshoes, limbo, campfire games if you’re by a fire, or anything you could think of that will get people up laughing and having fun! The idea here is to bring everyone together, so feel free to get creative!
Technology often gets blamed for breaking down the family unit, but it is possible to harness that power for good during your family event. Group emails, Facebook groups, and Google docs are ways that tech can make planning a family reunion an easier and more collaborative process. Communicating online allows everyone planning the event to keep track of accomplished jobs and unfinished tasks. Use social tools to organize venders, costs, RSVPs, and everything in between. Also, making all of the reunion details available online (directions, accommodations, etc.) makes getting to the party less stressful.
During the party, you can also take a page out of many modern weddings that create customized hashtags for guests to use when sharing photos and video of the day and create an easy way to collect and view all the content your family is sharing.
Make Fun Commemorative T-Shirts
At a family reunion, just like at any big event, it’s always nice to give guests a souvenir to remember the occasion. Picking items that your family will like and actually use after the reunion is the key to making these giveaways more than just an expensive piece of nostalgia that will eventually end up in the garbage.
Family reunion shirts are great option that memorialize the event with photos and anytime one wears it in the future. When designing a commemorative shirt, try to design a cool logo that incorporates the family name and date of the reunion. Then, include any other information, inside jokes, or graphics that will immediately remind people of the reunion.
Another option would be multiple shirts based on ‘teams’ for family competitions. Doing the same custom design on a multiple colors is an effective way to differentiate between teams for flag football, volleyball, or any other games your family might be playing at the party. There are tons of other options available, from sweatshirts and outerwear, to hats and umbrellas–pick the best options for your group’s budget. As long as you put some consideration into the design, you’ll send your family reunion attendees home with useful items. These personalized products will bring back memories of a great event for years to come.