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How to Plan a Family Reunion Everyone Will Enjoy

Author: Kathryn M. D\'Imperio

Planning an annual family reunion is a great way to keep all your siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces, and nephews connected. A yearly gathering of all the extended family members is a wonderful way to keep everyone in the loop about upcoming or recent weddings and births, new pets, career news, and other life events. Family reunions offer a much more personal experience than a yearly Christmas card, so even if you aren’t in the habit of planning a family reunion each year, there’s no time like the present to get started!

Sometimes family members live so far apart from one another that getting together and having fun happens only once or twice a year. This is especially true with extended families – all the cousins and great aunts and uncles whom you see rarely unless you host or attend a family reunion. Not to mention, the older we get, it seems we get busier as well. This combination of distance and busy lifestyles makes it vital to start planning a family reunion at least several months before the date you wish to host it.

Family Reunion Location, Location, Location
Choosing a location for your family reunion can be a wonderful experience of narrowing down many unique and interesting locations to the one perfect fit for your group. Or, it can be a stressful event of trying to figure out how you can be fair to the relatives in New Jersey and also fair to family out in California, Louisiana, and Virginia all at the same time.

Sometimes when planning a family reunion, it becomes necessary to make decisions that could impact whether certain guests will be able to attend. Location of the event and the cost of getting there will often determine whether family members will be willing to travel for the event. In cases where family members live all over the country, just try to select a location that will please the largest number of people… or, send out an e-mail survey with the locations you are considering and try to get a verbal response of what people would prefer. Then go with majority rules.

An ideal location for your family reunion could just as easily be a park or a lakeside community, as a beach town or a mountain retreat. Consider all your possibilities for the location, as well as the ages and interests of your family members who would be most likely to attend. In the end, don’t beat yourself up about the small stuff. The most important thing is that you are making an effort to create this fun and enjoyable event.

Family Reunion Events and Activities
As with any large group of people, it’s important to put some structure into place for special events. It might be nice to offer some planned activities – sports like volleyball or horseshoes, as well as adventurous possibilities like hiking, fishing, or even horseback riding. You don’t have to plan all these activities, but you could request brochures from companies that provide them and then share with your guests in case anyone is up for an adventure.

Remember, it is also important to leave plenty of free time for your family to relax and enjoy themselves. Some personality types work very well when they’re on the go constantly, but others need a scheduled naptime or just a general break to recover and recharge their batteries.

Here are some simple activities that you could include at your family reunion:
• Board games
• Cards
• Icebreakers and getting to know you games
• Karaoke
• Name that tune
• Recipe swap
• Sports
• Water balloons (weather and temperature permitting)

Don’t forget to look for a location that provides ample space for your guests to spread out and chat, catch up on old times, or even just sit down for a picnic lunch. Picnic tables are excellent options for seating larger groups. You can even bring blankets for the younger relatives to relax on the ground, but just remember that Grandma and Grandpa may not be too keen on doing that themselves.

Food as Far as the Eye Can See
One of my favorite things about a family reunion is the really yummy and diverse food you get to enjoy. Our family reunions had everything from Maryland crabs and corn on the cob to sandwiches, ham, pork, brownies, and of course, Aunt Rose’s coveted homemade butter cookies. Each year we looked forward to these treats and more, which made the family reunion a long awaited and anticipated event.

The menu possibilities are virtually limitless, and you can save money by asking everyone to bring a covered dish or dessert. This works best if many of your family members are concentrated near the location of the event. If you are all or mostly traveling, it may be a good idea to shop around for reasonable caterers or restaurants offering food to go.

Final Tips on Planning and Hosting a Family Reunion
If you believe in Murphy’s Law, then this is the section of the article just for you. Here are some tips on how to avoid disasters at family reunions.

• Make sure you have a backup plan in case it rains. This includes not only location, but also alternate activities, events, and seating arrangements.

• Keep the peace, if possible. Try to remember that, even though they are family, all people don’t always get along with everyone. If squabbles break out and insults are flying between family members, do what you can to smooth things over, but don’t let it ruin your day.

• Find out your budget before you get too deep in planning. Sometimes family members chip into the overall cost of the family reunion. If you know you can count on $50 to $100 from each individual family, it makes your job so much easier.

• Suggest hotels and rental car agencies for your out of town relatives. Going the extra mile to make their planning and scheduling experience easier may really impact the final outcome as far as whether they will attend the event or not. Hey, it can’t hurt to try!

Family reunions can be a lot of work to put together, but usually in the end, the outcome is worth every moment. Spending time with your relatives at least once a year is really important to developing stronger bonds and closer relationships. If you aren’t fully confident in taking on the task of planning a family reunion by yourself, talk to a close sibling or cousin and take the team approach. Once planned, your family reunion will be well worth the time and energy you spend creating and organizing it. Enjoy!

About the Author

2008 Dances With Words, LLC / Kathryn M. D’Imperio

About the author:Kathryn M. D’Imperio is a freelance writer who specializes in beauty, relationships, weddings, travel, personal finance, fitness, health, restaurants, and more. For more, see: Life Tips. Love Tips. Beauty Tips., visit her at DanceswithWords.com, or contact her at kate@danceswithwords.com.