How to Build a Tradition You Can Be Proud Of
Family reunions are a great way to connect members of your family tree together. An event like this is important for:
- Increasing family interaction
- Building family unity
- Fostering inter-generational relationships
- Establishing family communication, and much, much more
When I was young, and my grandparents were still alive, my father’s side of the family used to get together more frequently. I remember this being a fun time because I got to see cousins that I wouldn’t normally see because of distance.
As I got older, those type of events seemed to fizzle out and it became a “reunion” when there was a funeral. This is not the happiest occasion and when my grandmother passed away, I saw an opportunity to try to change that for my family. I wanted to connect with my cousins again and see their children and have the same fun get togethers that I remember having.
I have kept my event very casual and have received great feedback from family members. This has turned into an annual event so far and it is something that I look forward to helping with.
We are going to help you get started on planning your own event. When you are done reading this, you will know how to get your family onboard with creating memories and opportunities for bonding. Doing an event like this will change your life.
Let’s get started!
Pick a Date
When I started to plan my family’s reunion, I sent a message out to a couple of key people in the know, to ask if they knew of any dates that I should avoid when scheduling this event. They told me of a few birthday parties they knew were coming up and that information helped me to set a date that worked for most people.
You won’t be able to get a date that captures the entire group but make the best effort you can to find one that is good for most to attend.
Summer is a big time for reunions because family members can find their schedules a bit more flexible. School is out, and other times of the year are filled with holidays, and other family plans or traditions. Summer is also a great time of the year because the weather is usually good, and it gives you a great canvas to fill with activities and a perfect location, which are topics that will be covered later.
You don’t have to set this in stone right away, but this could also be a good time to think about whether you and the rest of the family would like this event to be held annually or another frequency.
As the person planning the event, think about what frequency would make you most comfortable. You will be making the fun happen so your energy and heart also have to be into planning the event. When you have a good idea about what you’re comfortable with, pitch it to key family members when your event happens and get their feedback.
Pick the Perfect Family Friendly Location
When it comes to picking the location, it’s important to keep all amenities in mind.
Some great amenities will be a gazebo/covered area, tables, restrooms, playgrounds and parking.
I have a couple of different state parks that I have used, and they worked out great. It’s important to find out how much the cost is for entrance to the park or venue that you choose, so you can communicate this to your attendees ahead of time.
At my annual family reunion, we do grilling and a potluck. I had to find out ahead of time whether bringing our own propane grill was going to be allowed. This information can usually be found on the venue’s website.
I’ve held a reunion at a park that had riverfront access for swimming and one that didn’t. Keep your family members in mind about whether they would see this as a benefit. To help people feel like they can relax, it may also be beneficial to think about the age of children and if bodies of water could end up being a problem or not.
Also, don’t feel like you need to have it right in the town where majority of the family members live. I went back to parks that were significant because my family used to gather at these places when I was young, and my grandparents were still alive. These locations are a bit of a drive but think about it, it’s also fun to get out of the normal day to day place you usually hang out or live in.
A new atmosphere with people you don’t always get to see and activities you don’t always get to participate in sets a mood for fun and the unexpected.
Send the Invites
You should decide how formal you need/want to be when it comes to invitations.
If you have a lot of family and your event is going to involve a catered meal, special activity or renting building space, you may want to collect RSVPs or collect a small fee to the event to help you plan accordingly.
Especially if you will be sending out tangible invitations, plan way ahead of time, so you can collect addresses and mail them accordingly. If you don’t already have records of attendees, you will want to start this process.
If the above aren’t factors, you may be able to get away with inviting through a service like e-mail, text, Facebook, Eventbrite, or another free service. Determine what platform your group would best respond to.
A lot of my family utilizes Facebook, so I use this platform to create an event and invite everyone. The couple of family members that don’t use Facebook are notified through phone or e-mail. An event takes me a couple of minutes to set up and I can send out notifications to everyone at one time which makes it so easy. I like to load a photo from a prior event to the event header to remind everyone of the fun.
Once you know what type of event yours is going to be, you can easily pick a platform that gives you the features you need.
Get invitations out as early as possible to give your guests plenty of notice. I tend to send my group event out in the spring (around April) for the event being held in August. Remember, invitations for events should be sent out minimum 4-6 weeks ahead of time.
What to include on the invitation:
- Start time and end time
- Location (include any day cost usage fees associated with the location)
- Meal options – let guests know if there are costs they need to pay to attend or if they need to bring a food item.
- Your contact information (or if someone else is handling this, include their information)
- Add any other information attendees need to know so they can plan ahead of time (certain activities or items being collected, etc.)
Invitations are a great way to get people excited for your event so choose a platform that works for you and make it fun.
Great Family Activities
The fun part about a family reunion is planning great activities for your group to enjoy. This makes for some great laughs and memories!
I am only on my 4th year of organizing a family reunion and it is pretty laid back so guests will bring bats and a ball to play baseball, a net and rackets for badminton or set up a croquet game. These types of games have gotten most age groups involved as well.
For those, that don’t want to play, having plenty of chairs to spectate and chat is also a great idea.
An activity that was started at last years event was a drawing. My mother and I put some small prizes together and did a drawing. We had a couple of prizes for children 12 years of age and younger which included some coloring books and crayons. For the older participants, we had a couple of prizes that included a pampering basket and a couple of food gift cards. Names were collected as people arrived and another family member got to have some fun helping me out by drawing the names.
Some other great activities include:
- Scavenger hunt
- Giant Jenga
- Ladder Golf
- Use your imagination and have fun
Doing activities gives family members, who may not always spend time with one another, the opportunity to bond and create some lasting memories.
When I was younger, and family would gather together, there was always good food. This was an element that I wanted included in my event.
Every year I have done a potluck style event. I will bring the hotdogs, hamburgers and buns and I also look towards other family members to bring other main dishes, side dishes, or desserts.
We do have a small propane grill that we bring with us to cook up the meat. This is an option if someone brings chicken wings or ribs, which has been done in the past.
I organize this portion starting a few weeks before the event. Most people don’t decide or commit to something until the last minute so keep doing constant reminders. It helps to have a list out there for everyone to see so you don’t end up with 15 bags of chips or 5 potato salads. Keep checking in with people until you get a few options. I have done this up until the event date.
Another option for a family reunion is to have the event catered. Decide on a caterer that provides a range of food options that will be well received. Simple options are the best! Be aware that this could be a costly option, so keep in mind that you will want your attendee numbers ahead of time (RSVPs). You will need to decide how this will be paid for. Will certain family members throw in money for this, will all attendees pay for a plate, etc. RSVPs and costs must be communicated to your guests as early as possible. It may determine whether they will/can attend or not.
Holding the event in a banquet room of a restaurant could be another option. Some restaurants wave the usage fee on the room if you order a minimum dollar amount of food and beverages. Once again, this can be charged to each attendee or a few family members may be willing to pay for it, but you need to figure this out ahead of time and communicate effectively. With this option you could easily do a plated meal or a buffet style meal depending on the location you choose and their offerings.
In the past I have left the drinks up to the group to bring. I’ve found that many of the different families end up bringing a cooler of sodas, water or juice. I drink diet soda, so the options I was providing weren’t well received. So, I don’t worry about providing this anymore. Decide how you want this handled.
Decide ahead of time what drink options are appropriate. As this is a family event and does usually involve driving, I have opted not to provide any alcoholic beverages or include them on the menu at any event I’ve hosted. If someone wants to bring their own they are welcome to do that, but it hasn’t been an issue.
If you are holding the event at a restaurant or rental space location, you can tell them you don’t want alcohol served ahead of time and to remove all menus. I’ve done this, and it’s been great.
If you do decide you want these types of beverages, plan accordingly. Decide if any will be provided by the attendees or if they will pay entirely for that cost themselves. Remember to look up the policies or laws that are in place for the venue you are using. A ticket from a park ranger will put a damper on the reunion.
Sharing good food with company is always the best. Choose an easy option your group is sure to love, and it will be a hit!
The best part of family reunions are all the fun connections and memories that are made.
Brandon enjoys photography and helps in this area for the event. He will photograph guests while they are around the table eating, visiting, playing games and doing activities.
Before everyone heads out for the day, we like to capture a large group photo.
In the past, we have captured photos of the individual families that attend as well as a large group photo.
These photos are loaded to Facebook a few days after the event. Now, everyone can look at them, tag themselves and save.
One activity that is always fun at an event like this is a photo booth! If you can, set up a simple camera with a timer and have some props on the side. You can have attendees take a series of photos and easily use software to attach 3 or 4 of them in a layout. This can get silly but will be so fun!
You will have these photo memories for years to come. So, make sure you are taking every opportunity to capture a shot.
Have Fun and Make Memories
Being a family reunion planner takes some work! You will find though, all the planning and reminding that you must do, matters to your family members. This is an event that will be a new family tradition for them, and will be something they can look forward to however often you choose to hold it.
Be on the lookout for ways to incorporate other family members into the planning and implementing process. The more help you can get, the better, and it will be meaningful and life changing for them as well. How cool!
Let us know if you will be planning a family reunion and how it turned out!
Be sure to share with your social network too! Just hit the share button.
Brandon and Cristal