HOMELiving July 2015
Plan the Best Family Reunion EVER
By Beth Behrendt
Family reunions can be as uniquely different as the families they bring together. While they all require key aspects to plan, there are plenty of ways to get creative, too.
Begin as far in advance as possible — a year prior to the event is the common recommendation:
- Send an e-mail to announce a family reunion in the works (also ask for a known date conflicts).
- Set up a committee to share the work on invitations, lodging and meals.
Perhaps tie the date to a family-specific event, such as a birthday or other. Send a “hold the date” message, but accept that it will be impossible to find a date that works for everyone. Choose a date that’s plausible for the majority.
How long should the reunion last? A weekend is recommended if everyone lives in relative proximity to one another. If family get-togethers are infrequent and folks must travel a lengthy distance, a longer time makes sense if feasible for the group.
The Guest List
Just “the family”, right? That can become complicated — or really big — really fast. Set parameters if need be, but brainstorm with other members of the extended family to ensure no one is forgotten.
Certainly the budget determines the scale of the event. Experts suggest family reunions should be as inclusive as possible. Keep in mind the range of life circumstances and each family’s ability to contribute. Asking for potluck dinner contributions and sleeping bags for the kids may be the best route for some. For others, establishing a budget range and asking for a “registration fee” from each family is a smart approach.
The options are almost limitless. Is one family hosting the reunion at their home or lake house? Or is everyone meeting as a centrally located recreational area? Are other going back to the “homestead” or another historic place in the family’s history? Renting a vacation home for the event? Booking everyone on the same cruise or at an all-inclusive resort? (See map for some family reunion destination ideas in Indiana.)
Keep in mind how close or scattered the family may be and plan as simply or as extravagantly as make sense for all. Other important factors to consider: mobility issues (especially for the elderly), airport accessibility, vehicle requirements, lodging options, party space, dining option, play space for children and options for other activities.
Depending on the location, swimming boating and golf can easily add to the fun. If the reunion is in or near a city, shopping museums, sporting events, historical sites or amusement parks are all great options. Visitors bureaus typically supply a plethora of local information and maps. Arranging for a babysitter for the little ones or asking the older teenagers to drive the tweens to a movie and pizza place would be a nice break for kids and grownups alike. But try not to overplan the days — everyone needs some downtime and has limits on how much “togetherness” they may want.
Last, but certainly not least, is consideration regarding food. If a potluck is on the agenda, find someone who still knows how to make a family classic like Aunt Maria’s lasagna, Grandma’s eggrolls or Uncle Sven’s lutefisk. Then ask everyone else to bring a contribution and coordinate by types of dishes (e.g. entrees, sides and desserts) and a wide variety of beverages. Or, research catering options or restaurants that can accommodate large groups.
- Choose a theme that references the family’s history or celebrates a particular family member. Reflect this theme on invitations, decorations, food ideas and souvenirs.
- Make souvenirs. T-shirts? Coffee mugs? Beer cozies? Think it up and someone will make it! Need help with ideas? If so check out Pinterest, CustomInk.com, Reunionking.com or FamilyReunionHut.com.
- Create a family cookbook. Ask everyone to bring a favorite family recipe (or e-mail in advance and have the cookbooks printed and ready to distribute at the reunion).
- Show the family history. Create a giant family tree poster, a slideshow of family photos or a “family museum” of memorabilia like trophies, letter jackets, diaries and arts and crafts.
- Preserve the memories. Interview older family members, hire a professional photographer for a group photo and set up a website for everyone to post photos after the event.
No matter the size or form the reunion takes, the reward is the opportunity to connect with others over a shared history and familial bonds. Planning a family reunion is no small feat, but giving loves one precious time together makes it all worthwhile.
Indiana Family Reunion Destinations
- French Lick: www.frenchlick.com
- Brown County: www.browncountylogcabins.com
- The Indiana Dunes: www.indianadunes.com
- Pokagon State Park and Potawatomi Inn: www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/inns/potawatomi/groups.html
- Marshall County: visitmarshallcounty.org