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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Have you ever wanted to plan a family reunion but weren’t quite sure how? Or maybe you somehow ended up in charge of the next reunion for your family. Whether you have a small family or dozens who you don’t see on a regular basis, planning a reunion takes time and patience. An event like a family reunion will not just come together on it’s own—someone needs to be in charge and if that person is you, here are a few tips to help you pull it off successfully.

Get Organized Early

You need to start planning for the reunion about two months before the day, or even longer if you have people coming from out of town. If everyone is local, you can start two or three months before. If people are coming from out of state, you need to start about six months in advance. This will give you time to get the location secured, order the food and get everything together for decorations, activities, transportation, etc. Write down or create an excel document that has a list of all the family members so you can keep track of who is coming. As the day comes closer, make a master “to-do” list so that nothing goes ignored or undone.


Unless all of your extended family lives in the same general area, choosing a location for the reunion is going to be tricky. You might have family all over the country, or even further, and finding a common meeting place can be difficult. For most families, the best way to choose a location is to have it in a city or state at that will be the closest for the most people. If there are two or three families in the same state, that might be a good place because less people will have to travel so far. For some families, no one live near each other, so no matter where you have it, it won’t be convenient for anyone. In this case, you can rotate locations every time you have a reunion, so that it evens out. Once you get everyone together, you need to help people find places to stay—either at family members’ homes or hotels. You also need somewhere big enough for the actual reunion so that everyone can move about and fit comfortably. Call a local civic center or park to see if you can hold the reunion there for a small fee if you don’t have a space big enough to hold it.


After you have secured a location, you need to mail invitations. Once you are able to coordinate with all of the families and can find both a location and date (or dates) that work for a majority of people, you need to set the time and place in stone by sending invitations. Make them fun while keeping everyone in suspense about what will be at the reunion. Decide on a theme, and incorporate the theme on the invitations so that guests will get an idea of what to bring or the kinds of activities to expect. Make sure you put your contact information on the invitation, especially if you are inviting family members you haven’t seen in a while. That way, they can call or email you with any questions. The last thing you want is for there to be confusion or a mis-communication that could really throw a wrench into your plans.


An easy way to feed everyone at a reunion is to have a buffet, and if the family doesn’t want to pay for a catered buffet, you can always do potluck. Ask everyone to bring a dish or two so that there is a variety. However, potluck only works for families of a certain size. If you plan to have over 40 or 50 people, it will be worth the money to cater. If you order something from a catering service, you can ask that there are several different side dishes to complement the meat or main dishes. You could still have people bring side dishes if there are some family favorites, or even just desserts if you don’t want to pay for those. You also need to think about the time of day when the reunion will be held. If it is in the middle of the afternoon, you can probably get by with serving a few appetizers and desserts instead of a large meal. Whatever you do, don’t volunteer to cook all of the food. This might be fine with a small group, but you will have enough to worry about without being in the kitchen all day cooking for a crowd. Asses the best way to feed everyone based on how many people you expect to be coming.


Although some family members can arrange for their own transportation, you may need to help them along so that everyone is where they need to be, when they are supposed to be there. Arrange for a taxi or shuttle to pick out of town guests up at their hotel and bring them to the location, or even from the airport when they first get there. You can also have family members in the city pick up those who cannot drive. If your reunion will require a bit of travel either to the location, or perhaps to one of the activities, you might consider looking online to find buses for sale or even small shuttles that you could rent for the weekend. This will ensure that everyone is together, and on time. Again, this will depend on the size of the group and how far you need to travel.


You have a meal planned, an there will no doubt be a lot of chatting and catching up among family members. Talking to family you have not seen can only last so long, so why not have a few games or activities? You will need to plan something other than the meal, especially if the family has a lot of younger children. Make prizes that feature pictures of the family, and play a few games with the children in attendance. You can also make a craft together or start a scrapbook of the family history. Depending on where you hold the reunion, some of the families might want to sight-see or participate in some activities available in that city. If you are close with your extended family, you can probably use your best judgment to decide on an activity that will be fun for a majority of the group and keep everyone happy. If you aren’t sure what people would like to do, you can always send out an email with a survey to get ideas of what people would like to do. This way, you can be sure that almost everyone is happy and will actually be engaged in the activity so you don’t waste time or money.

A family reunion can be a fun time to gather with those you don’t see during the year. Start planning the event as soon as possible, and enlist help in getting everything taken care of so that you aren’t doing it alone. Make a list of things that are needed and what each person can help provide so that when the time comes, it is easy to delegate. It will take time and work, but if you are willing to get organized and plan everything out, people will be grateful that someone organized a great event for the whole family to enjoy.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents planning a family reunion.