Start Planning Your Family Reunion Now
By Leah Lancione
In this day and age when everybody seems to function on autopilot as if they are schedule-keeping, multi-tasking machines, it’s easy for family connections to deteriorate. Email, Facebook and other social media give the impression that communication still exists, but they cannot replace face-to-face interaction. That is one of the many reasons family reunions are customs that are more important than ever to preserving family bonds.
As Winter approaches and colder temps provide an excuse for staying indoors, consider turning off the television or putting aside your crossword puzzle to plan a family reunion for the Spring or Summer. You can kill two birds with one stone by putting a little note in your Christmas cards enlisting help. By delegating tasks, more can be accomplished for such a big event that will surely involve inter-state travel as well as activities for all ages. From the food to the accommodations and events there is a lot to do.
Never fear, there are online organizations available just to help you coordinate your family extravaganza. One in particular, National Reunion Services (www.nationalreunions.com), is a virtual one-stop shop that can provide name badges, phone support, invitations, decorations, entertainment, venue search, merchandise (like matching shirts or souvenir bottles) and more. On the other hand, use the site as a model for the type of research and coordination you need to do without professional assistance.
If at all possible, try to organize a preliminary meeting (with anyone who can participate) either in person or even via a Skype conference call (visit www.skype.com/intl/en-us/features/allfeatures/conference-calls for instructions). This initial meeting should cover confirming addresses, narrowing down possible dates and locations and assigning tasks. Such duties include sending out the invitations, researching and reserving a venue, exploring entertainment prospects, i.e., a D.J. or band, or some type of entertainment like a clown, magician or balloon artist, and food details, i.e., catered, restaurant or pot-luck style.
The site http://family-reunion.com is a great resource for organizing the event from beginning to end and even includes a comprehensive checklist and resource guide. It is chock full of creative and helpful tips for making the reunion a fun and memorable experience for all—from theme ideas and recipes to games, budget suggestions, the guest list and giveaways or mementos.
A theme is a great way to tie everything together and to inspire participation. For instance, if the theme is a Hawaiian luau, the dress code could be aloha shirts and leis, the food Kalua pork and tropical fruit kabobs, the entertainment hula dancing and much more. The possibilities are endless: a fiesta, all sports or Olympics, family heritage, western and fun in the sun, especially if there’s a beach or pool nearby.
Regardless of the theme or entertainment, try to get everybody involved. Set the tone of the reunion from the get-go by having the emcee — preferably an outgoing family member — introduce each family represented during the welcome address. As an icebreaker, present attendees with lighthearted award certificates. Familyreunion.com suggests the following:
- The oldest and youngest family members
- Who traveled the shortest and longest distances
- Youngest grandparents
- Couple with the most children or grandchildren
Another useful website is http://familyreunionhelper.com which features many icebreaker games to get everyone reacquainted. Before you jump right into relay races and tag football, think about games and activities that familiarize everyone with names and families. This site also offers the opportunity to pick a theme and purchase a complete reunion package through a CD or digital copy.
Another initial planning objective must be setting the budget and raising or collecting money for the reunion. The planning committee must decide up front how to go about paying for the festivities. Specifically, should individuals or families contribute a certain amount or are families willing to hold fundraisers (think, yard or bake sales) to cover all the costs?
Think of all the fun you’ll have engaging your sisters, brothers, aunts and cousins in the reunion planning. Then, as ideas start to formalize, the anticipation of seeing loved ones not seen in years will build and carry you to the day of the event! Despite all the time, research and preparation involved, you will never regret reestablishing family ties.