Family Reunions are a fun way for children to learn about their relatives, ancestors and themselves. Reunions strengthen adult relationships and welcome new members. All can appreciate sharing family stories, creating and maintaining family traditions, celebrating success and supporting adversity. All benefit from Family Reunions that help shape family culture. By taking a step by step approach, Family Reunion planning can be fun – no matter how complicated the family.
Use a number of free tools at your disposal to speed and streamline organization. E-mails and texting allow quick communication. Keeping in touch is easy – before, during, and after the Reunion. A simple survey to ascertain interest, location preferences, and level of participation can be created on surveymonkey.com. If meetings are needed, each person’s availability can be captured with doodle.com. Family members unable to meet for planning meetings in person can participate via skype.com. Websites can be created on WordPress.com or other website publishing platform. Keeping track of details is easy with Excel spreadsheets. Of course, if you’re more comfortable communicating via phone and snail mail, that works too.
Planning is simplified by determining a strategy. What do you want to accomplish at your Family Reunion? What activities might enable you to reach your goal? For example, your goal might be to provide opportunities for all generations to get acquainted and re-acquainted. You might be hoping to host the Reunion at a specific resort, camp grounds, or private home. Perhaps you visualize singing around a campfire; playing ping pong, tennis, charades, and chess; or participating in a scavenger hunt. Maybe you have family members with particular skills who would be willing to teach, perform, or display their expertise. You might want to organize a family quiz game with multiple choice answers involving family history, geography, and current events. Is there a relative who might be interested in compiling a Family Scrapbook? Write your ideas in a concise, easy to read list for others’ input.
When you have a list of possible activities, as well as suggestions for the look, sound, and feel of your Family Reunion, share your idea list with a few influential family members. Get their reactions. If you think there’s sufficient interest, here are some planning ideas:
Approximately one year in advance send family members a survey. Surveymonkey.com provides a free web-based version of its survey design software. The survey should provide information about interested participants and details pertaining to the distance, cost, and time they are willing to commit. Questions can be tailored to your Family Reunion. Examples include:
Are you interested in attending a family reunion? If so:
What weekends of the year are most convenient; what weekends are you unavailable? Refer to doodle.com for those who are computer savvy and by snail mail for those who are not.
How far are you willing to travel? Provide examples, such as Washington, DC; Bridgton, Maine; San Francisco, California; Lenox, MA; and Cape Cod, MA.
Do you have ideas for a specific fun location? If so, please provide contact information (name of place, city, state, and website).
Do you have a preference for a camping trip, luxury vacation, or something in-between? Or do you prefer a local gathering at someone’s home?
Ask participants to respond to you by a specific date.
When decisions regarding the Family Reunion date and place are established, here are some next steps to assure a smooth launch:
Delegate! Ask reliable family members to take charge of committees, including contact information research, invitations, maps and directions, website or newsletter creation, food preparation and restaurant or caterer reservations, park permits, activities and entertainment, decorations, favors such as T-shirts and/or commemorative scrap books, welcoming, and clean-up/exiting activities.
Be sensitive to those whose budgets are more conservative and those who cannot travel distances.3. Plan daily agendas with options for participation and down time. Remember preferences of people of different ages and abilities. Carve out time and a structure for gathering family stories. For example, there could be a story telling time while relatives sit by a campfire.
Create family traditions that are a good fit for your family. Some might enjoy one or more of the following activities: sing-a-longs, talent shows, board games, indoor and outdoor sports, charades, hikes, bike rides, craft activities, storytelling, magic shows, volunteer activity, scavenger hunt, speed get to know you (same structure as speed dating with questions for getting to know someone), ice breaker activities for the beginning of the reunion, and good-bye activities for the end.
After the Reunion: consider surveying participants to learn how to improve the next Reunion and begin to plan when and where to host another. Create a plan for staying in touch, following through on ideas generated at the Reunion (examples: family website, blog, family scrapbook, group project, etc.). Once you’ve established a “template,” planning future Family Reunions is easier.
Some useful tools available for free online:
Survey site: surveymonkey.com
Scheduling site: doodle.com
Visual phone conversation site: skype.com
Website creation site: WordPress.com
Spreadsheets: Microsoft Excel
Reunions Magazine: reunionsmag.com/familyreunions/family.html
Family Reunion Website: family-reunion.com
Each family has a unique culture. You can take the lead to further shape yours. You don’t have to wait for a wedding or funeral. Plant the seeds now for a fabulous custom made Phenomenal Family Reunion. Reach out to your roots. Let the planning begin!
Life is short. Celebrate!