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How To Plan A Family Reunion: The Ultimate Guide

You’re in the right place if you want to plan a family reunion. I’m proud to say that I’ve successfully planned and executed our annual family gatherings for the past few years, and let me tell you, my family is huge so it’s never easy!

Family and friends gathered around a table enjoying a meal together outdoors.

Family reunions are a great way to catch up, reconnect, and reminisce with relatives, especially those we haven’t seen in a while. While planning for such an event comes with challenges, the rewards that come with strengthening your family ties make it all worth it. 

Whether you’re planning a gathering for a few dozen family members or for over a hundred relatives from around the globe, I’ve developed a foolproof guide on how to plan a family reunion that’s fun, memorable, and meaningful. Follow these simple steps to make your event a success.

How to Plan a Family Reunion: A Step-By-Step Guide

A family reunion is a gathering of extended family members with the aim to reconnect, celebrate shared heritage, and to strengthen family ties. It can be a simple backyard barbecue or a fancy dinner party complete with a formal dining table setup. Consider what the majority of the family would like – you can even create a poll so you can gather input and make sure that you accommodate everyone’s preferences.

Once you know what everyone likes, you can put your planning prowess into action. Follow the steps below for a smooth and organized reunion planning!

Step 1: Organize A Planning Committee

It’s hard to plan a family reunion alone and you don’t have to, especially if it’s your first time. These events require a lot of planning, and good way to get some much-needed help is by forming a planning committee. Aim to recruit a representative from each family unit so that everyone’s perspectives are taken into account during the planning process.

Recruit volunteers that include capable family members and play at their strengths. Have an aunt who’s great at cooking? Maybe she can take care of the food planning. Have a funny and outgoing cousin? Perhaps he can help plan the games and entertainment. 

You’ll only need a few volunteers for small events of up to thirty attendees, but you’ll need more if you’re expecting a big event with a larger number of guests.

As the chairperson, you’ll be in charge of overseeing the event, handling communications, and coordinating with volunteers. You’ll also be responsible for delegating specific tasks and making sure that they’re taken care of.

Here are some important aspects of family reunion planning that you should assign to members of your committee:

  • Budget and finances
  • Venue reservations (plus lodging and accommodations if needed)
  • Part decors, favors, and mementos
  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Guest list and correspondence
  • Welcoming committee
A stack of colorful paper envelopes on a wooden surface.

Step 2: Decide On A Theme

Family reunion themes can make or break your gathering, so choose wisely. When choosing a theme for your family reunion, it’s essential to consider interests and traditions that resonate with the majority of your family members. In my case, most of my relatives are huge beach lovers, so that’s the theme we decided on for our first family reunion a few years back. I served beach charcuterie boards and made my homemade sangria which everyone loved!

Here are a few theme ideas you can vote on:

  • Decades Party: Choose a specific decade (like the 60s, 70s, or 80s) and wear costumes, play music, and play games based on your chosen decade.
  • Wilderness Retreat: Enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors by choosing nature-inspired activities like hiking, camping, or going to the beach.
  • Hollywood Glamour Party: Dress to impress with a Hollywood-themed reunion complete with a nice dinner and an awards ceremony.
  • Masquerade Ball: Add an element of excitement and intrigue to your reunion by having your guests wear elegant outfits and a mask, which are great for photos!
  • Luau: Not into formal events? Perhaps a luau theme is more your scene because it has a more laid back atmosphere. Transform your venue into a tropical paradise, welcome your guests with leis, and serve drinks in coconut shells complete with those cute tiny umbrellas!
  • Talent Show: Showcase the various talents within your family through a talent-show themed party. Relatives can take turns performing music, dances, skits, and other acts.
  • Carnival Party: Enjoy a festive party reminiscent of fun times at a carnival. You can include carnival games and serve snacks like cotton candy and popcorn.
  • Superheroes and Villains Party: Attendees can come wearing costumes of their favorite superhero or villain. Put up decorations, play games, and enjoy food based on the theme.

Step 3: Choose The Date And Location

Once you have decided on a theme, the next step is to choose the date and location of your reunion. The first step here is to consult with your family to gain insight about who wants to attend, when best to do it, and where.

When it comes to choosing a reunion date for your event, be aware of important dates to avoid, like a relative’s birthday, graduation or wedding. Aim to hold it on a long weekend when there’s no school or work and avoid choosing dates near holidays (Christmas, New Year, Easter etc.), as relatives might have a difficult time booking flights. You can provide possible dates and have attendees vote on their preferred date.

When it comes to choosing your family reunion venue, it’s important to choose one that is accessible and fits within everyone’s budget. It can be as simple as a relative’s outdoor entertaining area at home or as grand as a fancy beach resort.

If your relatives are spread out, choose a central location so that those who are traveling long distances can save money. Be sure to hold your reunion in a place that caters to different ages, interests, and physical abilities. Lastly, keep your theme in mind when choosing a reunion venue!

A group of eight people joyfully jumping in silhouette against a sunset over a large body of water.

Step 4: Build a Budget

The next step is to determine and build your budget for your special event. To get a rough estimate of how much you’ll need, you can either ask the person who was in charge of the budget from the previous reunion or estimate the costs of big ticket items like the venue and food. 

When you have a rough number in mind, the next step is to figure out how to get it. Usually, funding for reunions come from different sources like sponsorships, contributions from family members, and fundraising activities. Keep in mind that family reunions should be a collaborative effort and each family unit should contribute financially based on their means and resources. If you need more funds, you can organize fundraisers such as bake sales or raffles.

Step 5: Create a Backup Plan

Having a back-up plan gives you the peace of mind that your family reunion can proceed smoothly even in the face of unexpected challenges like inclement weather, venue problems, or last-minute cancellations. For example, if you’re holding an outdoor event, it’s important that you have tents to provide or an indoor venue where you can transfer in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.

The same goes with attendees like a host, performer, or other important contributors. It’s important to have designated substitutes if a key attendee is unable to attend or unexpectedly cannot fulfill their role.

Step 6: Send Out Invitations

Once you have decided on a theme, locked in a date and venue, and have the funding in place, you can send out your official invitations to everyone. Make sure that you are mindful of the time frame and provide enough notice to those who will be flying in.

Ideally, invitations should be sent out a few months before the reunion. Whether you choose to use traditional paper or digital invitations, make sure that it contains complete details including the exact time of the event, the venue address, and what attendees should wear. 

Step 7: Plan the Menu

Now, this step is probably one of the hardest for those who plan a family reunion because feeding a large group of people with different tastes is very tricky. To make menu planning easier, you can choose a potluck setup for smaller events like a backyard barbecue or dinner at a relative’s house. For bigger events with a larger number of expected guests, take the burden off yourself and hire a catering service.

If you’re doing a potluck, the committee member or team assigned to food should take care of everything, from assigning dishes to each family to making sure that your menu caters to family members who have dietary restrictions and preferences like vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free. 

Two elderly adults and two young children excitedly engage in a drawing activity at a table.

Step 8: Plan Special Activities for Different Age Groups

A family reunion won’t be fun without activities, may it be games, performances, or sharing family history information. It would be helpful to choose a diverse range of activities that appeal to different ages and encourage interaction between different generations. However, be mindful about cramming the program with too many activities – only pick a few that you know your family will enjoy.

Plan family reunion games and activities depending on what type of event you’re holding. If you’re planning for a casual celebration, plan activities that include outdoor games (three-legged race, tug-of-war, sack race, relays, scavenger hunt, etc.), dance-offs, or karaoke. For a more formal setting, you can choose activities like family trivia, storytelling sessions, ballroom dancing, speeches and toasts, or wine tasting.

Step 9: Develop A Communication Plan

It’s important that attendees are kept in the loop during the planning stages so that they feel involved and informed about all the details, allowing them to provide feedback, make suggestions, and prepare accordingly for the event.

Updates can be posted in a private Facebook group or through regular email updates. You can also create a group chat using Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, or any app of your choice for easy, real time updates. To keep things interesting in your updates or chat group, encourage your family members to share ideas, stories, and memories to create engagement and excitement leading to your reunion.

Step 10: Capture the Memories

An easy way to do this is to hire a professional photographer and videographer to capture the best moments and fond memories of your family reunion. Alternatively, you can rent a photo booth so that attendees can capture fun and candid moments with customizable props and backdrops.

Avoid designating a relative to take the family photos because they won’t be able to enjoy and participate fully in the event. If you’re on a tight budget, consider using an event hashtag so that attendees can easily share photos and memories on social media platforms like Instagram, and you’ll have a digital archive of the reunion that’s easily accessible for everyone.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to plan a family reunion, you’re ready to start the journey of bringing your family together for a meaningful and memorable event that they will remember for many years to come. No matter how different your family members are or how far you live from one another, there are important ties that bind you together – and family reunions are the best way to strengthen those ties. Good luck and may you have a fun and successful reunion!

If you found this article helpful, bookmark it and come back to it when you’re ready to plan your own family reunion. It would also be awesome if you shared this post to anyone you know who might need it!

Maryanne

Monday 13th of May 2024

I love the suggestion to hire a photographer! I've never been great with a camera and half the time I forget to take any pictures at all. Many of my favorite relatives are getting up there in age and I'd love to have great quality photos of us all together.

Easy Homemade Life

Wednesday 15th of May 2024

Hello, Maryanne! I'm so glad you liked the suggestion. I'm wishing for more memorable moments with your loved ones to cherish.

Mastodon