Start the planning process at least a couple of months before the actual event, and offer up several different dates to accommodate as many family members as possible. There may be conflicts in schedules, so try to be flexible, but stress the importance of setting a date quickly so you can choose a location and make reservations, if necessary.
Form a committee, and communicate weekly with all the members. The committee can help decide the final date and location, help family members with travel plans, and help plan the food and activities during the festivities. They can also help decide how long the reunion will last, whether it be a day, a weekend or more. Include children and teens on your committee, too, so the kids have some activities geared just to their interests.
If your family is scattered around the country, try to find a central location near a large airport so family members can get in and out quickly and easily. To keep costs down, have the event at a family member's house or see if there is a local community room or other low-cost alternative for a really big gathering. Many local parks have group areas that you can reserve, too. Other options include a hotel meeting room or convention center meeting room, which work well if you have a really big family to accommodate.
Whether you have your reunion catered, make it a potluck, or have a picnic, make sure to include food choices for the entire family, from children to picky eaters and vegetarians. If it's a really big party, catering with a wide variety of food selections may be your best bet. Be aware: If you choose a hotel or convention center meeting room, you may be required to use their food service provider.
Decide what types of activities your family would like to enjoy, from hiking in local parks to bringing pictures and mementos for a group scrapbook you build during your reunion. Don't forget activities for the kids; games, crafting projects and sports are ideal, but you also can organize a talent show for the family to enjoy!
Let some of the younger members of the family interview some of the older members for family memories. Be sure to record them on a tape recorder or video camera so they can be handed down from generation to generation.
If costs are mounting, think about holding some fundraisers throughout the year to help defray the costs of meeting rooms, catering and other expenses. You might have a garage sale, sell items at a flea market, ask for family donations or hold bake sales, for example.
Remember: Family reunions should celebrate the family, make new family memories, and bring families closer together. Whatever you do, make sure you have lots of fun at your family gathering. Good planning can make that happen.
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