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Organizing Your Family Reunion

Updated on June 8, 2013

Reunite Scattered Families

The world is a smaller place today. As people go to college, get married, or find career opportunities, they may want or need to go to another town, another state, or even another country to pursue their dreams. As much as the world is small, with the family scattering all around the globe, it seems bigger as our family spreads farther and farther apart. There comes a yearning to reunite our scattered family and to see them all together in one place yet again.

Many people want to have a family reunion, but find the task of organizing such a big event daunting. There are different age ranges in the members of the family, with diverse needs and wants, that it seems impossible to keep everyone happy. How do you communicate with family members from around the globe so that you can actually pull off a family reunion?

Here are some tips and strategies that will help you keep track of the people that are your family.

Drum up the Excitement for Family Reunion

Especially if this is your first family reunion, you will need to drum up some excitement and get the family excited about meeting their long lost relatives. Depending on the family, you will find many people who are anxious to attend a reunion, but just didn't know how to accomplish that. They understand the importance of family, and making sure their children get to know their distant cousins. Others may feel confused about a change in routine, or may feel resentful of having to give up their limited vacation days for this event, or they may have some unresolved family conflicts. By staying upbeat and stressing the positives of the event, you can win over as many members as you can.

You can drum up this excitement in several ways. You can use electronic communications with the people who you can find, either by email or messages on a social media platform. Maybe share inspirational quotes, songs about family, old photographs, or family stories. You can call the family members by phone, being sure to reach the decision-makers. You can also send letters to the family members. Using all the available communication methods will ensure that you reach as many family members as possible.

Get Help and Delegate

At the beginning, you might feel that you have to do everything, and you don't have enough time and energy to do it all. Hopefully by drumming up the excitement and presenting the possibility of a reunion, you may be able to get some help with the planning and organizing. You may be able to find family members who are willing to communicate with their branch of the family. You can appoint them to head committees to lighten your load even further.

Some family members may not feel comfortable heading a committee, but may be more than willing to be a member of a committee, or they may prefer specific tasks of their choosing. As you gather more momentum and get closer to the celebration, you will be able to get even more helpers. You may find that some tasks are easier to delegate at the reunion once it is underway. While you may have difficulty getting people to volunteer for the task of clean-up, you can insist that everyone clean up after themselves while they are there.

Committee Tasks and Options

Location & Lodging
find and hire a caterer
ice breaker activities, games and prizes
research location choices
t-shirts and name tags
plan and coordinate potluck
talent show
communicate with hotel manager to reserve space, and work out logistics
fundraising activities and auctions
bring ice, paper plates, napkins, plastic ware, serving spoons, and trash bags
rainy day activities
help with hotel reservations
collecting money
cook and bring food
fun for the children
coordinate sharing of rooms / sleeping arrangements
coordinate cooking schedule
create schedule
set up tables and chairs for events
create list of local restaurants and fast food joints
research area attractions
make sure there will be enough linens and towels for everyone
family cookbook
keep drinks and snacks available
transportation to/from airport / hotel / events
videotape family stories

Survey the Family Members

You want the family members to feel that their needs and wants have been considered and that you are not dictating the event. One way to do this is to create a survey that will gather their preferences and other pertinent information. Be sure to note that you are not promising that you will be able to meet all of their wants. While it is possible that they want a simple event in their hometown, others may want to go to a more exotic location and make it a part of their vacation. Most people will want something that is cheap and convenient for their own family group, but will have to compromise on issues for the benefit of the majority.

Remember that the event does not need to take place in the old hometown, or where any one family lives. If the relatives are all over the world, you may want to choose a place that is easily accessible by plane or highway, has the best monetary exchange rate, and /or is in a more central location.

A successful survey will provide choices instead of being too open ended. In this way, you will be able to get concrete information instead of having to go back over and over again for more information. Think in terms of meals instead of individual menu items. For example, instead of asking "When should we host the reunion?," you can ask "Would you prefer a potluck barbecue picnic in the park at Old Hometown in July or a weekend getaway at Myrtle Beach in June?" Provide sufficient information, such as specific prices and other details, so they can make informed decisions.

Sample Survey Questions

Would you and your family attend a family reunion?

Special needs and requirements

How long should the reunion be?

Location ideas

Best time of year

Food ideas

Activity ideas

Any additional ideas

Are you willing to volunteer?

A successful survey is also a form that is easy to complete and return. In the cover letter, be sure to provide a reasonable deadline for your family members to respond, about 2 weeks. Provide a space on the survey for the names (and addresses, including e-mail addresses) of the people responding to the survey, and the people they are representing. You may consider providing a self addressed stamp envelope, and your phone number and email address, to make it convenient for your relatives to respond. Also be sure to provide your name and address on the form, in case the survey gets separated from the envelope.

Since you will probably want to limit the number of mailings you send out, you may also want to ask for their birth dates, contact information for family members you may have lost touch with, photographs, and anything else you might need for the reunion.

Some members will forget to return the form back to you and will need reminders. This may not be indicative of their lack of interest - they may simply have misplaced the form, or may already be dreaming about the event.

Stay Organized

Organization is one of the key elements in planning a successful family reunion. You need to keep track of all the minute details that have been made, and what information has been communicated the family members. Keep all the information written down in one notebook or electronic organizer instead of scattered notes on bits of paper will make sure that the reunion goes off smoothly.

Make Firm Decisions

It is important that you stay flexible and try to accommodate as many of your family members as you can. However, you will eventually have to come to a point where you make decisions that cannot be changed. Once you pick a venue, you should generally stick with it, unless there is something very big and unforeseeable that causes you to change it. Likewise, once you have booked a venue for a particular date, you should keep that firm, and make other decisions around it. If you leave things up in the air for too long, you may lose your chance to reserve the venue, or have difficulty making the other decisions such as food and entertainment, because there are too many unknowns left.

You will find that not everyone will be able to come on the date that was chosen, and not everyone will be happy with the choice of the venue. The bigger the group, the more likelihood you have that you will pick a date that is not available for someone. In addition, you will find that some people will not want to come no matter how convenient you try to make it for them. You will not be able to please every single person, but hopefully the majority will be able to enjoy the event even if it was not exactly up to their specifications.

Allow Plenty of Time

It takes a long time to communicate with so many people, and get their input. They have to check their calendars, negotiate vacation schedules at work, check school schedules, and find a way to fit a reunion in their financial budget. They want to be informed and be a part of the decision-making, but don't always have the time to respond as quickly as you would like.

Make sure you allow plenty of time for the planning, and allow plenty of room in your reunion schedule for simply coordinating the family members.


Communication is the key in hosting a successful family reunion. Your committee members need to know the results of the survey so they can make their decisions accordingly. Each of the committees will need to communicate with each other so there isn't a duplication of effort, and important things are not being left out.

Clear and open communication is especially important when talking about money. Each family member should clearly know how much they are expected to pay, when the payment is due, and how the money will be used.

Your family members will need to know the basic information of these decisions, of course, such as when and where the event will be hosted, but they will need a plethora of additional information. When you communicate thoroughly, they will not feel lost or confused.

In addition, when you communicate your expectations, you will avoid some of your aggravation that they are not where you wanted them to be.

Schedule of Family Reunion Activities

You will want to plan several different events for your family reunion. Even a simple picnic will have a time when people will eat, and different activities that will take place, such as a Frisbee game and a photo session. Having a prominently displayed schedule at the reunion site will help people understand the expectations so they can be available when you need them. You can consider printing the basic activities and mailing them to the participants, or handing them to the participants as they come in. If you have name tags with plastic cases, you can print them on the back of the name tag, or put them as part of a drawing.

Make sure you allow lots of time for people to simply talk to each other, and time to coordinate them for the activity.

Have Fun

Once the planning is over, you can relax and enjoy time with your family. When you are relaxed, you will be able to have fun and laugh, and show your loved ones how much fun you are to be around. When you are calm and relaxed, everyone can have a good time talking to and sharing experiences with their kin.

Now that the event has taken place, you can choose someone else to head up the event next time!


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