Planning A Family Reunion

Organizing a family reunion is a great way to get in touch with relatives and learn about family history. Family bonds can weaken when members move away.

Family bonds can weaken when members move away, scattering relations many miles from each other. It's not surprising for people to have cousins and uncles they've never met. But as the years pass on, a lot of fascinating stories may be lost if these connections aren't made. Organizing a family reunion is a great way to get in touch with relatives and learn about family history.

It's usually a good idea to plan the reunion in the area with the highest concentration of family members, but you may want to consider the needs of older people who may find travel difficult. Often it's the older family members who can contribute the most to the event, so if Granny lives 500 miles away from the rest of the family it may be better to take the party to her. You might also consider holding the reunion in an area with other activities, such as parks or beaches. The reunion could be integrated into a longer vacation instead of expecting members to travel long distances for a one-day event.

If there aren't many family members nearby to help provide food, drinks, or the location itself, you'll have to rent a hall or park area and arrange for catering. This can be expensive, especially if the family is large. But unlike other events, it's not unreasonable to ask for a financial contribution from family members to offset costs. It shouldn't be a requirement of attendance, of course - if funds are tight, perhaps other family members could "sponsor" other members by paying their share.

Don't expect everyone to just sit around and chat, of course. Kids will need to be kept entertained. It helps if the reunion will be held in a park with a playground, a home with play equipment and toys or a pool. If the party is in a rented hall, set aside a play area for the kids and have nearby members bring toys to share, craft activities. Games are great for both kids and adults, and encourage interaction. Stick with the theme when possible - bring family photo albums to share, show old home movies and slides.

The biggest obstacle to a family reunion is dealing with family members that don't get along, or are prone to causing difficulties. You may wish to hold the reunion in the morning/early afternoon and not serve alcohol, if it may be a concern. Encourage family members to put aside their differences for the greater good, if possible, and provide opportunities for people to avoid each other if needed. It can be a stressful, awkward time - but it can also be an opportunity for reconciliation.

Each member should have something to take home with them to commemorate the event, besides photos and memories. Try putting together a booklet with photocopies of family photos, distribute them, and have members collect signatures and short messages from others. Someone might wish to videotape the event and copy it to pass along, or make copies of photos to put in small albums. If the reunion is a huge event, you might even consider hiring a photographer. Write questions in advance for "interviews" and compile the results. Let everyone sign a tablecloth with permanent marker, and display it at the next reunion.

Depending on the size of your family, organizing a reunion can be an overwhelming responsibility. However, time passes quickly and opportunities for re-connecting may soon be lost. Babies won't be little for long, and there's a lot of information to be gained by chatting with your grandmother. No one person should be expected to do it all - ask for help. You might be surprised by the favorable response, and it can be an emotionally rewarding and fascinating experience.

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