There’s nothing that says “July” like a family reunion. Generations gathering together to reminisce, play games, exchange photos and eat lots of salty, fatty and sugary foods. It simply can’t get any better than that. That is, unless you’re the one stuck with planning the event.
For today’s article, I’ve gathered some tips for a summer reunion and a couple tricks to help you plan it perfectly.
I have one word regarding this bit of the family reunion: delegate. If yours is the type of reunion to include fourth cousins twice removed, you’d better delegate the address gathering to people who actually know said cousins. Call each of your aunts and uncles and give them the assignment to gather names and addresses for their families. Give them a due date to get the information back to you (and choose a date two weeks prior to when you actually need the addresses).
Or, go all techie and use social media to invite everyone to the reunion. Create a Facebook page, Tweet reunion updates or throw something on Google+. You could also create a “Smith Family Reunion” Blog to keep everyone in the loop during the planning phase. Keep in mind that this scenario only works if Grandma has a computer. And knows how to use it (my eighty-four-year-old grandmother has a Facebook account, so I could easily do this).
Need help designing the invitations? Pinterest is a great place to do some research on unique and creative designs.
Before you choose a location, consider the demographics and personalities of your family members. Every spring here in Utah, several families insist on holding their reunions in a canyon right in front of a raging river. Sure enough, every year at least one toddler falls into the raging river and drowns during a family reunion. The moral of this story: please, please choose a location without a spring-run-off river if your family includes small children.
What does your family like to do? Are you a bunch of hikers and nature lovers? A nature walk up to a picnic ground might be just the thing. On the other hand, perhaps many family members are elderly. Would they prefer a city park setting with large shade trees and a lawn chair? If you haven’t figured this out yet, the family reunion is not just about you (even though you’re the one spending hours and hours of planning). Take into account who the guests are, and plan accordingly.
I love driving up the canyons here in Utah during the summer and reading the paper plates that have been nailed to trail heads and picnic grounds. “Fitzgerald Family Fun Site!” and “Smith Soiree!” mark out family gatherings every several hundred feet. Unless it’s windy, that is. Then those paper plates are stuck, backwards and upside down, to the fence. I can only assume that those poor families are scattered throughout the canyon, looking for one another, much like their signage.
For a successful gathering, create sturdy signage using custom vinyl banners or plastic corrugate yard signs. You can design a family theme and use bright colors to let your family know exactly where they can find the fun and games (and food!) Make sure to place the signs in locations where they can easily be seen by folks cruising by in a car traveling 40 miles per hour.
Fun and Games
Much like the location, the fun and games at your reunion depend on the crowd. I know one family who had reunions at the local pizza and bowling place for several years when the kids were all little. Now that the kids are teens, they hike Mount Timpanogos (a super steep climb with about a million switchbacks and blistering sun baking down on the family as they pant and gasp their way up the mountain). It works for them, though . . . they love it.
There are many types of games. For extended family members who don’t really know each other very well, there are “getting to know you” games. Families with lots of Mensa members enjoy trivia games. Athletic families seem to love tug-of-war and obstacle course games. Ask around and see what people want to do at the reunion.
If your family is not the type to engage in organized games, consider hosting the reunion at a water park or amusement park. You can usually reserve a pavilion at these locales where everyone can meet up for food at a designated time.
At most family reunions, the only real rule about food is that there should be lots of it. And usually it’s supposed to be as unhealthy as possible (who wants to eat tofu burgers at a reunion? Well, maybe your family if you’re all really healthy. My family . . . is not). The food shouldn’t be too fancy, unless your family meets at the country club. In which case, you probably have a caterer.
Food is another area in which delegation is a good idea. Especially if you can drop hints to Aunt Ethel that she might like to bring her famous fudge brownies.
Other Good Stuff
Some far-flung families like to wear name tags so that long-lost cousins can recognize each other. Others like to have matching T-shirts. If your family doesn’t all know each other well, some sort of identifying paraphernalia is good practice.
Have a photographer at the reunion and attempt to gather everyone in one spot for a huge family photo. Smaller sections of the family might also like to have photos done. For instance, perhaps you and your siblings could pose for a photo. While you’re there, gather all your kids and spouse and take one of your immediate family. One tip: Take photos before eating. Unless you don’t mind that everyone has catsup all over their matching family T-shirts.
There’s usually one person in the family who is into family history. Contact that person and ask him to bring some copies to the reunion. He can charge a nominal sum to cover expenses. Many people are interested in their family’s history, but don’t know how to go about finding details.
So what does your family have planned for the reunion this year?