FamilyReunionsBlog

The place for tips on family fun!

Easy ways to use social media before, during, and after your reunion

Social media is everywhere, thanks to smartphones and tablets. Instead of fighting with family members to get off their smartphones, use them to your advantage in every part of reunion planning!

Before: Create a Facebook page for your reunion, and update it with information about the reunion itself. List all the information your family members will need to know: hotels, transportation, schedules. You can create “countdown” posts leading up to the reunion itself, like “The Smith family reunion is six months away – have you booked your hotel room yet?”

It’s also a great way to get family members interacting BEFORE the reunion. If you have an annual event, like the annual family softball game, you can get the competitive spirit going long before the reunion starts! It’s a great way to build excitement leading up to the reunion.

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During: Create a “hashtag” for your reunion, and ask family members who use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to tag their photos and posts. What’s a hashtag? It’s a phrase that you can use to collect all the great photos your family will be taking. Try to make it unique, so you don’t confuse your pictures with anyone else’s. Hashtags start with the # symbol, and have no punctuations and spaces. So, for the Smith Family Reunion, you could call it #SmithFamilyReunion2014 or #2014SmithFamilyReunion.

 

After: Collect all the photos and put them on your Facebook page and family website. Then, as you start planning for the following year’s reunion, repost the pictures to get people excited for the next one!

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Don’t feel like you’re stranded on a deserted island while you plan your reunion!

When you’re the lead family reunion planner, it can feel like you’re all alone on Organizer Island. But there are many ways to get other family members involved in the process. You just have to ask!

Don't feel alone. Ask for help!

Don’t feel alone. Ask for help!

An easy way to get help is to give small tasks away. Do you have mailings that you send, like invitations or newsletters? Ask a family member to take over stuffing the envelopes and sticking the mailing labels on. Do you get RSVPs? Ask for help in collating the responses, or sending out reminders to those who haven’t responded.

Ask for help with things that aren’t your strength. Do you need help with technology-based things like creating a website? Do you have family members who are musicians who can help plan music? Get the expertise from your relatives!

You can also give trusted family members specific activities to plan. Let someone else plan an activity or even a whole afternoon. Of course, you have to be able to really let go and let them take full ownership of it. They may not plan the scavenger hunt the exact same way you would, but that’s ok. In fact, that’s what you want! As people get invested in the planning of the reunion, they will encourage others to attend and get involved, too!

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Make your teenage family reunion guests jump for joy!

One of the challenges in planning a family reunion is keeping all the generations happy. While we love activities that get the different age groups interacting together, sometimes you need to offer fun things for each generation to do. And one of the hardest groups to plan for is your teenage family members!

Teenagers can be tough. Some teens may be interested in helping with the little kids; others may want to hang with the grownups. Still others may be dragged along and want no part of organized activities. While you can’t make everyone happy all the time, you can offer options for the teens.

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Un-organized sports. Instead of (or maybe after) the “official family softball game,” just set up a volleyball net and leave the ball there. Or have badminton racquets and a birdie available. Let everyone know they’re there, and see what happens. If you have a hard-top space, a basketball hoop makes for a great game of HORSE. No net, but you’ve got a yard? Flag football! Anything that gets them up and moving will be fun!

On the opposite side of the spectrum, why not a video game tournament? Sure, it sounds like the opposite of what you want, but it’s the way many teens interact. If you’re not into video games yourself, you may want to ask the gamer in the family to help you plan this out. You’ll want to be sure the game is rated “T” or below (because the little kids will want to watch it, too!) and it has room for friendly competition.

Board games are another great way to get teens talking. Think interactive games like Pictionary, Apples to Apples or Jenga. The goal here is not to keep track of wins or losses, but to get the teenagers laughing together!

If you’ve got teens who want to help with the little ones, have them be team leaders for kids’ activities. They can help get the kids organized, pass out supplies, and generally keep the peace. The teens are interacting, the little kids have fun, and you get some much needed help!

What activities do you have for teens at your reunion? Tell us in the comments!

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Help your family get to know each other again!

Sure, it seems silly – ice breaker games for a family reunion? But, if your reunion is the first one in a long time, or you’ve got family members coming together from different branches of the family tree, a get-to-know-you session is a great way to get your reunion started. Even if you do an annual reunion, an ice breaker game is lots of fun!

 

Help your family break the ice with fun games!

Help your family break the ice with fun games!

A scavenger hunt or family bingo is always fun and gets families working together. Create lists of things that people need to find out about each other. Items can be “find a military veteran” or “find someone who has lived outside of the country.” Then people need to actually talk to each other to get the information!

A “who am I” game; where each person is given a famous name to wear on their forehead or back. Each family member can only give one clue until the person figures out who they are.

A who’s-the-baby game can be very tricky with family members who look alike! Have some family members bring baby pictures of themselves. Number them and put them up on a corkboard. Have the rest of the family try to figure out who is who!

Do you have a favorite icebreaker game? Tell us in the comments!

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Planning for next year? Yes, already!

Believe it or not, summer’s nearly over! The kids are heading back to school and summer reunions are winding down. If you had a family reunion this summer, you’re probably thinking your work is done. Not so fast!

Now is the perfect time to get yourself organized for next time. I know, it feels like you should get a break, but the best time to get ideas down for next year is now. You want to keep the memories fresh!

Begin by reviewing what happened. What was a success and what didn’t work so well? Go back through your planning binder and re-organize it. Was the caterer amazing? Did the softball game leave out too many younger or older family members? Make your notes now.

 

Did the kids have a good time? Make your notes now to remember what worked for next year!

Did the kids have a good time? Make your notes now to remember what worked for next year!

Write online reviews. If you stayed at a resort or hotel, had a professional caterer or used a local park, give your feedback there. Use a site like TripAdvisor or Yelp to offer your comments to the companies you used. Be honest, but keep the reviews upbeat. It will help other reunion organizers in their planning, too!

Ask the family. You sent out newsletters and emails and updated the reunion website before the reunion. Now’s the time to get feedback from everyone. That’s how you’ll find out that Cousin Carol loved the new schedule you tried out this year. Just like in your reviews, ask your family to be honest but upbeat.

Once you get your notes in order for the next reunion? Then you can take that well-deserved break!

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What to feed your guests at a family reunion

In my family, there really are only three things we need for a family reunion: the people we love, drinks, and food! While “drinks” can mean different things to different families, food is a must-have for your reunion.  But what should you serve?

You can work with a caterer. This will cost more than a pot-luck, but will also be a lot less labor-intensive for you. If you’re having your reunion at a restaurant or hotel, this will be taken care of for you already. But you can have a caterer for even a backyard reunion! You can even choose a caterer or restaurant that fits your family’s ethnic background to make it more personal.

reunion food

A caterer can help you create a great display for your reunion

You can have a potluck. This is very cost-effective, but takes a lot of coordinating. You’ll want to be sure that there is enough food for everyone attending, and enough different kinds of food to keep everyone satisfied. You don’t want 15 different potato salads and no sandwiches! This is a great way to showcase different family recipes and keep your menu very meaningful.

You can combine the two. You can work with a caterer or restaurant to provide the majority of the food, and ask your guests to bring a special dish to share. That way, Cousin Cindy’s famous chili and Uncle Joe’s heavenly chocolate dessert can still be on display without you worrying that there won’t be enough food.

How do you feed your guests? Tell us in the comments!

 

 

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Celebrate the traditional names in your family

If your family is anything like mine, there are family names that are passed on from generation to generation. Whether your passed-down name is Meg, Bill, George or a nod to your ethnic heritage, it is a special connection between the generations.

And what do we love more than family reunions? Pictures taken there! And what a great picture this will be! Gather together all your family members who share that special name – whether it’s as a first name, middle name or even variants – for a great family photo!

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If you have a professional photographer, make sure this request is on your list! If everyone is taking pictures, give them the opportunity to grab this one.

And, if this is a long-standing family name that was used by generations who have passed, you can include them in the pictures too! If you have framed pictures of Great-grandpa William, you can have great-nephew Bill hold that photograph during your picture session.

This is also a great way to get people discussing family history. How many family members named William do you have? Do you know the first one? Why was it passed down? Again, it’s a great way to connect the generations, which is why you’re planning the reunion in the first place!

What are your family names? Do you pass them down or have a different family tradition?

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Ask your guests to bring a memento for a family Show and Tell

I love reading people’s recaps of their family reunions. I love seeing how families get together, how they celebrate, and how they interact. In one great recap of a family reunion, Bruce Summers detailed his family’s Adult Show and Tell time.

What I love best about this is that it really gets family members talking and reminiscing. What may seem like an unimportant item, like a collection of keys, can create story after story of the different homes family members lived in, where they were and how long they stayed. You might reminisce about a holiday at Grandma’s old house, a birthday party at an aunt’s. And if your family is anything like ours, one story seems to just lead into another.

 

Show and Tell isn't just for school!!!

Show and Tell isn’t just for school!!!

So, how do you best plan Adult Show and Tell? Let your family members know ahead of time! Put it in the family newsletter, on the website and on the invitations. Give them plenty of time to find that special keepsake in the attic, in the closet or on the wall.

Not everyone has to take part, of course, but encourage everyone to bring something. A picture, a certificate, a quilt. Every item has a story, and a link to a piece of history. You’ll soon find that family members who didn’t bring anything are eager to share in the storytelling once it gets started.

And be sure you record everything! Mr. Summers said he had 40 audio tapes of stories from his family! What a treasure trove! While your family members might feel uncomfortable with videotaping, audio taping is much less intrusive. Get pictures of everything, and make sure they go up on your family website too!

What are your family activities that get your family talking?

 

Thanks to Bruce Summers
Summoose Tales
Personal Historian
summersbw@gmail.com

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Keep your reunion memories alive with scrapbooks

Your reunion planning has gone perfectly. Your extended family all came to the reunion and had a wonderful time, enjoying food and drink, games, and each other’s company. Everyone keeps telling you what a great job you’ve done. Many of the younger (and some of the older!) members of your family have posted pictures on Facebook and Instagram, but you want to keep the picture record of the event in a special way. Enter the scrapbook!

 

At its simplest, a scrapbook is just a photo album. But what makes scrapbooking special is the addition of other artwork, stamps, stickers and notes that decorate and make each picture the star! If you’re new to scrapbooking, your local craft store will have an entire section dedicated to scrapbooking!

Don’t get overwhelmed by all the options, though. You can make your scrapbook as elaborate or as simple as you want. If your reunion had a theme, you can buy stickers and paper that reflect that theme. Of, if you had a variety of events, you can get different pieces to fit each event.

If you’re not crafty at all, but still want to have a memory book from the reunion, enlist a family member who is. Chances are you have at least one family member who enjoys crafting and scrapbooking. Enlist their help!

Once the book is done, bring it to the next reunion or family gathering. Being able to pour over the pictures and memories will make people even more eager to attend the next year’s event. And, if you create scrapbooks each year, they will become a cherished part of your entire reunion planning!

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How do you improve attendance at your reunion?

Perhaps your family reunion has been a tradition for many years, but attendance has been dwindling. What can you do to get more people to come and enjoy the reunion – and all the hard work you’ve put in to it?

Ask questions. If you’re sending out a newsletter, ask your family members for input. Are they looking for a different type of reunion? Have more people moved away? Is there a better date to hold the reunion? You may get a lot of different answers, but you may also get some good ideas.

Change it up. Maybe your traditions are getting a little stale. Sure, the annual family softball game is fun, but it’s ok to add different elements to your reunion to shake things up. Maybe splurge on catering, if you usually have a pot-luck. Or hold your reunion in a different place. Sometimes little changes mean a lot.

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Hold your reunion less often. If you have an annual reunion, but only the same few people attend, perhaps switch to every other year. Then, you have a little more time for people to miss each other!

But don’t give up. Some years are harder for families than others. If you keep at it, and stay positive, your family will too!

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