Many families just get together for special occasions – weddings, funerals, and milestone birthdays or anniversaries. But, you can change that and start a family reunion tradition. It won’t happen overnight, but it can happen!
Reach out to family members. The first step is to get a good family list together. Start with aunts and uncles or relatives you are close to and ask them for names and addresses. Perhaps a cousin recently got married – they will have the beginnings of a list from their wedding invitations. Get email addresses whenever possible, as that will save on postage. If you’re on Facebook, send out requests that way as well.
Don’t wait. You really need to plan about a year in advance, so it’s never too early to get started.
Tie your first reunion to a special occasion. If your family is used to getting together only occasionally, use a milestone birthday or anniversary to get people interested. It could be an 80th birthday, a 50th wedding anniversary, or something similar. The special event will get people’s attention. Once you’ve planned that party, you can talk up a continuing reunion there.
Get help. The more people you have involved in the planning process, the more people will be interested in it succeeding. If your niece or nephew is designing your family reunion website, their parents and siblings will be more engaged as well!
Don’t get discouraged. Growing an annual family reunion tradition can take time. After your first event, send out a survey. Ask your family what they enjoyed and what they would have liked to have done. Use their suggestions to improve each reunion – they will see that their input matters and you will have family members getting excited about it too!
The best part of any family reunion – large or small – is the time you spend together. One of our favorite things to do is to create something at the reunion that becomes a keepsake and a memory of the event itself. If you or a family member is a quilter, then making a reunion quilt is a special keepsake.
There are a few different way to approach the family quilt. You can cut quilt squares ahead of time and send them off to each family unit with the invitations. That way, each family has time to decorate their piece of fabric before the reunion. Then, the actual piecing together of the quilt can take place over the course of the reunion itself, with one or more quilters working together. If you choose this method, I’d recommend having additional squares available at the reunion for people who forgot theirs!
You can also just have squares available during the reunion itself, and have each family unit decorate their pieces at the reunion. Depending on the length of your reunion, you may not get to display the whole completed quilt by the end, but that will get your family members to come back next year!
You can leave the design up to your family, so that your more artistic family members can get creative, while your less artistic ones can simply sign names or trace smaller children’s hands. Once the quilt is put together, even the simplest squares will be special because they are part of the bigger picture!
Making a family quilt can be a one-time special activity, or, if your family members are up to it, you can do it more often. Bring the quilts to every reunion, and you can see how the family grows and changes with time.
Do you have a special family activity? Share it with us in the comments!
When you have a lot of out-of-town family members coming for your reunion, leaving them a welcome bag at the hotel is a nice touch to make them feel at ease.
Welcome bags can range from the small to elaborate. Simple gift bags can be purchased at any gift or card store. If you have a reunion theme, like a carnival or Fourth of July, you can find welcome bags to match!
What’s important is what goes in your welcome bag. We recommend:
• Duplicate set of directions and times for all your reunion events. Yes, you put them on your family reunion website and on Facebook, but one more set can’t hurt.
• Suggestions of things to do and places to go, if they have some down-time. Remind them of the amenities at your location. Here at the Heritage, guests have access to both pools (weather permitting), mountain bikes, walking trails and more. Give them tips on local shopping areas (who hasn’t forgotten to pack something crucial on a trip?) and activities for the family.
• Candy, snacks and water are a nice touch for guests who traveled a long distance. That way, they don’t have to go off searching for a snack as soon as they arrive.
• If your family members are traveling with small children, a coloring book and crayons or any other age-appropriate toy is a nice touch.
• Any other comfort items you can think of. Sunblock or a mini first aid kit with things like Tylenol, Chapstick, Band-Aids and other necessities.
You don’t have to go all out, but a “welcome to the reunion” bag is a great way to start a reunion weekend!
You’d think it’s time to relax. The holidays are over, you’ve cleaned up from New Year’s Eve (and gotten rid of the hangover!), and it’s months until your reunion. Guess what? Now it’s time to get serious about this summer’s reunion plans! Get out the checklist and see where you stand!
If your reunion is taking place at a resort or you’re making hotel reservations, confirm and finalize all your arrangements. Be sure you know about any deposits and their due dates, and when your final counts are due.
If you’re lucky enough to have them, touch base with your helpers as well. A lot of tasks get set aside for “after the holidays.” So now is the time to make sure everyone has their checklists ready to go!
It’s never too early to send out invitations! As soon as you have your location, time and cost confirmed, start working on your invitations. If you’re having them printed, you’ll need enough lead time for them to be printed before you send them out. If you’re just sending email invitations, you can still send them out early so your family can start making travel arrangements, if necessary.
If you’re not ready for official invitations, it’s a great time for a family update either by email, on your family’s website, or on Facebook. Remind everyone that the reunion is coming up, and give them an idea of what to expect. That way, when your plans are finalized, your family will be ready too!
What’s on your checklist for your reunion? Tell us in the comments!
Up here in the northeastern part of the United States, it’s gotten pretty cold and snowy – just the way we like it! Whether it’s for Christmas, Hanukkah, celebrating winter or just getting out on the ski slopes, you can use plenty of winter holiday traditions during a festive winter family reunion!
Warm drinks by the fire. The great thing about warm winter drinks is that they are so customizable! Hot cocoa can be kept warm so easily in a Crock-pot or other slow cooker. Then, you can offer fun add-ins like marshmallows, peppermint sticks, whipped cream, and – for the grownups – liqueurs. It’s a fun and warm activity for everyone!
Gift exchanges. So many winter holidays celebrate the giving and receiving of gifts. If you’ve got a large group, grab bags are a great way for everyone to feel like they’ve received a gift without breaking the bank! Our family has done both the Secret Santa and the Yankee Swap version of gift-giving, and we all have a lot of fun!
Craft activities. Instead of purchasing pre-made favors to give at the end of the reunion, why not have a craft activity? It works as something to do as well as a gift to bring home! Depending on if you have mostly adults or mostly kids, you can be as complicated or as simple as you like! Use pom-poms to build a snowman, or craft winter scenes in Mason jars! The possibilities are endless!
Are you getting together with extended family for a reunion this winter? What are your favorite ways to celebrate? Tell us in the comments!
If you’re a veteran of the annual family reunion, you and your family may have more t-shirts than you know what to do with! Sure, the reunion t-shirt is easy to customize each year and easy to buy, but maybe it’s time to switch things up.
If you still want to give away something wearable, why not a baseball cap or sun visor? You can still customize them with a family name or logo, but they’re a nice change of pace.
If you have the budget for it, you can choose something heavier than just a t-shirt, something like a sweatshirt or hoodie. These are especially great if you reunion is around this time of year and you want something a little warmer!
A tote bag is a great giveaway. We’re always looking for a bag to bring things back and forth to work or school, or to use instead of plastic bags at the grocery store!
Do you prefer the classic t-shirt, or do you choose something else for your reunion? Tell us in the comments!
On this day we honor all those who served in the US armed forces, it’s a great time to think about how we can honor those veterans in our own families at the reunion.
Make an activity for the family! Have the kids create a “Thank You Veterans” banner, complete with colorful decorations. Ask the veterans in the family if they would like to talk about their service. Some veterans – especially those who served in war time – may not want to discuss their experiences. Others may be willing to share stories.
Multiple generations of veterans can get together and swap stories, too. You may want to keep this a child-free zone, so that the more colorful stories can be told, but getting the different generations together will help them connect over similar experiences.
Do be sure to check with the veterans in your family before you start. While most of them would appreciate the attention, some of your family members may be dealing with stress related to their military service. And even if everyone’s agreeable, be prepared to end an activity if it seems to be too much for anyone involved!
Sometimes, in the midst of the craziness of reunion planning – RSVPs, deposits, scheduling – it’s easy to forget why we even took on this job in the first place. But, as we get closer to the winter holiday season, seeing family and friends helps us to remember the reasons why it’s so important.
We plan family reunions because it’s important to us for family members to stay connected. We know the wisdom grandparents can pass to the grandkids. And those kids share their own knowledge and enthusiasm right back. And while the Thanksgiving table is a great place for family togetherness, sometimes you want more than that!
We plan reunions because we love watching our family grow. Your niece who brought a date three years ago has since married and brought a brand-new family member into the world. Babies become kids, who turn into young adults in the blink of an eye. Regular reunions help us stay close, even as we grow.
And we plan reunions to remember where we came from. Family always gives us a connection to the past and those family members who have gone before us. We see family connections in the color of our cousins’ eyes, the jokes passed down from generation to generation, and the places we have been.
So, the next time you get bogged down in choosing an invitation, or get overwhelmed with stuffing envelopes, take a deep breath and remember why!
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.
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!
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!
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!