How to Plan a Family Reunion

Create memories with the people you love best.

Family Reunion
How long has it been since your family last got together for an all-out reunion? If your answer is "too long," don't worry -- help is here! We've outlined the steps you'll need to take to organize a big bash for your extended family. Read on for the scoop on how to plan a family reunion.

Make a Guest List

Grab a pen and paper (or open a Word document) and start listing family members. To keep things easy, count the members of each nuclear family first, then go outward. In other words, count yourself, your husband and your two children; then go on to your sister and her brood, and so on. Then start with your aunts and uncles and their kids.

If you feel like you're missing some people, don't worry -- with your initial contact (described below) you'll be getting more details, including long-lost Uncle Ralph's current whereabouts.

Make Your Initial Contacts

The easiest way to do this is via e-mail, but you can use the phone if you prefer. Our opinion is that e-mail or a letter is easier and quicker, particularly for this first "feeling-out" contact, but use the method you prefer. Send this out well in advance of the date you'd like the reunion to take place (two to three months is ideal). Or, if your family is tech savvy, post the reunion information on your Facebook page or even create a Facebook page for the reunion!

Here's an example of what you could say in your initial contact:

"Hi! We're planning a (last name) family reunion. We're hoping for some time in (July, August or the time you're aiming for) in (city and state). Please let us know whether you think you'll be able to make it so we can get a general head count and plan the venue. If you'd like to help plan this event, give me a call. Can't wait to see you there!"

If you don't hear back within a couple of weeks, resend the e-mail. After that, you'll need to assume the person you've contacted can't come.

Also be sure to ask whether anyone knows the whereabouts of extended family, chances are they can help you track everyone on your list.

Decide on a Date and Location

Once you have a general idea of your guest list, you should start looking for a venue. If your reunion will be on the small side and you have a huge yard, why not hold it there? A city or county park is another great -- and usually free -- locale. Be sure to check with your city about reserving the space in advance and what rules you'll need to follow.

You can also consider renting a hall. This can get pricey, so if you'll need family members to contribute, be sure to state this in your initial e-mail (see above). On the other hand, some VFW halls, Lyons Clubs and other locales may be willing to give you the space for free. Make your calls now so you can start planning.

Come Up With a Budget

No matter what, there is going to be some spending involved in this venture. You'll need to come up with food, seating and entertainment ideas, so figure these into your budget.

A great way to save on food expenses is to have the reunion be a potluck. This is easier if most guests are within driving distance of the party venue; it's much tougher to find a way to cook when one is staying out-of-town. But you'll still need to rent tables and chairs if you don't have enough, and a party tent in case of rain; you might also be renting the party space.

You can deal with your budget one of two ways. The first is to ask guests to bring food and seating. The other is to come up with a reasonable total for the party budget, divide it by the approximate number of guests and then ask for that amount toward the party (in advance is best). This is done all the time for class reunions, so if you have a large family don't feel guilty -- no one expects you to be a Rockefeller!

You may find that no matter what contribution your family makes, you are still spending a bit more than anyone else. Expect this, and plan accordingly. Next time, another family member can do the hosting and you can be the one to just sit back and enjoy.

Send the Official Invitation

It's time to send the invitation at this point. Choose a date and time that you feel will work for most people (you should have a feel for this from your initial e-mail or round of phone calls).

Create a gorgeous invitation that's personalized with your family name. You can choose one of our beautiful invitation templates and personalize and print, or add clipart first; the choice is yours. Make the invitation special, as it will probably become a keepsake for most of your family members. Remember that you can also just send a PDF of the invitation via email or on Facebook so you can take the printing and paper costs out of the equation if your family is computer friendly.

Have the RSVP date be two weeks before the date of the reunion. This way you can finalize any plans and be set to go by the time the day arrives.

Set Up Some Activities

Be sure you have plenty of things to do, especially for your littlest guests. If the reunion will be outdoors, set up a badminton net. Have a horseshoe pit in one area of the yard.

Make grownups comfortable too -- plug in a karaoke machine for later, and set out photo albums you'd love to share. You'll be primarily socializing, but having a few things to do can break the ice and reintroduce distant family members who haven't seen each other in a while.

You can also create a pretty Family Reunion scrapbook ahead of time and hand it to each guest as he or she arrives to write a quick note in. The result will be a book you'll treasure. Or, do your best to make a large family tree, complete with photographs and biographical information. You can display this on poster board; it's sure to be a big hit!

Be sure to bring a good camera and have a large area where everyone will fit, even if squeezed tightly – this way you can take a family picture when everyone is together and then e-mail or postal mail a copy to each attendee.

Suggest a Repeat

After the party, e-mail attendees and thank them again for coming. At this time, suggest that you'd love to do it again and say you'd like to pass the torch to the next family member so there can be a brand-new locale. Your family reunion is bound to become a tradition that keeps your family close…no matter how far apart they may be.

Written by: Melanie Henson