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Proper Planning for the Perfect Family Reunion

Your family members have reconnected on social networking sites, reminisced about days gone by and even shared photos of newest additions and latest adventures. Now, they yearn for the opportunity to meet in person and strengthen those ties that bind. Rest assured that you can plan a successful family reunion by focusing on the Five W’s and the One H. The all important and easy to remember Who, What, When, Where, Why and How that journalists use to build a story can assist you in properly planning for the perfect family reunion.
Family Reunion Planning

Who will plan and attend the family reunion?

Prior to assembling a guest list and deciding whether to include immediate or extended family, select people who will become part of the reunion planning committee. Taking a divide and conquer approach to your family reunion ensures that the event will reflect both the needs and wants of the attendees while preventing any one single person from becoming overwhelmed by responsibilities. The next step your planning committee should take is to decide the focus of your reunion. Determine whether you will plan your reunion around a milestone occasion such as Aunt Mary’s 80th birthday celebration or if you would prefer to focus on reuniting with the direct descendants of grandparents John and Helen Smith. For a larger scale family reunion, your committee may want to enlist the help of a professional to support all or a portion of the decisions to be made. Gabrielle Stone of the Boston based Stone Event Planning emphasizes the importance of having a point person who will be your family’s contact with the event planner. “It is critical that the committee designate one person who will correspond with the event planner. Family reunions can benefit from an event planner’s expertise and ability to quickly research and suggest three or four different options in major categories such as location, food, decorations, entertainment and accommodations,” Stone explains.

What will your family reunion offer to people of all ages?

The three key ingredients for a successful family reunion will be food, fun and festivities that are appealing to members of all generations. Menu options such as a picnic or potluck dinner may be appropriate for smaller, one day family reunions. Larger groups, who intend to gather with family over the course of an entire weekend, will need to select a restaurant or catering facility early in the planning process. Be sure to survey attendees about any dietary restrictions or preferences. If your reunion will be celebrating a milestone occasion such as a birthday or anniversary, your event will have a natural focus for many activities. If you are not celebrating a particular occasion, you may want to designate a theme for your celebration. Be sure to offer activities, entertainment and music that appeal to all ages and create a sense of belonging. During the initial meet and greet of a weekend long event or at the start of a one day family reunion, provide name tags and set aside a few minutes for welcoming announcements. The chairperson can take this time to introduce members of the planning committee and showcase family members’ recent accomplishments to provide a spark for further conversations. Members of the family can also get better acquainted by participating in a brief scavenger hunt. Provide attendees with a list of people who need to be located and identified. Family members will mingle while finding answers for items such as, Who has traveled from Idaho? What country did Aunt Mary visit last year? Locate four people who have married into the family. Another effective conversation starter is to provide a centrally located memorabilia table where family members can place items of special interest such as photos, letters and awards. Be sure that all items are labeled and that someone is assigned to host the table.

When will the family reunion take place?

Initially, it seems as though there is plenty of time to make your family reunion special. In reality, the most successful family reunions should begin preparing at least a year in advance. In cases where family members will need to travel great distances, preparation should begin as early as eighteen months ahead of the scheduled event. Selecting a date for your family reunion will require surveying family members to ensure the highest levels of attendance and participation and to minimize conflicts with other holidays, events and obligations. Summer months can offer the most favorable weather conditions and reduce the likelihood of conflict with school events. Obtain input from key family members to gauge interest and availability for a few key dates. Advertise your choice through save the date announcements to ensure that family members have ample time to plan for travel and to prepare their own personal budgets. It is important that both your announcements and invitations include as much detailed information as possible. Be sure to list the following items on all correspondence with family members regarding the reunion:
  • Date
  • Time
  • Location
  • Activities
  • Accommodations
  • Contact Information

Where will you host your family reunion?

Family reunion planning is similar to purchasing real estate in that the three most important considerations are location, location, location. Unless there is a family member who is willing to host the reunion at his or her house, your planning committee will likely be tasked with choosing the ideal location. It should be centralized, accessible and affordable for the greatest number of attendees. If most of your family members reside in one area, focus the search on a nearby facility that offers a full range of accommodations, activities and transportation options for out of town guests. Oftentimes, the most convenient option is to select one setting such as a hotel or resort that will be capable of providing room accommodations and hosting all of your family’s activities in one place. To assist in planning at a centralized location, consider taking advantage of online tools such as HotelPlanner.com. This website specializes in group events and offers a wide variety of properties in diverse and desirable locations. Most importantly, HotelPlanner.com ensures the best rate for your reunion by surveying your family’s collective needs and inviting hotels to compete for your business. All of the bids can be reviewed, negotiated and confirmed online. For family reunion planning committees that are committed to a paperless event, such online planning assistance is invaluable. After you have booked your location at www.WeGoPlaces.com , your group will receive a free, user friendly event website to assist in preparations for your family reunion. This customizable website offers all of the following tools to keep your planning on track and your attendees up to date:
  • Listing of your family reunion name and event details
  • Customized domain name
  • Management of your group registrations
  • Email communications with group members
  • Online storage of pictures or logos for your event
  • Hotel and banquet facility details
  • Mapping and driving directions

Why do you want to plan a family reunion?

While the information age offers e-mail, social networking and other virtual opportunities to stay in contact and bridge the distances that frequently separate families, there is no substitute for reconnecting and celebrating with family members in person. A successfully planned reunion can strengthen your bonds with family members and provide a unique learning experience for the younger generations to better understand their heritage. One successful family reunion is likely to inspire future gathering on a more consistent basis.

How will you finance the family reunion?

The cost of your family reunion will vary depending on the length and complexity of the event. Develop a budget and determine your priorities in advance so that you keep costs from becoming prohibitively expensive for the majority of attendees. Setting priorities will allow you to focus your fundraising on areas of greater importance and your cost cutting on areas of lesser importance. Consider creative fundraising ideas to finance your family reunion such as hosting an auction or raffle. You can also sell tickets to your family reunion and encourage members who would like to defray the cost of travel for out of town relatives to contribute to a fund that the committee can use to lower the group rate at your hotel. If family members indicate that everyone is available for online communication, your committee may be able to save on the costs of printing and postage. Similarly, you may wish to reduce the cost of photography by designating three of four family members who will take and share digital photos. If you would like the expertise of a professional event planner while minimizing the cost, consider hiring someone on an hourly basis to provide consultation on specific aspects of your family reunion. Take a comprehensive approach by managing your travel and accommodations for a family reunion with online itinerary resources such as HotelPlanner.com that offer significant savings of time and money associated with planning such an important event.

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