Counting Your Nickels and Dimes- How to Pay for Your Family Reunion

You’ve visited and you’ve chosen the perfect family reunion theme and you’re excited to make assignments and send out invitations and you’ve counted your nickels and dimes and then it dawns on you- how are we going to pay for all this family reunion fun? I may not have the answer for your family but I can tell you what works for our family.

The most simple way to pay for your family reunion is to divide the total expenses by the number of those attend the reunion. We have done that and it worked fine but then we realized that as the dynamics of our family changed and the young adults in our family started marrying and having their own young families this was a bit of a hardship on them and we began looking for other alternatives.

On both sides of our family, Grandma and Grandpa, Nana and Gramps have paid for the reunion location and accommodations which has really been a blessing. They pay for the campsite, the park or the condominium for the reunion but that still leaves the food (big expense) decorations, crafts, activities and prizes.

On the Wells side of our family we "divide and conquer". We rotate through all the original children (myself and my three brothers) the responsibility for the reunion and that family makes the assignments. They assign out meals and if you are responsible for breakfast then you provide the food, prepare it and clean up. Another family will be responsible for lunch and another dinner etc. This works out quite well as each family can choose for themselves how much work and expense they choose to take on. Assignments for other activities can also be made.

On the Stewart side of our family, Aunt Peggy Sue suggested that we hold a family auction. I have to admit, I wasn’t very excited about a family reunion auction. I just couldn’t get the vision for how an auction would work. Well, work it did. Our reunion auctions have paid for all the food, activities, prizes and crafts for the Stewart family reunion and we’ve been holding auctions for almost ten years. Here’s how it works-

Everyone brings something to donate to the auction. Some family members work all year to make a quilt or other special item for the reunion, some offer services such as haircuts and some bake cookies, brownies or bring produce from their garden The best sellers at our reunion are always the crocheted dishtowels Grandma makes ($40.00- $80.00) and the hand-stitched heirloom quilts that Grandpa makes ($200.00- $400.00). Other popular items are restored and framed photos of ancestors and photo memory books- anything with sentimental value. No one counts the items someone brings or judges them on how much they bid, everyone does the best they can, sometimes more, sometimes less.

At our 2009 family reunion we also had a silent auction for those items that are of less value and that we don’t want to spend the time to auction off and we also had a children’s "store" where the young ones in our family could buy coloring books, water guns, small toys and treats- nothing over a $1.00.


Each year we assign a member of our family to be the auctioneer and give them a few helpers. We also have family members that are responsible for writing down the winning bids and collecting the money. We have a special "Stewart Reunion" account where the money is kept until is is withdrawn to pay for our the next years expenses. Our Stewart family reunion auctions typically bring in $1,200- $1,500.


If you would like additional information on having your own family reunion auction just email me and I’ll be happy to give you more detailed information.

Another way to raise money for your family reunion is to sell tote bags, to-shirts, window clings or bumper stickers specific to your family. I still remember a clever bumper sticker I saw over thirty years ago. A family with the last name of "Kalum" designed a bumper sticker that said, "Kalum, Kool and Kollected". I thought that was such a clever play on words and I’ve been trying to think of something clever for a Stewart or Wells bumper sticker ever since.

The easiest way to reduce reunion expenses is to cut back on the time your reunion lasts. If you normally have a three day reunion cut back to two or just get together for a Saturday afternoon and evening. Make your meals potluck and enjoy the time, however short, that you have with each other.

The important thing is not counting the nickels and dimes spent at your family reunion but the memories made and the friendships formed. And in the end, that’s what really counts.

Aunt MO

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