Planning a Family Reunion Checklist

12 Months prior

(Make these decisions before leaving your reunion) Planning in advance will increase the odds that more people will be able to attend the reunion, which translates into more fun for everyone. By booking early, you can most likely secure better rates and/or reserve your preferred hotel or retreat site, flights and other travel arrangements. Most campgrounds and parks can be booked a year in advance.

  • Set date
    • The best of all situations is to hold your family reunion at the same time every year. Choose a holiday such as Memorial Day or Labor Day or a weekend such as the third weekend in August etc. Finally, stick to your decision. Changing dates mid-stream can create a huge amount of additional work.

  • Choose location
    • Aim for a family reunion location that is most accessible and affordable to the majority of people you want to attend. If family members are located in one area, then select a reunion location that’s nearby. If everyone is scattered, then choose a central location to help cut down on travel expenses. Most locations will need to be reserved a year in advance, campgrounds, hotels and conference centers, cruises, condos, resorts and parks etc.
    • If possible arrange an on site inspection of your family reunion site. You will be able to check out your reunion site amenities and recognize challenges you may need to plan around. At a campground or park, check for fire pits, covered bowery or picnic tables and benches. If your site is a hotel or condo you will be able to assess for yourself banquet facilities, room amenities, meeting room sizes and cleanliness of the location.
    • Contact local hotels and reserve blocks of rooms for out of town visitors

  • Choose a reunion theme
    • Creating a theme for a family reunion is a great way to interest people and make them more likely to attend. It also makes things more fun when it comes to being imaginative with food, games, activities, invitations and just about every other aspect of the reunion. Family history themes are especially popular, as are family reunions which celebrate a very special family member’s birthday or anniversary, or the family’s cultural heritage.
  • Compile a list of family members and update mailing and email lists
    • A clipboard with a list of family names can be passed around during the family reunion. Family members can make corrections and add new emails and address to the list. Be sure and assign a family member to be in charge of this list.

9 months Prior

  • Make final reservations–remember that some family members will have to cancel, and others may decide to show up at the last minute.
  • Schedule events and activities that require advance registration or booking
  • Make contact with family members by email to keep them up to date on family reunion plans. Encourage email contacts to help spread the word.

6 Months Prior

  • Have planning meeting either on phone or in person with committee chairmen/ make assignments
    • Send “save the date” cards or emails- include cost per person or family and what is included in the ticket price, if you are charging admission fees. Inform of any fundraising activities you will be having- such as a family auctions so that family members can be preparing items for donation.
    • Confirm reservations
    • Make final decisions

3 Months Prior

  • Make special assignments such as activities and games , so volunteers have time to prepare and purchase supplies for their assignment
  • Order souvenirs, T-shirts etc.

2 Months Prior

  • Send detailed schedule and assignments
    • Directions on how to get to the family reunion site.
    • Date, time, and location of the reunion.
    • Remind family members to bring their fund raising donations
    • Remind family members of assignments
  • Gave a confirmation call to caters, photographers etc.
  • Start purchasing non-perishable items: dry goods, decorations, supplies, etc. Watch for sales to get the best prices.

1 Month Prior

  • Review final details with family reunion committee
  • Confirm with relatives who are bringing food or other supplies.
  • Contact restaurants or caterers with a final guest count if necessary.
  • Order any products or supplies that must be delivered to assure timely delivery.

Week Before

  • Get chairs, tables, grills and other items
  • Buy last-minute decorations and supplies and perishable items
  • Make final preparations such as signs and welcome banners.

Day Of Family Reunion

  • Set up and decorate family reunion site
  • Post flyers with family reunion schedule for family to reference
  • Welcome family members as they arrive at your family reunion

Click here to download a PDF version of the family reunion checklist

Planning a Family Reunion- the Basics

I recently received a mailbag question from a visitor to Family Reunion Helper.  They asked,  “How do we plan a family reunion? Please give me specifics? Dates, locations, committees. How do we finance a family reunion?”

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I have a lot of respect for someone who is building a family reunion from scratch.  I did it 25 years ago and although reunions can be a ton of work they are so worth it.

Family Reunion Helper has addressed all the questions asked above in previous blogs so I though it might be a good idea to put all those blogs together to be easily accessed if someone is planning a reunion for the first time.  Just click on the link below each heading to read more “back to the basics” about planning a family reunion.

Three Keys to a Successful Family Reunion

http://familyreunionhelper.com/3_keys_to_a_successful_family_reunion.php

Family Reunion Checklist and Timeline

http://familyreunionhelper.com/reunion_checklist.php

Family Reunion Committees

http://familyreunionhelper.com/committees.php

How to Pay for Your Reunion

http://familyreunionhelper.com/blog/2011/03/planning-to-pay-for-your-family-reunion/

Family Reunion Locations

http://familyreunionhelper.com/blog/2012/04/location-location-whats-your-favorite-family-reunion-location/

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Family Reunion Themes

http://familyreunionhelper.com/blog/2011/05/family-reunion-theme-ideas/

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Aunt MO

Location, Location- What’s Your Favorite Family Reunion Location?

A real estate agent will tell you- location is everything when buying a house and family reunion planners will heartily agree that when planning a reunion- LOCATION is everything!

Tell us about your favorite family reunion location- where is it at and why do you go there?

For many families, returning to a much-loved reunion destination has become an annual tradition.  After several years that location may feel more like home than home itself.

Our Favorite Family Reunion Location

We have the greatest little reunion site It’s called Hansen Park in Elwood Utah.  It has a huge covered bowery with a kitchen, a fire pit, restrooms and even a baseball diamond and small basketball court.

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Someone must have told the good people of Elwood what a treasure they have because they have now made it as difficult as possible to reserve the park and our family has just given up trying to get it- but if you can find a friend that lives in Elwood they may just be able to help you out.

Family Reunion Camping

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In the years before Hansen Park and the years after- we have spent many family reunions in group site C and D in Box Elder Campground.  It’s a little more like “roughing it” then Hansen Park and the kids get dirtier because there is a lot more dirt.  It’s true camping and all of us except the mom’s that have kids that crawl love it.  There are lots of picnic tables, restrooms and beautiful shade trees. Parking can sometimes be a challenge but we’ve learned to adapt.

If you’re looking for a campground you can find a list of campgrounds in the US and make reservations at http://www.reserveamerica.com/

Family Reunion at the Lake

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In the years that we had access to a boat we held our family reunions at Bear Lake.  The water is some of the bluest I’ve ever seen but hold your reunion in June and it will be some of the coldest water you’ve ever jumped in.  You can camp at locations such as Rendezvous Beach or rent a condo close by.

If you’re looking for  a list of lakes in North America you could use http://www.greatlakesnorthamerica.com/ as a resource.

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Of course, if I had unlimited resources I would probably choose a cruise for my favorite family reunion location, but since that isn’t an option, you’ll find my family campin’ out at good ole campsite C and lovin’ every minute of it!

Tell us about your favorite family reunion location

Tell us about your favorite family reunion location- where is it at and why do you go there?  It may feel like you’re giving up your favorite fishin’ hole but please share- what works for your family?

Aunt MO

Unusual Family Reunion Souvenirs

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An Alternative to the Family Reunion T Shirt

Don’t get me wrong- I love family reunion t-shirts but when we planned our “Survivor “ family reunion I wanted to find an unusual reunion souvenir for family members to take home with them as a remembrance of our fun reunion.  We had done t-shirts for years and years and I was looking for something that would be different.

Then I remembered that one of my students, Lizzy, had given all my music students that sang at the Olympics a wooden Utah pin.  I was so impressed with the detail of the pins that I asked her about them and was surprised to find that her family had a business that made cool laser products.

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CountryLazer Cutting and Engraving

The name of Lizzy’s families’ business is CountryLazer and they are Utah’s leading supplier of custom laser cutting & engraving wood, acrylic, glass, mat, leather, and other products.  They have been creating customized gifts and laser engraved products for over 30 years.

CountryLazer would be happy to help you with your family reunion design.  They try to keep pricing around 1- 2 dollars- less expensive then the traditional t-shirt. 

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I love their cute pioneer wagon kit that could be assembled at  your heritage reunion and would serve as a reunion  craft and memento.

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CountryLazer has a wide variety of designs for name tags, hat pins, wooden boxes, toys, awards, plaques, picture frames, scouting memorabilia, and Christmas gifts.

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Design Your Own Family Reunion Souvenir

They will also work with you to create a completely unique product that shows your individual style or your company’s commitment to excellence. They can engrave your logo, graphic, or custom message on almost any material to make your product look more personal and professional.

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So if you’re looking for a new way to remember your family reunion check out countrylazer.com.

Aunt MO

We do not remember days; we remember moments.  ~Cesare Pavese, The Burning Brand

Candy Bar Game for Your Family Reunion

Aunt Lynn has shared fun matching games at our family reunions and parties for years.  She has adapted the game to fit many different reunion themes, baby showers, wedding showers and family history events. 

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Write the name of each candy bar you will be using on one 5X7 card and the description on another.  If possible hang the cards on a wall with a piece of masking tape.  If you are camping just lay the cards on a picnic table or on a tarp on the ground.  Take turns turning over two cards.  When you find a match that person gets the candy bar that is referenced.

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This is a fun game to personalize for your family reunion.  For instance:

Janie’s fiancé- “Big Hunk”
Grandma- Hugs and Kisses
Aunt Marilynn and Aunt Marci- M & M’s
Uncle Rick’s IQ- Zero

Here’s a generic version of the game to get you thinking:

1. Famous swashbuckling trio of old – 3 Musketeers candy bar
2. Cemetery – Mounds candy bar
3. Galaxy – Milky Way candy bar
4. The Red Planet – Mars Bars
5. Giggles- Snickers candy bar
6. Bumpy ride- Rocky Road candy bar
7. Klutz- Butterfingers
8. Famous author – O’Henry bar
9. Famous Homerun Hitter – Baby Ruth candy bar
10. Famous NYC street – 5th Avenue
11. Twin Letters – M&Ms
12. Superman’s other identity – Clark Bar
13. A sweet sign of affection – Kisses
14. Favorite day for working people – Payday candy bar
15. What bees make – Bit o’ Honey
16. Sometimes you feel like a nut – Almond Joy candy bar
17. Pleasingly Plump – Chunky
18. Two female pronouns – Hershey candy bar
19. Dad of teenage daughter- Bonkers
20. Single women’s dream  – Mr. Goodbar or Big Hunk
21. Flotation devices – Life Savers candies
22. Sun Explosion – Starburst Candies
23. Crackling noise – Crunch bar
24. Determines who wins the game – Skor Bar
25. Dry Cows – Milk Duds
26. Power Nap- Fast Break candy bar
27. Kids- Runts
28. Money left after you pay the bills- Zero candy bar

Aunt MO

“The only thing better than a good friend is a good friend with a candy bar.”

Silly Getting to Know You Game

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When planning your next family reunion or party you will want to plan some fun “getting to know you” games. Here’s a fun idea to get to know a little more about your relative.

Wrap a gift of some kind that would be fun for any family member at your reunion or party. preferably something that goes along with your family reunion theme.

You don’t need to sit in a circle or in any organized order. In fact, you can play this game as you are eating a meal or waiting for an activity to begin. The important thing is that everyone can hear the poem as you read it so they can pass the gift around as directed.

The following verses are just ideas to use for your poem. You can easily write your own verses and even target specific members at your family reunion.

Getting To Know You Poem

Take this gift-now don’t be shy!
Give it to someone with blue eyes.

Yes, you are the lucky one
But give the gift to someone who has a teenage son!

Look around from seat to seat
And give it to one whose cooking can’t be beat.

Some of us are tiny and small
but give the gift to the one most tall!

Next look for someone that has the newest wife
and give it to the love of his life.

Birthdays come and birthdays go
Give this gift to the oldest person you know.

Don’t let the gift get out of sight
Give it to the person sitting on your right.

The longest hair will win it now
If you have long hair, step up and bow

The gift goes to someone with a college degree
a good education pays off we can all agree.

The one with the most buttons of any kind
Will get passed the gift right now, this time.

We should stop now, it’s really time
The gift is yours to keep and everything is fine!

You’ll find lots of fun ice breaker games here

Aunt MO

“The grass isn’t greener on the ‘other side’, the grass isn’t greener on your side. It’s Greener where you water it.”

Easter, Eggs, Bunnies and HORSES?!?!

That’s how we celebrate Easter at my house- with Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies and HORSES!  For years now I have told my kids- You don’t have to come for Thanksgiving, you  don’t have to come for Christmas- I just want you for EASTER!

The best Easter Egg hunt in the entire universe is held the Saturday before Easter at my house. Humans of all descriptions gather; greenhorns, cowboys and babies as well of horses of all breeds, colors and training, to find Easter Eggs hidden all over the farm. At our Easter Egg hunt it’s not about the eggs- it’s about the hunt- and the horses!

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To make things more fair for the inexperienced and younger riders, Uncle Steven and I hide the eggs according to color. Each rider has a different color or style of egg. For instance, this year we have basketball eggs for Kory, Elmo eggs for baby jack, purple eggs for Megan, football eggs for Nic, chicken shaped eggs for Brynna, pink eggs for Janie and so forth. Assigning each rider their own color makes it possible for us to hide the eggs according to the rider’s ability.

Because Megan, Kory and Janie are experienced riders we hide their eggs in places that are hard to see and difficult to get to, but we hide green horn and children’s eggs in plain sight and in places easy for them to reach.  We watch for fun ideas about where to hide eggs for weeks leading up to the hunt.

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We hide between 6 and 12 eggs per person depending on how many participants we have. We always hide a few “Golden” eggs with special prizes in them.  Although we haven’t limited how many eggs a person can find, our family is pretty good about making sure everyone finds at least one golden egg.

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After the hunters find all of their eggs they are allowed to hunt for the golden eggs that have special prizes in them such as movie tickets, gift certificates and coins. This is the most exciting part of the hunt as riders become a little more daring and often find themselves racing for the same golden egg as another rider.

easter 2010 075 After all the eggs are found everyone gathers together to open their eggs and discover the goodies and prizes in them. We usually play badminton and eat Sloppy Joes for lunch.

Planning around the weather has sometimes been an issue.  We remain in close contact with family members to reschedule from a morning Easter Egg Hunt to an afternoon hunt if needed due to stormy weather but we have never had cancel our Easter Egg hunt.

Because the horses haven’t been ridden much during the winter months they are usually feeling a little frisky for our Easter Egg Hunt. We used to give the riders a plastic shopping bag to put their eggs in but some horses would spook at the crackling noise the bags made so now everyone just plans on wearing a hoodie with pockets to put their eggs in.

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I always plan to fill extra eggs in case we have an unexpected rider, which happens more often then not.

For more unusual Easter Egg hunt ideas and fun family reunion themes, visit www.familyreunionhelper.com.

Good Idea: Finding Easter eggs on Easter Sunday.
Bad Idea: Finding Easter eggs at Thanksgiving.

Aunt MO

Planning to Pay For Your Family Reunion

Today I will meet with our family reunion committee to plan our 2011 family reunion. Because of the current state of the economy our fund raising auction last year was not as productive as in years past so we are faced with some new challenges this year.  How are we going to pay for our family reunion?  We always joke about plugging our “money tree into the “currant” bush but this year I think we’re going to need some new ideas.

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I can tell you that our 3 day reunion cost $16.00 a person in 2010 and that included everything!  Doing the math, I figure that we are going to need about $1,500 to pay for reunion expenses.

I needed some  new ideas so I  talked to everyone I knew and did a lot of research on the internet and these are the ways I found you are paying for your family reunions:

Divide all expenses equally, or have everyone pay individually for expenses as they incur.

Collecting recipes and producing cookbooks and many other publishing projects such as directories, scrapbooks, and history books to sell at the reunion.

Pass the hat

Food, beverage and white elephant sales. Food sales can net a nice profit if you consider carefully your reunion customers. A bake sale could feature desserts to eat right there as well as whole bakery specialties to take home.

Family yard sale

Order personalized (imprinted) products such as t-shirts, caps, coffee mugs, pens, pencils…and many more items to sell

Charge a traditional registration fee to families. Some families charge per family unit and others charge different prices based on age and family size. Average cost families are charging for their reunions are adults (ages 13 and over)- $70.00, children- $40.00. Pay electronically or elect to pay with a bank check or money order.

If some families can’t afford to pay then give them opportunities to provide service in exchange for paying fees- for instance could type in recipes for a family cookbook, maintain a family website or do family history research.

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.

With finances in mind, some families opt not to have reunions every year.

Ask for reunion dues and ask family members to send a portion of their dues on a quarterly basis so that it isn’t a one-time large payment.

Hold a raffle of donated items from companies or family members during the reunion. Plane tickets or electronics are good money generating items.

Collect corporate donations or pledges for a fundraising event like a bike or 5K race. Corporations sometimes donate to large reunions where knowledge of the company’s name and contribution reaches many people.

My favorite idea, and the one  am going to suggest at our planning meeting is:

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Family reunion pocket change. Ask family members to save their pocket change during the year and bring it to the reunion. Count money by hand or take to a counting machine. Announce the grand total at your reunion.

In hopes that our reunion committee will adopt this idea I quickly made some labels using fun fonts from Lettering Delights. http://www.letteringdelights.com/  I hope they’ll like this idea and that along with our annual auction we will be able to fund our Stewart family reunion.

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Win 500 dollars in free custom t-shirts from ClassB

Are you planning a family reunion for the first time? Then you’re eligible to enter the “First Family Reunion” essay contest and you could win $500 in free custom t-shirts from ClassB!

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At ClassB, they love talking about t-shirts almost as much as we love talking about family reunions. Why did your family decide to hold your first reunion? Was it some sort of event that brought everyone together? Or perhaps you just decided that it’s about time you all got together! Whatever the reason, ClassB wants to hear all about it.

To enter, just submit a brief essay explaining why you’ve decided to hold your first-ever family reunion, what types of events and activities you plan to do, and what things you’re looking forward to the most. Remember, familyreunionhelper can help you with this part of your essay. Each of our reunion theme packages is loaded with fun activities, crafts, games, food and decorations to make your reunion planning so much easier.

ClassB judges will choose one winning essay and the person who submitted it will receive a $500 ClassB Gift Card to use toward custom t-shirts for your first family reunion. So on top of starting a new family reunion tradition, you’ll be starting another tradition— awesome family t-shirts!

Your essay must be 250 words or less, and only one essay per family will be considered. Deadline for submissions is midnight on March 31, 2011, so get those submissions in soon!

Click here for complete contest rules and to enter now.

Good luck!

Keeping in Touch When the Reunion is Over

All good things must come to an end, but saying goodbye at the end of your family reunion doesn’t mean you have to wait until next year’s reunion to visit with your favorite cousin. In today’s high tech world it’s pretty simple to keep in touch through emails, web pages and social networking. Why just this month I learned, through social media, that Cousin Bobbie has a new car, Cousin Lindsey is having dog problems and I don’t dare say who… is expecting another baby.

Take Advantage of Email

clip_image002E-mail is a great way to send a spontaneous note. People love to catch up on the latest family news, and you’ll find that they will reply to your message more often than not!

It’s hard to beat the convenience, and cost savings of sending emails when planning your family reunion. You do have to be sensitive to those that haven’t yet discovered email and be sure they aren’t kept out of the loop.

Online Chat
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A unique way to plan your family reunion and to keep everyone up to date on reunion plans is to invite your relatives (or those who can participate) to join in an online family chat. It’s easy to set up a private chat room on America Online just by going to People Connection and selecting Private Room. Tell everyone the name of your room and when you plan on "talking." Use the chat to plan the event and the details of travel. Roundtable chats are also an excellent way to keep in touch after everyone returns home. Other chat options are Google Talk, Skype, Yahoo Instant Messenger or MSN Live, a Microsoft program. Talk to family members at your next family reunion and find out what chat method will work best for them when planning your family reunion.

Family Newsletter

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A family newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with each other between reunions. A monthly newsletter is great but often difficult to keep up with. A quarterly newsletter can be a better option. Ask family members to email information about family activities and upcoming events such as weddings, baptisms and births. Include information about your upcoming family reunion. A family newsletter is a great family reunion planning tool. To save on postage expenses only mail your newsletters to family members that don’t have email.

Family Webpage

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By creating a website for your family, you can share special events such as birthdays, graduations, family reunions and parties. A family webpage can also be a great place for family reunion planning and to share ideas. For a family webpage to be successful family members have to be committed to participating by checking the site regularly and contributing to conversations.

You might consider using websites such as Carepages, Caringbridge, www.mygreatbigfamily.com or Blogger for your family webpage. They need very little computer knowledge to "operate", yet provide an excellent forum for families communicate and to send out family reunion planning updates.

Technology has changed how we keep in touch. Studies have shown that almost half of the baby boomer generation is on social networking sites, and 31 percent say the first time they saw photos of a new grandchild or family member was through the internet. Two-thirds of boomers, or about 64 percent, E-mail friends and family more frequently than they call them on the phone. The internet helps us be more connected to loved ones and when used appropriately can help with family reunion planning and distributing reunion information.

Aunt MO

“Trees without roots fall over.”