Family Reunion Planning Tips

Welcome to my all-time, best-ever, super-amazing family reunion planning tips! Read on to get the inside scoop...

Family Reunion Planning: Tip #1

family reunion planner

Here’s THE most important thing I can say regarding family reunion planning:


Sooner than you think. As a matter of fact, reserve the date and place as soon as possible. The bigger the family and the further apart you are, the more important advance notice becomes.

Planning a successful reunion starts 1-2 years in advance. Send save-the-date postcards just as soon as the date is finalized.

Family Reunion Planning: Tip #2

Okay, this is obvious, but you'd be surprised at how easy it is to miss. Ya gotta

TALK to your family!

Communicate. Share. Solicit feedback. Listen. Generate excitement.

It's easy to put your head to the planning grindstone and get so involved in your task list that you never look up. (Yes, unfortunately, I'm speaking from personal experience.) You want your relatives to have a vested interest in the reunion because when they're involved, they'll be more likely to attend (and bring additional family with them).

Send out regular planning updates via e-mail or or you could even set up a family reunion website. These will help build excitement and keep the reunion in the forefront of everyone's minds.

Ask your family for suggestions... But ask early enough that you can incorporate their feedback. Give them choices as frequently as possible. (Would you rather XYZ, EFG or ABC?) Open-ended questions are often too hard to think about and too vague to be of any help to the reunion planner.

Let everyone know how much the reunion will cost and when money is due.

Family Reunion Planning: Tip #3

Find, ask or beg for help!

Don't try to plan the entire family reunion by yourself. Even if you can do everything, don't. Even if you've already done everything for one - or several - reunions, don't do it again. Eventually, you'll get burned out, at which point it would be wise to have other relatives versed in family reunion planning. If you want the tradition of family reunions to continue, it's imperative that more than one person do some of the planning and managing.

You can do as some planning guides suggest and use an entire committee to organize your reunion. Or, you could simply make and track assignments.

Sharing the workload becomes particularly important for multi-day gatherings and/or when you’re gathering great numbers of people together.

Family Reunion Planning: Tip #4

Make assignments and follow up.

Despite popular belief, successful event planning doesn't happen by magic alone. You must create checklists, determine deadlines, make assignments, track progress and follow up.

Don't think or say, "Well, Aunt Sally is making all the pies," and just expect Aunt Sally to show up on time with the perfect number of perfect pies. Clarify that she knows exactly how many pies to make. Request that the pies be delivered by exactly what time. Ask her if she needs help completing her assignment. Remind her of final details.

Family Reunion Planning: Tip #5

You're only human.

With that in mind, give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt -

  • Don’t over schedule the reunion. Allow some free time and grant personal space.
  • Stay positive. Expect to have fun at the reunion and help others do the same.
  • Be patient, kind and tolerant during the planning process and as an attendee. (I know – easier said than done.)
  • Find the humor… but NOT at any one else's expense

Family Reunion Planning: Tip #6

You can't please everyone.

As you're choosing a date, location and reunion activities, keep in mind that you can't please everyone all of the time. Do the best you can to meet the needs of the majority and then move on.

Family Reunion Planning: Tip #7

THINK things through.

Walk through every aspect of the family reunion from a guest's perspective - from the time they arrive until the time they leave.

Pretend you are Aunt Jenny. In your mind, go through every reunion logistic from beginning to end from Aunt Jenny’s perspective. What will she want and need?

Next, move onto Grandpa George. Again, go through every logistic from the time he reads the first announcement to when he gets in his car to drive home. What will he want and need?

Then think about your 5-year-old niece and then your single bachelor cousin. Once again, from beginning to end, what will he/she want and need?

Thinking like this will help you know if you need wheelchair accessibility, vegetarian meals, diaper changing stations and babysitter recommendations.

After approaching your plans from a real person’s perspective, do it again with your site and physical elements in mind. How many chairs do you need? Where will the crowds bottleneck and how can you fix it? Is there adequate space for playing games? Where does the trash go? Is there a place to make photocopies if you need them?

Family Reunion Planning: Tip #8

Something will go wrong.

Regardless of how much time and effort you and your helpers spend planning, something will go wrong. It always does. But don't worry! Chances are very good that YOU will be the only person to notice.

Go with the flow. Roll with the punches. After all, perfection is a life-long quest!

Family Reunion Planning: Tip #9

Evaluate the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

While all the planning and family reunion is still fresh in your mind, don't forget to think about what went mostly right and what went very wrong. What did you enjoy most? What was everyone else's favorite part? What would you do differently next time? Write it down before you forget.

Family Reunion Planning: Tip #10

Share Your Expertise

The end of one reunion - hopefully - marks the beginning of another. Share what you've learned by passing your notes forward to the next planner. Seasons come and go but family lasts forever.

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