3 Tips For Planning Your First Family Reunion

If you're looking for a way to reconnect with long lost family members or get in touch with your roots, planning a family reunion is a great way to do it. It's a satisfying feeling to be the one that reunites far-flung branches of the family, and you may start a terrific tradition that everyone can enjoy once a year (or once every few years). However, planning a family reunion can also be a daunting task, especially if you have a large family or if everybody is so spread out that it's difficult to find a central location. It's a good idea to start planning months or even a year or more ahead of the event. Take a look at some tips that can help you create a successful reunion experience.

Take a Survey

You don't want to make vital decisions about a family reunion unilaterally. You may find yourself with no attendees if you don't try to reach some kind of consensus about things like date and location. An easy way to find out what the majority is thinking is to send out a survey by email or snail mail.

Propose several dates that will work for your family – perhaps one date per season – and several locations that seem reasonable. Do you want your reunion to last for several days, or just for one day? If most people are going to be traveling cross-country, you should probably plan on a weekend-long event at least, and you'll need to include some lodging options as well. For example, does your family want to set up camp in a campground or RV park, or is your clan more the hotel and resort type? However, if the majority of you are going to be coming from different areas of one state, you could make it a one-day affair. Go through the responses and choose the dates, locations, and lodging options that appeal to the majority of the people.

Create a Committee

When you make your survey, be sure to let your family members know that you need a few volunteers to help you coordinate the affair. The event will be a lot smoother if you don't try to go it alone. It's OK if your volunteers aren't located near you – you can communicate by phone or email, or if you want to be really organized, you can collaborate through a project planning app or website.

At a minimum, you'll need to create a budget, find a venue, and communicate with all of the attendees. Chances are that you'll also want to plan for entertainment, food, transportation, lodging. Don't take on more than you can handle – assign a reasonable amount of tasks to yourself and each of your volunteers.

Outsource the Food

Food is often the centerpiece of a family reunion. However, it's also one of the biggest hassles. Unless you have a very small family, having one person cook for everybody is too much to ask of anybody. Plus, you may have relatives with food allergies or preferences that you know nothing about. And if it's a multi-day affair, providing meals for everyone will get prohibitively expensive quickly. Your best bet is to plan one large group meal to give everyone the chance to break bread together, but outside of that, let each individual person or family fend for themselves.

Many families do potlucks at their family reunions, and if your family decides to make this a tradition, you may want to do the same. But for this first reunion, don't risk ending up with 15 potato salads and no main dish – hire a caterer instead. You can rent out a hall or a large party room at a restaurant – or, if the weather's nice, you can even have the food served at a park or campground. Don't get too fancy, especially if you're not up on everyone's food preferences. Go for a crowd-pleasing menu, like a variety of barbecued meats, hamburgers, and hot dogs, as well as some hot vegetarian options, like barbecued eggplant, veggie kabobs, and tofu burgers. Serve salads, pastas, potatoes, and roasted vegetables for sides.

Most importantly, make sure that you have enough food for everyone. Double check to make sure that you have an accurate head count for the caterer. You should plan for about a pound of food per adult and a half pound of food per child (count teenagers as adults, not children – they can pack away a surprising amount of food). Make sure that you also calculate condiments, desserts, drinks, and cocktails, if you plan on serving alcohol. It's better to err on the side of having too much rather than not enough. You can always ask your caterer to pack up any leftovers at the end of the meal, and you can keep those or distribute them among the guests.

For more catering tips,go to sites of local caterers and see what they recommend.

With careful planning, your family reunion will go off without a hitch. Whether it's a one-time event or the start of a new tradition, you'll have accomplished something that brings everyone together, and that's something to be proud of.