Family Reunion Planning Ideas

 Family reunions are a great way to get everyone together, catch up with Uncle John, or see cousin Danielle's new baby. But they can also be a lot of work. To make it easy for you we have outlined some no fail family reunion ideas for invitations, decorations and party supplies, favors, and even special ways to make your reunion as unique as your family is!
 
Check out the Reunion Budgeting Guide for more tips on setting the budget for your reunion.

family Reunion invitations and communications
Organizing an event for many families, spread out over many cities and involving hundreds (okay, maybe your family is smaller, but trust me, some of these reunions are big!), requires a great deal of communication.

The first step is a survey. We suggest sending out a simple survey asking folks what kind of event the want, where they want to hold it, and when is a good time. This is also a good time to collect addresses you don't have. (Do you have the address for Uncle Jim? I haven't seen him in 5 years.) This gets people involved early. Do this by email if you can. It will speed the process and save you money on postage or long distance calls.

After you collect the addresses and pick a date and location it's time to send out invitations. It's a special event and we suggest a special personalized reunion invitation from Party411. Party411 also has other creative invitations like a ticket invitation, a boarding pass invitation or a passport invitation for the families that love travel or are from all over world. Whether you use a caricature of the family matriarch, a family motto, or a picture of the family estate you can send an invitation that's unforgettable and that promises a truly special event. Be sure to include a picture of a family member!
 
It's a good idea to include a RSVP. It will save you time chasing down responses later. Include a space on the RSVP to collect email addresses. Identify a member from each branch of the family to act as a liaison. You'll never get everyone to respond directly but your Aunt Marge in Cleveland will let you know whose coming from her family.

You can also dress your invitation up by including some confetti in the envelope. Or have fun with it by mailing the invite in a padded envelope along with a small deflated beach ball. Take a permanent marker and write "Hope you can come, it will be a BALL" on the side of the beach ball, everyone will love it!

Have a central e-mail address for all questions and comments. Include the e-mail address (and a phone number for that rare person that doesn't have e-mail) in the invite and encourage everyone to contact you with any question they may have.

When the subcommittees are formed send out an email to remind everyone of their responsibilities. Don't forget to send out updates and reminders. It will really increase excitement about the event.

Create an agenda. You can send this out by email before the event but have a printed version for the event itself. It's really helpful for out of town guests and everyone benefits from knowing when to be where.

family Reunion Decorations and Party Supplies
We think there are a few family reunion ideas that are a must have for your event! Here are 3 important aspects to consider while your planning:

Welcoming Table
Have a central location where people can sign in. Have them fill out a registration form to gather information for a family directory (or next year's reunion). If it's a one-day event like a picnic, just set up a table. If you are spending a weekend at a resort or a hotel the concierge will be glad to help you. We like to give out nametags (or even photo nametags) for everyone, especially for large families. My kids are always amazed at how cute I was just 25 years ago.
 
Expect the Unexpected No matter how well you plan something unexpected will turn up. Don't let it ruin your day! Have some contingency plans in place and make sure you have plenty of help. Even if you're having a picnic and it rains a couple of decks of cards for a tournament, a CD player for dancing, and some funny hats and leis for the kids for "dress up" can make for a great day.

Decorating the Picnic If you go to a hotel or restaurant they will do much of the decorating. You might want to consider a special centerpiece but for the most part trust your host to do a good job. If you are outside it's a little more challenging but still very important. Use your decorations to add color and gaiety but also to direct traffic. Balloons add color but also designate important congregation points (food, beer, games, etc.). Make balloon bouquets with latex balloons and add in a Mylar balloon here and there for an eye-catching display. Or use inflatable palm trees and inflatable beach balls to indicate key areas. You can use life-sized cutouts to direct traffic. If Grandpa was a baseball player, a cutout of him in uniform is a perfect way to show people where and when the softball game is.

You can also decide to theme your reunion. This is always fun and makes decorating a snap! A few themes that work really well for reunions are:
 
Reunion menu and table decorations
If your family is like mine the best times were around the dinner table. For a family reunion to work you have to recreate those special moments. You really have 5 choices.
  1. Go to a restaurant. This is the easiest way to go, and if the reunion is lasting more than one day you should go out to eat at least once. Formal or informal depends on the group and the budget. Make sure to pick a restaurant that is used to handling large parties. Having your own party room is always the best way to go but not always economically feasible. With your own room and your own bartender you can have an open bar which will avoid arguments about who drank how much and why should I pay for it. You might want to limit your menu choices to 2 or 3 for the same reason. Make sure the kitchen is aware of any special dietary needs.
  2. Make the food yourself. If you are having the reunion in a home or at a park this can work and it can be fun. For example, my brothers and I are convinced that we make the best ribs ever and would be happy to prove it. Just give us a grill and a couple of cold ones and your main course is taken care of. You have to have a willing group to make this method work and enough grills/cooking space/refrigeration to handle food for a large group. Don't forget to have plenty of paper plates, cups, and napkins for everyone. There are some fun paper good styles that are great for reunion:
  3. Potluck. A real common way to feed the masses is having everyone bring something. We suggest letting people know what type of food they are responsible for (appetizer, main course, dessert) and giving them carte blanche from there. You don’t want 14 desserts and no main course. This is a good method to combine with a caterer. Let the caterer provide the main course and have everyone else fill in desserts, snacks and appetizers. It will lower your costs and not be too onerous to anyone. Remember that it is very difficult for out-of-towners to bring food.
  4. Catering. There are some great caterers around that specialize in outdoor events. Remember that it’s a family reunion so order family style. You know, pans of chicken or pasta and racks of ribs. They’ll have all the equipment you need so you don’t have to transport grills, pans or serving utensils. Makes life much easier for all involved.
  5. To Each His Own. Every family takes care of themselves. This is easy and gets rid of much of the hassle but remember that you want folks to mingle! Potluck or catering gives you a central spot where everyone has to go.
While the food is important, it’s not a time to experiment. If your family loves burgers and dogs…great! Burgers and dogs it is. Make sure a few people don’t have to do all the work. Cooking for 16 families can be overwhelming for a couple of people. Spread the labor and you spread the fun!
 
family reunion games and activities
 It's also important to have some games and activities for the kids (and adults!) Here are a few family reunion ideas that will keep everyone busy having a good time!
 
Talent Show – Discover your families hidden talents. Who knew Sally could sing like Etta James or Christina Aguilera? At the end, give out awards to the best act.

Story Telling – Gather everyone around for a rare opportunity to hear some of the most interesting and funniest stories in your family history. This one feeds on itself. When my uncles start telling stories about WWII, they can talk for hours. It's funny. It's touching. It's history.

Create an Oral History – Create a video of your families’ oral history. Have someone videotape the interviews and make copies for every family. If the reunion is in honor of a special event like Aunt Mary's 90th birthday have people talk about the guest of honor. Or maybe focus on memories of Grandma and Grandpa's house. You'll be surprised how differently people remember the same place.
 
If someone in the family is a face painter put them to work. You can also check out our Family Reunion Games Page for more ideas!
 
family reunion party favors
Don't forget to decorate the people, especially the kids. Include fun items like sunglasses, or inflatables. Glow jewelry is a blast for the kids and it really brightens up a pavilion or a dance floor.
 
Personalized favors are a perfect way to remember such a great event! Personalized Family Reunion Candy Bar Wrappers are always a hit. Party411 also has great products that you can put a family photo on - photo cookies, personalized mint tins, and personalized lollipops!  Have a design in mind? Contact us!