Celebrate Family Ties at a Reunion

It’s your mom’s 80th birthday. Maybe Uncle Harry and Aunt Madge are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Cousin Zach just received his graduate degree. Any milestone can be the perfect reason for brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins to gather. But even if there isn’t a special occasion, a family reunion helps everyone to stay connected.

“Family members are often separated by large geographical distances,” says George C. Morgan, author of Your Family Reunion: How to Plan It, Organize It and Enjoy It. “Time spent with family members can provide stability and a sense of perspective. Our families can help us reconnect with our intrinsic roots.” If you’re thinking about organizing a family reunion but don’t know where to start, consider these six tips. You’ll be well on your way to planning an event that will entice your family members to want to join the fun.

1. Survey the clan. It’s not much of a reunion if no one can attend. Whether you plan a gathering to coincide with a family milestone or special day, summer vacation or holiday, poll family members well in advance to avoid time and date conflicts. E-mail a questionnaire asking your extended family members what kind of event they want, where they want it and when. Encourage them to get the word out by forwarding your note to other family members. Give a deadline for responses.

2. Ask for help. “Family reunions should always be planned by at least three people,” says Nancy Meyer co-founder of Buttoned Up Inc., an organizational company that helps people get more done by organizing less. Meyer, along with her two sisters, has hosted many family reunions for more than 50 family members. She recommends having one person in charge of travel and lodging, one for entertainment, and one for food and beverages. “Then coordinate with each other on various decisions and work as a team to tackle all of the other projects for the event,” Meyer says.

3. Choose a location. From beaches and theme attractions to mountains and backyards, North Carolina is full of places to hold a reunion. Try to determine a location that is most accessible and affordable for the majority of people you want to attend. Ask if a family member wants to volunteer their home as the site. For larger reunions, parks, hotels, restaurants and community halls are good places to start. If you’re planning a multi-day reunion, consider a resort location where people can combine reunion activities with a family vacation.

4. Pick a date and send invitations. After you receive everyone’s response, pick a date and a location and send the invitations. Realize that you won’t be able to accommodate everyone, so choose your date based on what’s best for the majority. Ask for an RSVP and leave a spot on the RSVP to collect e-mail addresses. Encourage a member from each branch of the family to act as their family’s liaison. Have a central e-mail address for all questions and comments. Include the e-mail address and a phone number in the invite.

5. Determine the activities and cost. “Be sure to set an appropriate financial plan before you start planning the event,” Meyer advises. “Think about the activities your family likes best and allocate the most money toward that. For example, if your family is musically inclined, get some great sound equipment for a talent show. Or if everyone is into sports, rent out a nice baseball field or football field for family games.” Once you’ve decided how elaborate your reunion will be, you’re better equipped to decide whether you need a registration fee to help offset costs. Larger reunions can get expensive quickly. Invitations, hotels, food, decorations and entertainment are just a few of the things that will affect your budget. It’s wise to recruit a trusted family member to oversee the finances.

6. Take home the memories. “Ask a friend to take lots of pictures and video of the reunion or hire a video team,” Meyer suggests. Then produce a memory booklet to give out or mail after your event. Consider including family recipes, old photographs and autograph pages.

Claire Yezbak Fadden is an award-winning freelance writer and mother of three sons. Online resources for more family reunion ideas, tips and information: www.family-reunion.com family reunion planning site www.familyreunion.com family networking site www.party411.com party supplies www.reasontoparty.com/reunions planning tips and resources www.reunionmag.com publication for reunion planners www.shindigz.com party supplies

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