Simple Steps to Organize a Successful Family Reunion
By Deanna Roberts

All across America, the summer months are a perfect time to reconnect with the extended family. A reunion offers parents, grandparents, kids, uncles, aunts and cousins a chance to celebrate the past and create a future together.

According to a recent report from the National Convention & Visitors Bureaus, there has been a national rise in the urgency for families to reconnect with each other. Reunions range from 50 to upwards of 350 attendees, folks who gather to share their common heritage, warm memories, good times and of course, great food.

Living in today’s world is hectic. Making time for family sometimes becomes a chore given all our other responsibilities. Technology can prohibit our daily interaction with family and friends. Hence, a family reunion is the ideal way to link multiple generations.


Planning such an event is a major task, but it doesn’t have to be tackled alone. With so many resources to choose from, if you need assistance to facilitate your event plans, contact the host city Convention & Visitors Bureau or hire an event planner. The Convention & Visitors Bureaus and event planners have resources at their disposal.
Even if it is your first time, don’t be nervous. Just jump right in and begin!

· Step 1
Contact Convention & Visitors Bureaus in the host city of your reunion. They can put you in touch with all the local hotels, dining facilities, caterers, entertainment, parks for family outings, attractions etc. It is important to gather as much information as possible up front, in order to make educated decisions.

· Step 2
Budget permitting, hire an event planner. Planners have numerous resources an able to negotiate with local businesses. If you hire an event planner outside of the host city, make sure they have contacts in that city. They can help you with contract negotiations, deadlines, timelines, invitations and reports on your progress, alleviating yourself of a lot of stress and time.

· Step 3
Form a reunion committee within your family. If possible, make sure to have a representative from each generation present. Your committee can help create the theme for your reunion. It is important to designate one person as the chair of the committee. The chair will work with the event planner (or alone), to meet with local venues and businesses. The committee should schedule activities for children as well as adults. Getting the younger generation involved in family activities will ensure a successful and memorable reunion.

· Step 4
Determining your budget is crucial. Once your committee and/or event planner, has come up with a wish list, it is time to plug it into a budget. It is a great idea to identify a local sponsor to help subsidize a portion of your event.

Your budget should be broken down the following ways: 

* Hotel  
Airline (look into group discounts)  
Entertainment (DJ, Band)  
Venue rental fees (hotel or park activities)  
Reunion T-shirts 
Gift Bags

Be sure to offer various ways of payment such as individual (Adult and Child prices) and/or a Daily Rate – some family members may not be able to participate the entire weekend and can pay accordingly.

Step 5
Communication is key! Use regular mail and the Internet to get the word out about the reunion. In some cases, registration for your reunion can be completed online through online services. Get you family involved. Ask a younger family member can create a website to keep your family informed of the weekend itinerary. Do not assume that everyone is online. Be sure to send out a reunion newsletter for those family members without internet access.

Tips on communication: 
*Send a "Save the Date" reminder with event location, hotel, airline and rental car information.
*Send a formal invitation & email blast.
*Send out confirmation newsletter with your reunion itinerary.  
*Encourage the entire family to help promote the event to each other!

Step 6
Honor the elders. Create proclamations or plaques to the longest surviving family members. Create a family tree and encourage family members to fill in what they can. Appoint a responsible family member to act as historian for this memorable event.

Sample Itinerary for a 3 Day Family Reunion:

  • Friday
    o Welcome Celebration
    Registration & T-shirt distribution
  • Saturday
    o Family Recognition Day
    Family History
    Special Honors
    In memoriam
    Dinner Dance
    Kids dance and activities
  • Sunday
    o Family Breakfast
    Family service  
    Closing luncheon
    o Awards  
    Completion of family tree

Now that the reunion is over, don’t forget the real reason you’re having the event—to keep the family together. Make a tradition to hold reunions regularly—whether it is yearly, every other year or every five years. The benefits of a close knit family will outweigh all the preparation needed!
The Event Doctor, Deanna Roberts, is president of D. R. Roberts Event Management.  In her spare time, Roberts can be found training for triathlons and teaching courses in event planning at UC Berkeley Extension and San Francisco State University. Check out her website at .

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