This post was inspired by Dolly Parton’s Stampede. They provided media rate tickets for my family reunion later this summer. Stay tuned for more about Dolly Parton’s Stampede.
When planning a reunion there are a lot of questions to ask: Where will it be? When will it be? Where will we stay? What will we do? How much will it cost? What will we do about meals? What fun is there to have at that location? Since I’m currently co-planning this year’s reunion, it seemed like the perfect time to share my tips for Family Reunion Planning for Beginners and answer those questions and more!
Pick a planner
Choose one family member (or get a volunteer) to plan the reunion. This person will be in charge of securing lodging, making the schedule, making assignments, keeping everyone informed and collecting the money. Even though one person will be in charge, every family member should feel free to participate in planning, researching activities and offering to help in any way they can. After all, this is a FAMILY reunion, so the whole family should help!
Choose a location
In my family we choose random locations to hold the reunion most years. Some years we head to the same place we have been many times. Other years we go some place new. This year we are staying in Springfield, Missouri, with plans to visit Branson a couple times throughout the week. I have planned many trips to Branson, Missouri, so if that interests you head over to those planning pages now.
My in-laws have decided that each child will take a turn planning the reunion so that they can have it near where they live. This means that at least once in the rotation of reunions, that family won’t have to travel far. If the family in charge decides to choose a location away from their home, that’s fine too. Travel can be a burden, and doing it this way means that at least once it won’t be too much of a burden on the family planning the reunion.
As we plan these trips VRBO has become my favorite site. It’s really easy to find lodging options that will fit the whole family. Sometimes there isn’t a house big enough for the whole family, but with the VRBO map we can find homes that are close enough together to work. We like to choose a house instead of hotel because we prefer to make our own meals. This saves some money to be used on activities instead of food!
Discuss the Finances
Money can be a cause for contention if expectations aren’t laid out a head of time. Make sure everyone who is attending the reunion knows their financial obligation. My family sticks to a budget of $600 or less per family. This fee only covers the housing cost. Travel to the reunion is our own responsibility, as are most of the meals, as I will discuss later.
My in-laws decided that for their reunions they will pay for all of the housing, it is just each family’s responsibility to get to the location.
Some families may have an additional fee that would be pooled to go towards food during the reunion. However you decide to work the financial aspect of the reunion, make sure everyone understands well in advance so it doesn’t cause fights later on.
Make a schedule
We like to be a little flexible during our reunions, however we do schedule some things.
- Meals – each family takes a turn providing dinner for everyone one night during the reunion. Since our reunions usually last 5-6 days, there is usually enough nights for everyone who came to take a turn. If there are more people than dinners, then a couple families can team up to provide the meal.
- Activities – not everyone wants to do the same things, so we usually provide a few options and the costs associated and let everyone choose for themselves. Even though the goal is to spend time together, we know we will see everyone at dinner together each night, so we don’t mind going off on our own during the days. This year my parents are flipping the bill for everyone to go to Dolly Parton’s Stampede, so we will definitely have at least that one family event.
- Pictures – if getting your family together is a rare occurrence, you might want to put a family picture on the schedule. You can either bring along a tripod and do it yourself, or find a photographer local to the area to take the group shot. Either way, be sure to document the occasion!
Sharing is Caring
It is understood at our family reunions that while we will be eating dinner together each evening, all other meals are on your own. We do have a sharing policy, however. If you put food in the kitchen expect to share it. My husband and I usually buy some snacks that we are happy to share, and then have some snacks we want to just keep for our family. The private snacks stay in our room during the week of the reunion, but the shareable snacks get put in the kitchen where everyone can find them and eat them as they wish.
I like establishing rules about what food and snacks are for sharing and what is private so there aren’t any disagreements later. I love sharing snacks, though, because other families bring different things that we don’t ever buy or that we haven’t ever tried. It’s fun to share with family!
Send out newsletters
The process of planning a family reunion is one that could take as much as a year. If you are heading to a desirable location then you will probably need to book lodging a year in advance. If there are popular activities at your location then those may need to be booked months in advance. Sending out newsletters to your reunion participants is a great way to keep everyone informed. Through the newsletter you can inform people of their financial deadlines, where to send payments, what the schedule is, activity options, the meal calendar and more. This is also a good way to keep the excitement high for the upcoming trip. Newsletters (we just use a group email) is also a fast way to communicate with everyone and then people can reply all so the conversation can continue.
Once at the reunion consider starting a group text, or a group chat on What’s App, that way you all can be in contact with locations, plans changing, asking questions and any other things that come up.
There are many ways to run a family night. You can assign out topics for a (or multiple families) to talk about. In the past my family has had an emergency preparedness family night. Each family discussed one tip they thought was important and provided a handout for each family. At the end of the reunion we all had a little pamphlet of emergency preparedness ideas to improve in our homes.
Whether you want to have a spiritual devotional with your family or an informative evening on a predetermined topic, family night is a great way to bond and create last memories.
Whether this is your first or tenth reunion, there are new things coming up all the time. I’d love to hear what your tips are, or what special things you include in your reunions. We are always looking for ways to improve, or be more efficient, or just make lasting memories as a family! Leave me your tips or ideas in the comments.