Family Reunions can be a great way to reconnect with relatives you don’t see very often! They can also be a place to meet family cousins you never knew!
Reunions can range from a simple dinner at a restaurant for a few people to an overnight or weekend vacation for many. Whatever the size of the family, the main goal is to reconnect, reminisce, stay in touch, and learn more about each other.
There are many different budgets out there, too, so keeping expenses down can help, especially if there are out-of-town folks traveling to a central site for a reunion gathering. Many families travel to the hometown area, or where the most of the descendants have settled and are living.
Here are some ideas that might help in planning a special family reunion, one that won’t break a budget, and won’t be too hard to plan or keep going.
SOME REUNION PLANNING IDEAS
- The “Old Home Place” can be a perfect location to reunite, if it is still standing or in the family.
- Family members still living near the hometown can host a reunion if they have enough room.
- Hometown family can host a potluck at a local park or venue if budget allows. Our family reserves a covered picnic shed at a local park that is easy to find and fairly close to the home area where many family members grew up.
- Expenses for renting or hosting should be divided among the family as they are able. Our hosting family reserves the picnic shed every spring, and at the reunion, a collection is taken to help pay them back, with everyone giving what they can.
- Help folks plan for the reunion date by setting the same weekend each year Our family sets the third Sunday in July, and everyone plans accordingly. Out-of-towners can plan a week or weekend getaway, and attend the reunion, too. Some plan to visit familiar areas, where they grew up, cemeteries of their parents or grandparents, old homes and schools, or go sight-seeing while they are in town. Some coordinate and meet up to visit family homes and gravesites together. It helps them to remember where those places were, how to get there, and brings up more memories they can share.
- Visiting family may choose to drive in for the day or stay overnight, depending on travel distance. Some may stay with siblings or cousins in the area, making more time to visit and reminisce.
- Plan for a potluck, so everyone contributes. Our hosting family provides paper goods, ice, and hot dogs. Everyone else brings a dish or two, side dishes, different meat dishes, casseroles, salads, desserts, and drinks. People can bring extra chairs for comfort, blankets if they like to sit out on the grass, and toys or games for kids or adults to enjoy. Our family reserves the space from 10-4, so everyone has plenty of time to enjoy, rest, eat, visit, play, share stories, photos, and add news to the family tree.
- The hosting family can keep a list of names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, with copies for others in the family. If it is kept on a computer list, the names and contact information can be updated as needed. This list can be used to mail out reminders and flyers each year.
ACTIVITIES FOR THE REUNION
- We created a large physical tree design on posterboard to display leaves on the different family branches. Our large family took 6 posterboards and we lay them out on a large table top each year. Each branch represents a child of the main/focus family. In our case there are 15 child branches, and large green leaf shapes that represent the 46 grandchildren. On each leaf is printed the family tree outline with the descendants to the present day. We have added small thumbnail size photos of descendants on the leaves (the ones we have). This makes the tree more personal, putting faces to names, especially helpful seeing those who are no longer with us or can’t attend the reunions.
- Ask family to bring family photos they can share, especially of older family members. Have a digital camera or portable scanner there to make digital copies to add to the family tree and share with others.
- If genealogy research or online family tree information has been done, ask family to bring flash drives/thumb drives if they want copies. Take a portable laptop with USB slots to transfer family tree, genealogy or photo files with others. This is a great way to back-up family information, in case of computer crashes or in the sad event of a family death. Otherwise, the information or photos might be lost or inaccessible. For those that just want to see the information, a binder with genealogy or family tree information can be displayed for family to look through. Add photos, stories, family recipes, or anything that might be fun to remember and look through. From the laptop, family can look at selected photos in a continuous digital slideshow.
- Make sure someone is taking photos at the reunion. Each year, there may be different family able to come, and as loved ones pass on, these photos can be a source of comfort as we remember the great visits we have together.
- If you have a really good techy-type family member who can help with video, you can even video some of the reunion memories, if family agrees. Ask permission to video, since it’s a little more personal. Video great memories, and don’t video people just to embarrass them.
- If someone agrees to be taped as they are talking, telling old stories, that’s a great source of family history.
- There are many little ways to make the occasion fun and inclusive, reminding everyone that they are all of one family. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. We took a simple tree shape on plain white paper (printed from the computer). We laid out 4 colors of stamping ink next to the tree, and everyone at the reunion picked a color and placed one fingerprint somewhere on the tree. And of course, we had some wet wipes nearby. Another way to show we are all from one family! We’ll keep taking the tree back each year and hopefully add more fingerprints from those that weren’t able to come this year!
Most important – make it fun, enjoy the visiting, the stories, the memories, fellowship, learn more about each other, and keep it going! Keep Family Close!
Cherish them now while you can, and cherish the memories when they’re gone. I recently found a quote from a Native American writer, Linda Hogan, who wrote:
“Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”