Planning a Family Reunion

How To Plan a Family Reunion in Six Easy Steps: While family dynamics can be confusing, your reunion doesn’t have to be. By following Destination Colorado’s timeline below, you can ensure that your next reunion is enjoyable and memorable for all-ages.

Step One: 18 to 24 Months Prior

Your first step in planning the perfect family reunion involves gauging the interest of your attendees and identifying some possible dates. Don’t worry about getting commitments at this point, simply connecting with family members by phone, tablet, or by traditional mail is enough Guage to get the ball rolling. Make technology work for you by creating a website to poll interested family members on their availability. Keep in mind that families with children will need to plan around the academic school year.

Identifying the size of your reunion is crucial to planning next steps. A family of 200 people demands a much different plan than a family of 20. If your family is large, consider forming a team (and have fun coming up with a team name) by enlisting family volunteers to oversee specific needs such as accounting, food, decor, entertainment, activities, and lodging.

TIP Create a command center for all information by either publishing a shared folder online (Google Docs) or by creating a traditional file folder. This will help answer questions as well as provide the added benefit of keeping people accountable (wink).

Once your team is established, create a list of potential dates, locations, and venues. A family reunion website works especially well for this task as your potential attendees can vote on their preferences. This will provide valuable information needed to create a budget, identify available potential activities, and lodging options for out-of-town guests.

It may go without saying, but creating an official family contact list including names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails is not only extremely helpful for planning purposes, but also comes in handy post-reunion (more on that later).

Step Two: 12 to 18 Months Prior

As you begin to get an idea of the size of your reunion, determine how much people are willing to spend. Various families may prefer to handle their lodging arrangements however you may benefit by negotiating room blocks at hotels to receive discounted rates – yes, we are speaking to you family lodging volunteer.

Your budget will also help clarify the location, date, and venue type of your event. From all-inclusive resort-style gatherings to quaint cabins with mountain peak views, Colorado abounds with event options that will perfectly align with your reunion goals. Check out Destination Colorado’s venue finder to identify the perfect location for your group size and facility type.

TIP It is always a good idea to prepare a backup itinerary in case of unexpected weather.

Once you have determined your group size and location, send out “save-the-dates” with a RSVP as soon as you can. This can be accomplished via email, paper invitations, or via your reunion website such as Geni. Eventbrite also allows you to send out electronic invitations and receive immediate responses.

Step Three: 9 to 12 Months Prior

By this time you should have a solid number of family attendees. With this information, you can begin looking at accommodations (don’t forget negotiating room blocks for reduced hotel rates if needed). Once you have finalized your accommodations, enlist your decor, activity, and entertainment volunteers to brainstorm options. This phase can be a lot of fun to plan. Many reunions include a greeting table, ice-breaker games to help build rapport, and other fun activities such as “Pin your photo on the family tree” and creating a reunion photo book that contains old photos.

If your reunion is kid-friendly, make sure you have plenty of games and indoor/outdoor activities planned for children. Who knows, some of the adults may want to participate in the father-son one-legged races!

Once you have your location, lodging, and activities established, send out your official invitations including your event details and costs.

As you begin to receive replies, you can then decide on caterers (or plan for food), photographers, and other vendor arrangements.

TIP Always get your vendor agreements in writing. This will allow you to double check your agreed upon services once you receive your final bill.

Step Four: 4 to 6 Months Prior

At this point, your entertainment and decor volunteers may wish to brainstorm meaningful ideas that may add extra panache to your event. Consider ordering keepsakes or party favors for your attendees to make the event memorable for years to come.

This is a good time to confirm lodging reservations as well as finalize agreements with your vendors, including catering arrangements, tables, chairs, etc. If you are holding your event outside make sure your meeting space is covered and investigate whether or not you need to obtain a permit.

Once your arrangements are finalized you can then move on to drafting and agreeing upon a final schedule and program for your event.

TIP Making a to-do checklist available to all of your event volunteers will help clarify expectations and ensure that your needs are met (and you can feel good after checking the items off the list).

Step Five: 1 Week to 1 Month Prior

This is a great time for your planning team to review the checklist and make any final adjustments. Don’t forget to update your reservations, catering, and other vendor arrangements of any last-minute changes.

Step Six: Day of Reunion

You have spent a lot of energy and time preparing for your reunion so don’t let the time pass without remembering the most important thing-having fun! Consider using Skype, Facetime, or Google Duo to video conference-in family members that could not attend, and allow everyone a chance to say hello.

TIP! While your plan may be perfect for you, it may not be ideal for someone else. Do your best to allow some autonomy while keeping your family engaged in activities and let the memories create themselves.

After the reunion

What is more important than creating lifelong memories with family? Answer: keeping in touch with the family post-reunion. This is where your family’s master contact list comes in handy. Some great ways to accomplish this is by keeping your reunion website up-to-date, frequently exchanging emails, and by placing phone/video calls to your extended family to maintain the momentum of the reunion until your next one.

Having a solid plan in place for your event is crucial to it running smoothly however remember why you are having a reunion in the first place. Have fun, laugh, and celebrate together while sharing old memories and making new ones. If you do this, your reunion will exceed its purposes, strengthen bonds and create excitement about your next event.

By following Destination Colorado’s guidelines for planning your family reunion, you will ensure that your next reunion will run smoothly and, most importantly, continue your family’s legacy.

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