Friday, July 8, 2011

Planning a Family Reunion~Part 1

Some friends and readers have asked me to do a post on what we did at our family reunion and the things we did to plan for it to be a successful, fun time for everyone. I suppose there are about as many ways to have a successful family reunion as there are families. Here are some things that worked for us.


The thing about our family is that we like to plan events. This is key for us in just about all the things we do. We like to have a rough schedule of what we will be doing when, whenever we travel. There is a balance that has to be worked towards when doing this planning so that even though you plan, there is room for spontaneity. In the surgery office where I worked we use to call it buffer time, to allow for the emergencies and the unexpected. You don't want to be barking out orders at a family reunion or blowing a whistle when it is time to move to a new activity but you want organization, lots of it.

Once you have chosen your venue and the length of time for the reunion you can set about brainstorming and deciding how you would like to spend the time. You consider your own families special needs if there are some, the ages of the people attending, health issues, etc. and go from there. One thing we knew or sure, we didn't want to spend a long time driving to the place. We chose this house for its proximity to the kids' homes and because of the proximity to a nearby hospital should there be a need. With Hazie's breathing issues and Spencer's food allergies this was a primary consideration for our family.

Decide what your objectives are in having this family reunion. Do you want it to be destination vacation where you go someplace and then do a bunch of things as a group, like Disneyland as an example? Or do you want it to be a place where your family can spend time together just being together without having to think about the added planning and expense of admission costs, etc. For us this is what we wanted.

1. A place that didn't have a lot of distractions like shopping or special attractions, so that we could concentrate on just being together, strengthening our family bonds, letting the kids get to know their cousins better, a place where we could relax and talk and just be. Having the luxury of space was key. Having a place that had a beautiful natural setting was also desired. Since none of us have a house that accommodates 19 people comfortably, we definitely did not want it at anyone's home.

2. I really wanted us to have some family pictures taken. Not just snap shots but actual time set aside with someone other than a family member taking more formal pictures. That had to be arranged in advance. One of our good family friends, Traci Hartman, took the photos which was another advantage of having the reunion in close proximity to the kids' homes.

3. We wanted all the adults to have an opportunity to be in charge of at least one aspect of the reunion so that we could share the work and the responsibility so as not to have it be a burden for any one individual or couple.

4. The last thing that was paramount for Jim and me was the opportunity to strengthen our family spiritually by sharing some of our thoughts with them in a formal gathering, by playing together and engaging in other wholesome, uplifting activities. We wanted to be able to enjoy watching our grandchildren interact with one another and become better friends. We wanted the Dads to have fun together, the moms, and every other combination of family togetherness to have time and opportunity to take wing. We tried really hard to have it appeal to all ages and interests and that took a lot of planning.

One thing that greatly contributed to the success of our reunion was extensive work on the menu and shopping lists and cooking before we left. The last thing any of us wanted was to spend a bunch of time on that at the reunion. We had Laura do the menu so that everything was soy and peanut free. She also made a fantastic shopping list for us. While she was flying to Utah, Missy, Jen and I were shopping and Jim helped in preparing as much of the food as possible in advance. Grampa also kept all of Jen's kids and all of Missy's kids and three neighbor kids to boot, and fed them all lunch while we shopped. Jim and I went to Utah two days in advance just to help get ready. I think that really helped ease the burden on the kids that had six people to pack for while we had only two and were already packed.

We decided that we will keep the exact same menu for future reunions to eliminate all that work having to be duplicated. We had things that were simple or that could be heated in crockpots like chili, pulled pork for sandwiches, hamburgers, spaghetti, etc. We served hot lunches and dinners and everyone was on their own for breakfast so we had lots of choices like cereals, muffins, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, fruit, etc. Jim and I paid for the rental of the house but we all shared the cost of the food. We figured out that by eating this way it cost us less that $30.oo per person for the entire reunion. I think it averaged $2.87 per meal. The very best part was not having to do a lot more than heating things up for the meals and pitching paper plates which = more play time and more time to relax. Also not eating out saved a ton of $.

Some thoughts on planning the activities for each day is up next.


Deila said...

This was very helpful, since I have never planned one, and we really have not done this in our extended family. We have had Thanksgiving together, that sort of thing, but I always felt like we were mission the reunion. This is a great post, to continue too!