How to plan a perfect family reunion

Get the whole family in on planning – and enjoying – your best get-together ever.

Workback schedule, dos and don'ts, favourite reader's stories
Reunion timeline
One year to 10 months ahead:
• Collect email addresses, telephone numbers and mailing addresses, and;
• survey family as to how much to spend, and where to celebrate.

Ten to six months ahead:
• Create a website;
• create an organizing committee;
• decide upon a location;
• choose meals, and;
• update relatives.

Six to three months ahead:
• Collect money;
• arrange photography;
• plan games, and;
• organize decorations.

Three months before:
• Update website;
• send reminders to everyone, as there may be last-minute joiners;
• encourage procrastinators to pay up;
• have committee finalize outstanding details, and;
• appoint greeters.

Meet up for the big day!

Family reunion dos and don'ts

• Do consider holding the event near a common family home or homestead, if applicable to your family. People enjoy revisiting their past.
• Don't forget about photography, videography and decorations.
• Do make sure children are under the supervision of a group of adults at all times, especially if you are near water (in fact, assign specific kids to each adult).
• Do honour your heritage and history, be it through food or activities such as storytelling or arts and crafts.
• Don't take the decision to serve alcohol lightly.
• Do encourage mapping out the family tree during the event – what better setting could there be?
• Don't resent others who don't do as much as you do, or it will ruin your day. Let it slide, says Steen-Turkington.
• Do keep the reunion going after the event by posting photos on your website or sending out a newsletter.

Fond memories of great family reunions
"Our clan gathers every two years for a family reunion, and about 150 to 200 people attend. For some relatives who live far away, it's one of their few family connections. Just before dinner, we take a few moments to remember those we've lost in the preceding two years, along with an introduction of those we've gained – be it the babies, a new daughter-in-law or someone newly engaged. It allows us to reflect on the renewal of family, the beauty of a life cycle that replenishes that wonderful gift: the love of family."
- Alain Gingras, Hull, Que.

"Each August, when our family gathers for the annual picnic, we take a photograph of the youngest and oldest members of the family together. Sometimes it's a great-uncle and a little grandniece, or my grandmother pictured with my second cousin's daughter."
- Helen Altobello, Montreal

"We have the Clarence-Margaret platter. It's a basic ceramic platter with the names of our great-grandparents, the two folks who started this clan. The names of each of their seven children are painted on this plate. Each year, we draw a name out of a hat and one family member gets to take the platter home – but must use it on a regular basis. It's not meant to sit untouched in the china cabinet. It's practical. Just like my pioneering great-grandparents who came to this country with few extras. If it gets chipped, it's chipped. It's a platter well-lived. Like our great-grandparents, it has a life well-lived."
- Marg Johnson, Ottawa

Page 3 of 3 – Ready to get started on your family reunion? Find out what you'll need to do, and how to get started on page 1.

This story was originally titled "Plan the Perfect Family Reunion" in the August 2010 issue.

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