Your Intimate Family Reunion: A Planning Checklist

A week-by-week guide to creating an intimate family reunion at your home at any time of year.


No matter what size your family is, gathering in someone's home can be a comfortable year-round alternative to a state park family reunion. These types of reunions are often hosted by the family matriarch or patriarch, especially when Grandma's home has played a strong role in the family history. Boisterous Christmas parties, casual Labor Day barbecues, and even graduation parties can be wonderful occasions to gather far-flung relatives and long-lost family members under one roof.

If this type of reunion sounds best for your family, you'll want to start planning about six months ahead, mostly to drum up interest and to allow family members from away to make travel plans. Depending on the size of the home and the time of year, this type of reunion could work for around 100 people. If your space is somewhat limited, you might consider doing a family reunion "open house," where people could come and go throughout the day.

Whether you're hosting the reunion, or Grandma is, make sure you have help. Enlist some reliable aunts to cook and some enthusiastic cousins to organize activities. Or, if your budget allows, hire a caterer to supplement your home-baked meals and to keep the drink flowing.

Here's a checklist to help you and your family get started!

6 Months Before

Determine interest of family members. Send out a family poll (by e-mail or by post) to gauge interest in a reunion, get an idea of how many people would attend, and find out what dates would work best.

4 Months Before

Ask for help. You'll need to find dependable and enthusiastic relatives who could take charge of:

  • Planning a menu, assigning dishes and other food items to each family. Arranging for extra cooking and/or grilling facilities. Or finding a caterer.
  • Decorations, invitations, and signs: Putting one person in charge of printed materials will help you ensure a consistent theme for the event.
  • Activities and entertainment: Croquet, badminton, and volleyball are all great group activities for outside. Or ask a cousin to create a Game Room for kids.
  • Family history: Putting together a family tree is a great way to incorporate your heritage into the event. Or consider creating a small family newspaper to highlight recent family events, special facts, and history.
  • Photography and/or video: You'll want to record this event for posterity. Consider providing disposable cameras or asking a talented family member to shoot the event.
  • Cleanup: Solicit several folks for this massive task!

Finalize the date.

Finalize plans for reunion favors, video and/or family history pamphlet. Family members will want something to remember this grand occasion.

  • Photos and mementos: Ask relatives for copies of special photos and mementos for your family history or video.
  • Favors: If you decide to give out favors, Christmas tree ornaments or candles are two budget-friendly options that can be personalized for your event.

3 Months Before

Send invitations.

  • Include finalized time and driving directions.
  • Include a request for relatives to bring a dish; assignments to be determined later.
  • Include a request for photos and/or stories you would include in the family history or video.
  • Include an RSVP date, along with an e-mail address, phone number, or mailing address to which they can respond.

Follow up with volunteers and dole out tasks as appropriate.

Finalize events and activities.

  • Purchase items you'll need for any crafting activities.
  • Ask relatives or your local community center if you can borrow any outdoor sports equipment or games for the Game Room.
  • Consider having a TV and VCR or DVD player in the Game Room, along with age-appropriate videos.

Plan the meal.

  • A casual buffet is probably the best approach for an in-home reunion, simply because it allows people to eat in shifts. This is also ideal if seating is limited.
  • Create a list of all the food you'll need.
  • Assign one food item to each relative. Be sure to take advantage of their cooking specialties, like Aunt May's potato salad, or Cousin Lynn's blueberry pie.
  • If you plan to hire a caterer, now is the time to secure them. Some caterers will simply manage the kitchen, ensure the buffet is replenished, and keep the drink flowing, so you can enjoy the party.

2 Months Before

Start a list of those who have confirmed their attendance.

Reserve rental equipment such as tables or chairs.

Make final purchases.

  • Craft supplies
  • Decorations
  • Favors or other items you plan to give out at the reunion
  • Other _____________________________

Order copies of family history or video.

1 Month Before

Confirm with relatives who are bringing food or other supplies.

Confirm activities.

2 Weeks Before

Contact caterer with a final guest count if necessary.

Order cold cut platters, cake, or other party items from your local grocery store or baker.

Contact volunteers with specific tasks to confirm times and the final guest count.

  • Photographer/Video
  • Game Room Coordinator
  • Decorations & Signage
  • Food

Review your final to-do list.

Buy last-minute decorations and supplies.

Create signs and banners.

Make arrangements to donate leftover food to a local shelter or food pantry.

2 Days Before

Pick up any rental equipment, like chairs, tables, etc.

Begin cooking.

The Day Before

Set up and decorate.

Get some sleep!

Within 2 weeks of the event, you'll need to:

Write thank-you notes to special attendees, relatives who donated time and money, and any other people who helped make your event a success.

Develop film. Be sure to get CDs made so you can upload photos to ofoto.com or shutterfly.com. This way other family members can purchase copies of your photos.

Donate or distribute leftover favors, decorations, family history pamphlets, etc.

Within 4 weeks of the event:

Follow up with videographer and photographer to find out when materials will be ready for distribution.

Send an e-mail or mass mailing to all who attended, summarizing the festivities, thanking them for attending, and telling them where they can purchase photos, videos, or any other follow-up items from your event.

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