Your Midsize Family Reunion: A Planning Checklist

A week-by-week guide to help your family create a casual family reunion picnic, beach holiday, or state park gathering.


A family reunion is a great way to gather your family together even as it is growing and changing. It's an opportunity to celebrate your family's history, recent achievements, and new additions. A picnic in the park, a beach-side barbecue, or a state park gathering are all casual venues that will attract even the most aloof family members for an afternoon of fun in the sun.

If you're planning a family reunion for about 100 people, you'll want to start your planning about six months in advance so you can drum up interest and enlist some deputies to help you pull it off. 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 and locations would work best.

4 Months Before

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

  • Finding a park, beach or other outdoor location for the event.
  • 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 ensure a consistent theme for the event.
  • Activities and entertainment: An athletic relative might take charge of the volleyball net and provide a boom box with music.
  • Family history: Putting together a family tree is a great way to incorporate your heritage into the event. You might also 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.
  • Cleanup: Solicit several folks for this massive task!

Research locations and facilities.

  • Research places that cater to a variety of interests, age levels, physical abilities, and financial resources.
  • Ocean or lakeside family parks are ideal; there are things to do on both water and on land -- activities to keep kids busy and lounging opportunities on the beach for grown-ups.
  • Many vacation areas and state parks have a "destination manager" who can help you with the details of your reunion.

Finalize the date and location. Find out what amenities will be available: drinking water, swimming pool, grilling facilities, changing rooms, indoor space (in case of rain), picnic tables, etc.

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

  • Ask an artistic family member to design a T-shirt, hat, sweatshirt, or other personalized clothing item.
  • Pull together resources for your family history or video.
  • If you decide to give out favors, disposable cameras and matchboxes are two budget-friendly options that can be personalized for your event.

3 Months Before

Come up with a reunion schedule, theme, and approximate cost per person.

Send invitations.

  • Include finalized times, locations, maps, driving directions, costs, and a schedule of events.
  • Include a sign-up option for specific activities, if necessary.
  • Include assignments for relatives who have volunteered to bring food or other items.
  • 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. Ask family members to provide their accommodation or arrival information, if appropriate.

Follow up with volunteers and dole out tasks as appropriate.

Schedule events and activities.

  • Secure professionals or locations for your activities. For example, reserve a softball field, hire tour guides or yoga instructors.
  • Purchase items you'll need for any crafting activities.

Schedule and plan meals.

  • Create a list of all the meals you'll be eating or the food you'll need.
  • Assign one food item to each relative.
  • Contact restaurants to see if they'll accommodate large groups and make reservations then if necessary.

2 Months Before

Start a list of those who have confirmed their attendance, where they'll be staying, and when they'll be arriving.

Reserve rental equipment such as a podium, microphone, tables, or chairs.

Confirm restaurant reservations and provide your latest guest estimate.

Make final purchases.

  • Craft supplies
  • Decorations
  • Favors, personalized T-shirts, disposable cameras, 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 meeting places.

Confirm activities.

Confirm sleeping accommodations.

2 Weeks Before

  • Contact restaurants with a final guest count if necessary.
  • Contact volunteers with specific tasks to confirm times, locations, and the final guest count.
  • Photographer/video
  • Activities coordinator
  • Decorations and signage
  • Meals

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

Review reunion minutiae with committees.

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

Prepare final payments and tips for any professionals and help you've hired, like the caterer and wait staff. Put these together in separate envelopes so you can quickly hand them out as needed throughout the event. Keep in mind that you can send extra tips later if their performance was exceptional. Otherwise, a 10 to 15 percent tip is customary if it's not included in their charge.

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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