Family reunions come in all forms and sizes. One thing they share is that they all require advance planning. In fact, some families need to plan one to two years ahead, depending on the size of the clan and distances people need to travel. The more organized you are, the more smoothly things will run. One rule of thumb: After choosing a date, be prompt in reserving the site. After that, all other elements should fall into place.
Thinking of planning a reunion? Consult our suggested timeline and tailor it to your individual needs.
2 Years to 18 Months Ahead*
- Get family consensus to go ahead with reunion plans.
- Form a committee to come up with a list of possible dates and locations.
- Scout out possible sites.
- Put together a mailing/phone/e-mail list.
*Note: This much time is generally required for larger reunions or for those in which family members are scattered around the globe. For smaller reunions, such as backyard barbecues, you could condense the timeline and start planning about 6 months ahead.
18 to 12 Months Ahead
- Send out an initial mailing announcing the reunion and a tentative time and place. Ask family members to respond if they may be coming, so you can get a rough estimate of attendees.
- Determine the budget. Arrive at a comfortable sum for the vast majority of family members.
- Set a date.
12 to 9 Months Ahead
- If booking a hotel, resort, or similar facility, reserve location or block of rooms.
- Organize committees for entertainment/events, banquet, food, child care, games, etc.
9 to 6 Months Ahead
- If planning a reunion in a park, reserve space and shelter (if necessary).
- Plan reunion schedule and daily activities (programs, speakers, awards ceremony, tours, etc.).
- Send out a second mailing announcing the (finalized) time and place of the reunion, accommodations, types of activities, budget, registration forms (if needed), and a call for volunteers.
- Make banquet or other catering arrangements for large events.
- Contact a photographer (or delegate a family member as official photographer).
5 Months Ahead
- This is good "in-between" time to relax. Get a massage.
- Stomp out fires when necessary (e.g., Aunt Joy was accidentally left off the invitation list. Send invitation quickly!).
4 Months Ahead
- Design and order family T-shirts, hats, or other keepsakes.
- Confirm reservations, entertainment, photographer, caterer, etc.
- Select decorations, particularly those that require professional printing (such as banners).
- Calculate loaner or rental needs (e.g., chairs, tables, coolers, etc.). Reserve.
- Reserve a tent for outdoor activities (if necessary).
2 Months Ahead
- Send out follow-up postcard/reminder.
- Draw up list of attendees; make follow-up calls.
- Enlist volunteers for set up, clean up, etc. (for whatever events require them).
- Prepare programs and schedules.
1 Month Ahead
Buy (or assign a volunteer to buy) nonperishable items (e.g., name tags, raffle tickets, craft supplies, decorations, etc.). For picnics and barbecues, be certain to include paper goods, trash bags, etc.
For picnics and barbecues, decide on menu. Divvy up potluck assignments.
2 Weeks Ahead
- Make a checklist. Include list of volunteers and their assignments.
- Check in with volunteers and review final details.
- Confirm reunion arrangements with the facility.
1 Week Ahead
- Load up cameras and camcorders with film/tape/batteries.
- Assemble welcome packets, name tags, etc.
- Family "chefs" should shop for ingredients and start cooking.
- Pick up or have "loaners" (chairs, coolers, etc.) delivered. Arrange for tent to be set up.
- Double-check your checklist. Organize volunteers.
- Enjoy yourself!
- Pat yourself on the back, relax, and enjoy the leftovers.
- Complete bookkeeping; settle accounts.
- Call or write volunteers to thank them for their efforts.
- Send thank-you notes to the location manager, caterer, hotel staff, and others if you're happy with the services provided.
- Send follow-up mailing/newsletter to entire family, including those who could not attend, describing the events of the weekend.
- Reflect and evaluate for the next reunion: What worked? What didn't?
- Start planning your next reunion.