Chances are you’ve seen at least one of those movies about family reunions where everything that can go wrong — goes wrong! Relatives argue mother is not fond of the son’s girlfriend, someone drinks too much, and there is that gossipy aunt who meddles. While it all ends with hugs, kisses, and emotional moments, these movies tend to exaggerate what happens at these events.
However, as a planner, this type of scenario is probably what you fear the most, but we got you. With the following steps on how to plan a family reunion, you will hardly be caught unprepared for anything.
Start with a budget
The budget depends on the occasion. It can fall on you or it can be a joint budget of more family members. Whatever it may be, you need to know how much money you have before booking a venue, deciding whether to expand the invitation to non-family guests and other details. Those on a limited budget should look for discounts, off-season offers, DIY projects, and hosting a one-day event at the local venue.
Create a guest list
The guest list is always tricky. Chances are you have family members that don’t get along or are not on speaking turns. Some may be overbearing, while others may talk too much. But you are still far from the drama in a Hollywood movie. After all, everyone knows what to expect from one another.
To minimize the conflicts, uncomfortable moments, or anything else that might ruin the fun, create seating arrangements that will keep everyone on their best behavior. Another great tactic is reminding them why you are getting together and the importance of family with pictures, videos, and other memorabilia from the past years.
Include RSVPs in invitations
The RSVP option is a good strategy to figure out who’s coming and who’s not. As we already mentioned, it can save you from family drama or allow for more splurging. It can also be a sign that you should change the venue or adjust some other reunion details so everyone can attend.
Observe RSVPs as a type of brief questionnaire that will help you figure out what works and what you can improve when organizing this type of event. While someone may have other plans they can’t reschedule, other family members may not be able to travel or afford what you have in mind.
Set the reunion date in advance
Those attending family reunions every year on the same date, like someone’s birthday, should skip this part. After all, everyone knows when the reunion is happening and you have one less item on your organizing schedule. First-time reunions, on the other hand, need to have a date set well in advance so everyone, or at least most of the invitees, can come.
If this is a casual gathering, intended just to bring everyone together, then choose a date when the weather is nice to have an outdoor event. This means you can have it in the backyard and not pay for a venue, for example. School and work can also make the event planning tricky and choosing a date during the holidays may be a better option to include everyone.
Know your limits
It’s okay to not be able to organize a family reunion or not to know-how, that’s what full-service event management companies are for. You will still provide helpful pointers and information, as well as be included in decisions and ideas.
Professional event planners have the manpower, connections, and experience to deal with any type of family reunion, even the one with trouble-making relatives. You may think it will cost you more than doing it on your own, but if you don’t know what you are doing, chances are you will create more expenses than cut them down.
Think of the best venue
The best venue is a space that can welcome everybody you are invited to and have everything you need. This is far from saying that it’s a perfect venue, but rather one that will be budget-friendly and convenient for all. That said, you can have a reunion at someone’s home, campground, restaurant, B&B, or another country.
Renting a cabin or a lodge is also a great option for large families, especially for reunions that will last for more than one day. Even having a reunion on a ship or yacht is a great option, if no one suffers from sea sickness and the weather is nice.
Pick the right accommodation
Since reunions can last for a couple of days or more, or some family members have to travel to attend, you need to figure out accommodations. We already mentioned renting a place, camp, and B&B, but if those are not affordable options, you should think of alternatives. For example, you can organize sleepovers at your and other relatives’ homes. Even without a guest room, you can have guests sleeping at your place with rollaway beds that will last for years.
Plan fun activities
Family reunions can be all types of fun, not only reserved for dining and dancing. Think of other activities you can include in your plans, especially if the event will last for days. You can go sightseeing, hiking, swimming, or fishing. But you can also play paintball, board games, knit, craft things, and other a little bit unorthodox activities.
The key is for everyone to have a good time and be excited to participate, regardless of age and gender. While kids may be the most enthused over this type of fun, adults may be even more thrilled for having a chance to do something outside of their comfort zone or character.
Be prepared for the worst-case scenarios
Worst case scenario can mean a lot of different things for different people and you should be aware of yours. This is not about having a negative approach, but rather learning to accept that not everything may go according to plan. You can create solutions for many issues if you foresee them and also save yourself from the stress that often comes with event planning.
All in all
You got this! Whether as a family reunion planner or employer of a professional event management agency. After all, the most important thing is having everyone in one place and giving them the best time together, at least once a year.