Which Branch of the Family Tree?
If you have a really big clan, you have to determine which side of the family you are inviting, and up to how far among relatives you would wish to include in the family reunion. If yours is already a large family, you can limit your invitations to members within the first degree only. Of course, if you want a wider circle, you can always bring in relatives up to the third degree.
Essential Decisions for the Family Affair
When planning and organizing the family reunion, keep in mind the four Ws: Where, When, What and Who Pays.
* Where: Choose a location that is most convenient and accessible for the family members. Be considerate to traveling elders or those with children. Be sure the venue for the family reunion is large enough to comfortably accommodate those who are attending. The venue should also be spacious enough so you can hold games, dancing and other activities.
* When: Decide on the date of the family reunion. If you are the one tasked to plan and coordinate the affair, it is a good idea to come up with several possible dates, run those dates through the family members and take a vote. It is best to hold the affair during the weekend when most, if not all, of the invited guests are available. It is also a good idea to time family reunions with upcoming holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas since most are going to be home at these times.
* What: Make up you mind on the sort of family reunion you want to hold. Is the family reunion going to be a simple get-together in the afternoon? Is it going to be a whole day event? Is the family reunion going to be a two-day event with overnight stay? What about the family reunion theme? Are the guests expected to chip in with the food or is the family reunion going to be a catered event?
* Who Pays: Typically, whoever is organizing the affair and inviting guests picks up the tab. However, if you do not have the budget to shoulder all the expenses or the family reunion is a collective idea and you were simply voted to organize the event, solicit contributions from people who are attending. Give them the option to contribute in cash or in kind (e.g., venue, decorations, food, accommodations, transportation or souvenirs).
Before the Family Reunion
* Create a working committee and ask family members to join in. Divide and assign assignments and responsibilities so things get done faster.
* Send out invitations by e-mail or by postal mail, but do this at least a month before the family reunion. Since very few people respond to RSVPs, assign someone to call up invited guests at least a couple of weeks before the affair to confirm their attendance.
* If the affair involves overnight stay, make sure that you provide guests with a list of nearby facilities such as inns and hotels. You can even offer to make the reservations for them.
During the Family Reunion
* Make everyone feel welcome by having a welcoming committee consisting of about four or five people by the door greeting and meeting guests as they arrive at the family reunion venue.
* The welcoming committee can also distribute printed copies of the program and schedule of activities to guests as they come.
* Give out short forms that guests can fill out with their current contact details right away. They can do this before the affair starts, while waiting for everyone to arrive.
* Allow guests some time to do small talk so they can catch up with each other. This can be done during cocktail, about half an hour before dinner. As host, you are expected to mingle and make everyone feel at home. Encourage the others to circulate and socialize.
* Have a pre-set seating arrangement to make sure that no cliques or small circles are formed while the other, less known relatives get left out. Having assigned seats gives everyone the opportunity to mingle.
* Capture the event with photos and video. Assign a member of the family to take pictures or shoot video throughout the event. You can also schedule half an hour of picture taking. If your budget allows it, hire a professional photographer/videographer to cover the affair who can create CDs that you can distribute to all those who attended.
* Include ice breakers and games in the program to encourage people to loosen up and settle in. Play modified versions of popular games like charades, musical chairs, Simon says, bring me and bingo where everyone can participate.
* See to it that there is enough food and drink for everyone. Do not give guests reasons to complain.
* Honor the oldest in the clan and give special attention to the youngest. Promote the sharing of stories from the past. The younger generations need to hear from their elders.
Saying Goodbyes and Communicating Afterwards
* Prepare souvenirs and keep them at hand. Put considerable thought in deciding and have the souvenirs created. They should be an expressive symbol of the family reunion, something your relatives will treasure for the rest of their lives.
* Give each and every guest a personal send-off. As host, you must personally see to it that each guest leaves with your gratitude. Thank them for their time and participation. This is also the perfect time for you to extend an invitation to the next family reunion, if the next one is already in the works.
* Upload photos and video clips of the family reunion to the family website as soon as possible. Family members who were not able to attend the affair can view pictures and watch clips.
* With the help of a genealogy software program, create a family tree showing the different branches of the family. Provide a photo of each member; include each member's contact details as well as a brief summary of what he or sh is up to.
Here's to a fun-filled family reunion overflowing with love and caring for one another!