In a world that moves at lightning speed, despite the technology we use to stay in touch, it can be more difficult for many people to stay connected with friends and family. With combating schedules, busy lives, and different hometowns, relatives may not see each other for years at a time. If you’re looking for a way to get your loved ones together but don’t know how to plan a family reunion, we can help.
In this guide, we teach you how to plan a family reunion. We take you through the entire process from start to finish. From selecting the right venue to group entertainment ideas, this guide takes you through each step to help you throw the kind of family reunion your relatives deserve. Although it’s impossible to ensure a stress-free family function, we’ll show you how smooth, organized, and budget-conscious planning a one-of-a-kind family reunion can be.
How to plan a family reunion in 10 simple steps
1. Have a family meeting
Planning a last-minute or surprise family reunion will undoubtedly lead you into a land of chaos, confusion, and disgruntled relatives. Before diving headfirst into the planning process, consult the family. Instead of selecting a date, location, and venue on your own and inviting family to attend a reunion you planned alone, request input from everyone. Discuss a range of reunion details, such as:
- How many people are interested in attending?
- Which dates should you avoid (e.g., graduations, vacations, weddings)?
- What dates work best for everyone?
- Are you hosting an adults-only or family-friendly get-together?
- Does anyone have personal or health restrictions that need accommodation, such as mobility concerns or social anxiety?
- What family activities get the group excited?
Discuss reunion details with as many members of the family as possible. If you need to, nominate one spokesperson from each family to pass along their group’s feedback, requests, and availability.
Naming one person, or a handful of interested family members, to plan the event will help make decisions easier—too many cooks in the kitchen can make it difficult to pin much of anything down. For some families, emailing relatives a reunion questionnaire to get their feedback on the communal event can be helpful. Setting a return deadline will help the planning team stay organized and do their best to make the event work for everyone.
2. Settle on a reunion date
Start discussing potential reunion dates at least a year in advance to give the family ample time to choose a date, plan around the event, and reschedule any potential conflicts. Try to select the most accommodating date for the whole family. If kids are attending, plan around school breaks and holiday schedules. If the reunion is a destination event, choose a date at least one year out to provide relatives plenty of time to make travel arrangements. If there isn’t a date or time that works for everyone, take a vote, and let democracy decide.
3. Set a budget for the event
Financial conversations can be uncomfortable, especially with family. When planning a family reunion, however, finance discussions are vital. To successfully budget for your event, you must answer a variety of questions, including:
- Who will be financing the reunion? For example, will costs be split per person or per family? Will one person or a select few pay?
- What is the maximum per person price family members are willing to pay?
- Does anyone receive hotel, travel, or special event rewards that cut costs?
Before booking an event venue, caterer, or hotel room, set a firm budget for the reunion. With the information gathered during your family planning sessions, estimate the approximate cost of your dream reunion. If finances are tight, or family members simply don’t want to pay too much, consider alternative cheap or free venues. A few creative outdoor event ideas can quickly turn your backyard into a festive reunion venue.
Keep in mind: everyone’s financial situation is different, and some members of your family may have more limited financial options than others. Be considerate when determining per-person contributions; don’t ask anyone to spend above their means. If finances are too tight for a getaway, stay close to home
4. Delegate planning responsibilities and reunion duties
Family reunions are often complex and large events. Planning a successful, eventful family gathering of that complexity is too much for one person to take on, so create a planning committee of enthusiastic and supportive family members to help. Function as the chairperson or planning committee leader, managing volunteers, handling communications, and delegating tasks as needed.
Reunion planning should be exciting, not draining. Host a committee meeting to kick off the planning process. Serve food and drinks in a relaxed atmosphere to set a positive tone for the planning process. Review the list of planning duties that need accomplishing, such as:
In addition to pre-event duties, you might need volunteers to assist during the event. As the event approaches, determine who might be responsible for preparing meals, providing supplies, getting guests to the venue, communicating with vendors, or any other needs based on the activities you’re planning. Create a party planning checklist to help keep everyone on task.
For smaller or less complicated events, you may not need all the bells and whistles above. Perhaps you nominate two or three people to a planning committee with a quick phone call to kick off planning. The three planners can solicit dates and special accommodations from family members. Maybe it’s even as simple as a potluck at your grandmother’s house. Figure out how intricate your event will be first, then delegate tasks.
To prevent uncomfortable conversations down the line, discuss major speeches, speakers, and activity leaders in advance. In family situations, it’s not unusual for more than one person to try and take the lead. Detailed planning early in the process can help prevent unwanted drama or setbacks during the reunion.
5. Select and book the venue
You can host a family reunion just about anywhere: parks, hotel meeting rooms, banquet halls, special event venues, museums, community centers, amusement parks, pools, or even the beach; the sky’s the limit.
If you’re looking for a separate location to host the event, start looking for venues well in advance. Confirm available dates, deposit requirements, booking policies, restrictions, and noise limits. Gather quotes from multiple venues to help get the best rate possible. Even if you’re planning to book somewhere outdoors, make sure you check local laws regarding events, noise, and food to make sure you’re not missing any permits you may need.
If you’re planning an outdoor family reunion, or a multi-day reunion with outdoor events, consider the potential for undesirable weather. Have a backup plan, or “Plan B,” in case of poor weather conditions. Ensure a shelter, like an event tent or pavilion, is available to protect your family from the elements. Discuss inclement weather policies and protections with venues before confirming a booking.
6. Send invitations
Give relatives adequate notice by sending invitations at least three months in advance, unless you’re planning a far-flung event. Sending invitations early will allow family members plenty of time to request time off and book travel arrangements. Mail initial invitations and include an RSVP request. Go the email route if you think that will be easier for your family—you know them best. Ask family members to respond as soon as possible, and set a firm deadline no later than 4 weeks before the event. Actively manage event RSVPs, and email or text late responders a reminder as the due date approaches.
If you want to go above and beyond, create a website with event information, directions, and helpful venue information, like parking instructions or alcohol restrictions. If you’re hosting a destination reunion or have family members traveling in from out of town, provide hotel room block information and include a link to reserve a room in the block if applicable.
Most hotels that offer group discounts include a reservation cut-off date, the final date that discounted rooms will be available in the group. Email or text traveling guests an email one or two weeks before the cut-off date, reminding late books that the discounted rate deadline is approaching and that hotel rooms may not be available once the date passes.
7. Build a memorable menu
Ensure that your family reunion boasts a delicious and satisfying menu. Often considered the centerpiece of a family gathering, your menu should impress guests with a symphony of flavors and remind your relatives of the comforts of home. Some classic and fantastic family reunion recipes include:
- Fried chicken
- Hotdogs & Hamburgers
- Barbeque pulled pork
- Macaroni & cheese
- Deviled eggs
- Green bean casserole
- Ice cream cake
Whether opting for a potluck-style event, dining at a luxury resort, or employing budget-friendly catering ideas, consider allergies, dietary restrictions, and attendee requests. Relay important health notes to your caterer or host restaurant, and ask family members to label any dishes that contain high-risk food allergens (e.g., nuts, dairy, shellfish).
8. Book vendors and confirm equipment rental
If you’re hosting an outdoor barbeque or family picnic, you may need to rent event tents, tables, chairs, or an installable dance floor. Even at indoor events, you may need to secure equipment like food warmers or additional seating to accommodate the entire family. Research party rental prices and customer reviews for services nearby. Set up Google price drop alerts to notify you when the cost of items on your reunion shopping list drop.
Are there musicians in the family? Consider renting a stage or sound system to host a once-in-a-lifetime live family performance. Are there a large number of children in your family? Surprise them with a bounce house, inflatable obstacle course, or games. Hire a face painter, caricature artist, or balloon twister for additional entertainment. Invite an animal keeper and surprise the family with out-of-the-box fun with animals. Hire a band or DJ to perform the final day and end the reunion with abang.
9. Plan the event schedule
Plan a flexible schedule of events—or at least have a slate of activities ready for family members to participate in. Include enough diverse activities to keep relatives entertained and energetic, especially over a multi-day event, but leave lots of time for hanging out, relaxing, and enjoying each other’s company. If you’re wondering how to plan a family reunion that strengthens family bonds, seek out activities that bring the family together, such as:
- Outdoor lawn games
- Team sports (e.g., volleyball, scavenger hunt, kickball)
- Family photo session
- Escape room
- Sightseeing tour
- Family video night
- Fireside family stories
Commemorate the reunion by taking photos or videos of each event. Bring a go-pro to capture the action of active events or mount a camera on a tall tripod to record toasts, speeches, and the recitation of family legends. If you have leftover funds in the budget, hire an event photographer to capture high-quality photos of the homecoming celebration.
10. Enjoy the reunion!
A few days before the reunion starts, check in with your organizing partners. Remind volunteers to bring any items they committed to providing, discuss all outstanding tasks, answer questions, and drum up excitement for the upcoming events. Make sure you stock up on ice, cups, balloons, and other last-minute family reunion party supplies.
Add any photos, heirlooms, or videos you’d like to share with relatives, pack your bags, and hit the road! Get ready to reunite, reconnect, and celebrate the bonds that built your family at a reunion you’ll never forget.
Frequently asked questions about how to plan a family reunion
- How long should a family reunion be?
Research shows that reunion attendees are more satisfied when the event lasts multiple days. Multi-day reunions give everyone time to unwind, relax, and catch up without feeling rushed. While throwing a half-day or single-day family reunion is better than hosting no reunion at all, longer events allow for more memory-making. Event planning experts suggest that the length of a family reunion be proportional to the distance guests have to travel to attend: the longer the distance, the lengthier the reunion.
- How much does a family reunion cost?
On average, family reunions cost $25-50 per person, per day, with expenses varying depending on reunion location, vendor costs, or seasonal demand factors. Consider travel expenses, overnight accommodations, the cost of event space, entertainment, food, decorations, and activities in your reunion budget.
- How do you include relatives who can’t attend the family reunion?
Live stream the event to family members who can’t make it, or appoint one family member to take video calls and pass the phone—or iPad—around the party. While not quite the same as experiencing the event firsthand, it’s a fantastic alternative for loved ones who can’t attend in person. Gather every family member, from near and far, to celebrate the reunion and reconnect with long-distance loved ones who couldn’t make the trip.
Choose a user-friendly live streaming event app to ensure everyone feels included and comfortable navigating the software. Facebook Live, Zoom, and Google Hangouts are popular video meeting platforms that offer a connected but casual virtual space to gather.
Now you know how to plan a family reunion your relatives will love!
Next up, we go into more detail about planning outdoor events. From designing an attractive outdoor event space to ensuring that your food stays safe, there are unique elements to consider when planning a reunion outdoors. To help ensure your event runs smoothly, we explain how to plan an outdoor event and offer tips for every step of the process.