Life today seems to be busier than ever. Most of us are constantly on the go, and it’s easy to lose touch with individuals, even family members, with whom we aren’t in contact on a daily basis. If you are thinking that it has been a long time since you’ve visited Great-Aunt Dorothy, watched Uncle Greg perform his famed guitar solos, or heard the latest gossip about Cousin Jeff, you may want to consider planning a family reunion.
Reunions can be great ways to reunite family members, but they can also be a lot of work. If your extended family is small – perhaps only eight or ten people – you may be able to make a few phone calls, plan a simple dinner, and bring everyone together within merely a week or two. However, if you have a large extended family, planning a reunion can take weeks, even months, of planning, require significant funds, and necessitate the rental of an appropriate venue. So how can you ensure that your planning will result in the perfect family reunion? Consider the tips below in the first installment of Home Instead’s two-part series on family reunions.
Select a Planning Committee
While the word “committee” may seem somewhat formal for a family gathering, large family reunions generally require more work than a single person can handle, so a planning committee can be vital. The planning committee can delegate specific tasks, such as creating and sending out invitations, supplying food, and caring for finances, to groups of individuals, so that no single person becomes overwhelmed. Choose a respected, mature, and organized chairperson to track the committee’s progress, schedule reunion planning meetings, and keep peace among the members.
Create a Guest List
Consider whether you will invite both sides of your family, or only one. If you have a large family, you may realistically only be able to invite one side of your family, so you will have to decide which branch to include. You may also have to do some research in order to ensure that you don’t accidentally forget anyone: talk to parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and others who may have addresses and phone numbers of family members whom you haven’t heard from in many years. You may also wish to use a family reunion registry so that you can be sure that you reach all appropriate family members.
Collect all contact information in an Excel spreadsheet or similar program so that you can keep it organized. Try to be thorough as you create your guest list, remembering that inviting only some members of a particular branch of your family is likely to result in hurt feelings.
Choose a Date
Finding a time and day that works for everyone can be challenging, but remember that family members are far more likely to be able clear their schedules if they are given plenty of advance notice. Therefore, try to alert everyone as to the date as soon as possible. You may also consider using online surveys to find the optimal date for all guests, although it is important to consider that some older family members may not be comfortable using the internet, and that others may not even have internet access. In such cases, be sure to contact these individuals in person or in writing.
Next, consider the length of the reunion. Will it take place over a single afternoon, or will it last a full weekend, or even several days? Keep in mind that relatives who are traveling long distances may not be willing to make the trip for a reunion of only a few hours, but may be more likely to attend a weekend-long gathering.
Designate a Location
In choosing a venue for the event, consider several factors. How large will your reunion be? If you are planning a modestly-sized reunion, a family member’s house or backyard may be the appropriate size. However, if your gathering is likely to include hundreds of people, you may need to rent a hall or hotel banquet room for the occasion, or perhaps plan to meet at a park if the weather permits.
Additionally, consider the costs associated with different venue types. For instance, will all family members be able to attend a reunion in a hotel, or will some find the cost prohibitive? Inexpensive locations may include old family homesteads, parks, family members’ homes and backyards, and campgrounds. Pricier options include hotels, bed and breakfasts, theme parks, resorts, and cruises.
Finally, consider how far attendees will have to travel to the venue. While younger family members may have no problem making road trips of hundreds of miles, some elderly individuals may be unable to travel such distances. If some are traveling long distances, be sure that there is adequate lodging nearby.
Fund Your Reunion
Create a budget to account for all reunion expenses. While the need to plan for larger costs, such as the cost of renting a space for the reunion, may be obvious, it can be easy to overlook minor expenses, such as the cost of buying stamps for invitations. However, these smaller expenses can add up quickly, and may be too much for a single person to cover, so remember to include such items in the budget.
Next, consider how you will raise funds to pay for the reunion. Options include auctioning off items, such as baked goods, white elephant gifts, and other items at the family reunion, holding a large family yard sale, and simply charging an admission fee. If you choose to charge a fee, will you offer discounts to senior citizens and to children? What will the fee cover? If you choose to charge an admission fee, sure to explain clearly what is included and what is not.
If some family members wish to attend, but simply cannot afford to contribute monetarily, you may wish to think about having these ones contribute services rather than funds. Such ones may be able to research family members’ contact information, put together a family cookbook, or maintain a family website or newsletter. However, keep in mind that this practice may lead to controversy among some, and that the costs associated with these family members’ attendance will have to be redistributed among the paying members of the family.
Finally, be sure to keep accurate records of all expenses, so that no single person is left to pay an overly large portion of the bill.
Stay tuned for the second installment of Home Instead’s series on family reunions next week, when we’ll discuss reunion foods and activities!
We hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or if you know of a senior that could benefit from our vast array of home care services in Houston, please call us at 832 379-4700 or email us. We accept most long term care insurance as payment and have a full time staff supervising more than 100 quality-trained home care personnel covering the Houston, Texas area.
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