We've all seen them: matching t-shirts, Grandpa, Great Grandma, all the little ones, cousins, siblings, in-laws. Park picnic tables - with identifying helium balloons and the hand painted sign "Miller Reunion table 4".
Whether hosting an afternoon, weekend or a whole week, here's what I have learned after hosting my first ever 6-day family reunion.
1) Pick a date that works for the hosts. If you try to please everyone, especially the hard-to-pin-down folks, they probably won't show anyhow -so just figure out the dates that work for the hosts, period, no resentment. Try to give ample lead time (we started planning 9 months in advance) but even so, you never are guaranteed 100% participation unless everyone is committed to making the reunion a priority.
2) Choose adequate space and lodging that provides everyone a place to be alone if they need a nap or just some chill time. We hosted our reunion at our lodge where each couple or sub-group had their own guestroom and private bathroom. A great room and outdoor deck provides a common area for everyone to be together. A hot tub and large outdoor areas to walk and play on are a plus.
3) Have ready a choice and balance of activities. Try to locate your reunion where there are already lots of great activities. Shoot for mostly free activities, and also something for less-active to extremely active. Keep in mind altitude adjustments for people that are not used to it. We advised everyone to start drinking a lot of water about one week before the reunion. Our activities included several hikes (short, long, easy, strenuous) Geo-caching, golf, mini-golf, bowling, shopping, river-rafting, art galleries, hot-springs, hiking to the bat-caves, The Royal Gorge Amusement Park.
4) Meals: To take the pressure off the hosts, ask each sub-group to plan a meal from start to finish. As hosts we provided a simple continental breakfast each day, but you could delegate that as well. Keep it simple. Try to schedule some meals and leave others open for trying out the local restaurants.
5) Schedules: Plan a few activities with a definite start time - let everyone know well in advance that it is a firm time. Make sure you have lots of transportation available. We had a white-water rafting trip planned so everyone had an early start that day.
6) Matching t-shirts. Your call - but everyone at our Reunion said they were glad we didn't do this! If you must, then pick a great color and good shirt that sticks out in a crowd.
7) Down time - provide snacks and drinks, cards & board games and lounging areas for chatting and getting caught up. Bring photo albums to share.
8) Step up and take charge. This comes naturally for some (me) but not everyone. Try to appoint a leader to get everyone ready and out the door or it will not happen in a timely manner. It's understandable that you don't want to be a drill Sargent but it needs to be done and most people want to be told where and when and just show up.
9) Arrivals and departures: This is an area that could have used improvement at our family reunion. We had people coming in over a 4 day period and leaving over a 3 day period. Try to get everyone to come in and leave on the same dates or you will limit the choice of group activities and people will miss out.
10) Take lots of photos - soon after the reunion, upload your photos on a shared website, your Facebook page or invitation websites such as Evite, etc. Stay flexible and have a great time- don't wait so long between reunions and remember how important and lucky you are to have family, no matter how quirky.