When I was growing up my cousins and I would spend summers together at one of our Aunt’s homes. We all lived in different countries, yet we are all very close because of the efforts our parents made to keep us connected. As we have become adults and some of us have children it has become even more important to keep the family closely connected. But how do you do that when our lives are so busy and we all live so far away?
I used to hear about my friends whose families would have these major family reunions each year with t-shirts, family meetings, and all the trappings of what seemed like an annual convention. You may be one of those families yourself. I always felt like planning a major event like that would involve too much time, money, and frankly frustration.
Over the past six years my family has slowly inched its way closer to a large scale family reunion without us even realizing it. This year I hosted as many as fifty family members here in Washington, DC and it was amazing.
So how do you get started on planning a family reunion without all the stress that can be involved? Here are a few steps we used.
- Identify a compelling reason
I hate to admit it but my family did not get serious about connecting each summer until my father passed away. We had always spent time together as a family during Thanksgiving or Christmas or a one off event during the year. But after my father passed away everyone became very aware of the importance of spending time with the ones you love. I hope no one has passed away in your family but think of something that will compel your family members to take this seriously. It will be the glue that keeps everyone committed to attending.
- Squash the Drama
Every family has drama. There is always going to be one person who is upset with another person. My biggest tip to you is to not allow those interpersonal challenges to deter you from bringing the family together. Do what you can to assist in reconciliation but at the end of the day everyone is an adult and responsible for their own actions. Enjoy your family even in the midst of the messiness.
- Start small
If you have never planned a family reunion, start small. Begin with maybe just a one-day event at someone’s home and expand from there. We started by celebrating July 4th at my brother’s home for a few years. Then it moved to other family members’ homes. Then this year we did the first multi-day event here in Washington, DC.
- Plan time to connect
I know this sounds like a no-brainer. However it is easy to spend the day planning and organizing that you don’t actually connect with your family. Depending upon the natural vibe of your family you may want to consider incorporating organized games. Our family loves Scrabble, Dominos, and Taboo. So we make sure that those games are present and it takes on a life of its own.
- Plan for the children
Making sure the children connect is very important. Their relationships will carry the family forward into future generations. One year we rented a Moon Bounce and hired a puppeteer. You don’t have to go that elaborate but planning activities that will allow the children of all ages to have fun and to get to know each other is vital.
- Food is important but not everything
My brother and several other people in my family are amazing chefs. The menu we typically have at our events is crazy good. But please know that you don’t have to slave over a grill or in the kitchen all day in order to have a great time. If your family doesn’t like to cook just order out. If you have the resources have it catered. The bottom line is no event is fun without good food but don’t make it so complicated that you miss the purpose of the reunion.
- Create a website or Facebook Page
This year we created a website so that family members can stay connected throughout the year. We have family in the UK, Canada, Jamaica, Bermuda, and all over the US. In order for us to stay connected and foster the relationships set up a member site or a Facebook Page that will allow your family to communicate throughout the year. Be aware of older members of your family that may not be comfortable on the internet.
Have you ever planned a family reunion? Share some of your ideas below in the comment sections.