Have you ever planned a family reunion or being told that it is a really difficult endeavour and takes time to complete? Well if so, this article is for you. Can it be stressful? Yes. Can it be time consuming? Yes.
Can the process be made easier? Absolutely Yes! This is what I want to show you here.
- Updated: March 06, 2018.
I have divided this article (and probably this series) into smaller sections/series so you can easily follow through. Since majority of these sections/series also includes how to actually carry out these tasks, I think it will be easier to walk you through the main items and tasks involved when planning for a family reunion and my perspective of it.
Introduction: This identifies some of the short-comings of the current state and ways of "planning for a family reunion"
The Plan: For each of these lapses, I have created a simple plan to solve them
The Execution: Now that we have these solutions, how do you execute them?
Guides & Tips: It takes time to perfect or get used to a new thing... here are some tips to help along the way
What happens next? Okay so we have executed some of these ideas, what happens next?
Sit back and relax: Here is the best part; your reunion planning is in full speed now and roughly 70% done, sit back and relax
Conclusion: Not every family reunion are similar, so rather than just tell you the best ways to plan a family reunion, I sure hope these articles have been able to show you how to execute them or in general another way to look at it.
If you plan or if you are in a committee that plans their family reunion
regularly (or even thinking of starting one annually or bi-annually);
you will quickly realise that almost all of the hard work you put in your
last family reunion planning process are not reusable or transferable.
So planning your next one is likely going to be a repetition of the previous
tedious and arduous processes and steps you went through last time.
Let's break some of these processes down one by one (not in any particular order) and see how we can improve on them
- Choosing a location, venue and dates,
A simple way to choose the location is to select the residential address (state and city) of one of your family members. Then select a venue somewhere in and around that location and obviously choose some date (or dates) in summer (unless you love snow and extra layer of clothing) as this is best time for planning an outdoor event.
The theme of a family reunion is usually a recurring thing, like "Our Family Reunion 2017" for last year will be "Our Family Reunion 2018" for this year (at the time of writing this article).
But this is the norm! How can we stretch this a little bit?
- Can one choose a random location? Would you have enough information about the place to make you decide?
- So with this random location, what can you do there, where are the best venues and at reasonable prices?
- Date and theme
- Can the theme be more energetic and make it match the location, season and purpose of the event? Like... "Summer Family Blast - Our Family Reunion in Florida 2018!" ...because you actually want to have a blast in Florida for instance.
- Figuring out what
activities and events are around that location and finding hotels
This can be tough because you have to keep the activities fresh and creative every time. You cannot play a card game this reunion and same again the next one! A simple trick here is finding a city or town that has a lot to do. Summer time allows you to do a lot outside, so that narrows it down to finding a hotel near a park that allows a large group setup, dj, party and of course catering. [We are coming up with a repository of parks in each state].
There is no easy way to this, but a really cool idea is to find the right city and open up a question and answer forum for your family and guests to come up with ideas. You can then select the best 3 spots and go for it.
- Estimating the cost
Hotel cost, t-shirt cost, food, events e.t.c. are difficult to estimate. Putting into consideration the hotel costs in a given area is very vital when planning a reunion. Hotels in some areas in California for instance will be more expensive than those in Atlanta, Georgia. So if you decide to go to a top-end-5-star Californian Beach Resort for your family reunion, be ready to accept that half of your family members might not turn up!
Next up is the feeding cost; will individual families take care of their own for the entire event or are you planning for a ball-room event that covers feeding for 1 night?
Next, you look into T-Shirt cost, hats, family calendar and so on.
The question now is... how do you estimate the cost in advance without having to do the math over again every single year? How do you break them down for your guest? How do you break it down by age group? Do you combine all the costs or create "line-items"?
See the execution section below for answers to some of these questions.
- Contacting all family members
So you have the location, dates, address, hotels, (maybe) the costs estimated and you are feeling good about it; how do you contact your family members? You utilise your committee and reach out to various families and spread the word. Okay that's great but how?
- First idea is you can send them a letter and package all the plans and paper work in it.
- There is nothing wrong with this, other than it isn't a cheap process! You have to get their addresses, which will of course take time as people move around a lot these days. Then buy stamps, lots of them (those dollars can definitely go into your reunion). Type out all the plans in a paper; print all the necessary papers; package them in various envelopes; affix stamp and addresses; stop by the post office and off they go! By the time you are done, you are ready to call it quit!
- Second idea is to use social media, e.g. Facebook
- Well, the only problem there is, grandma and grandpa are not on it!
- Other ideas - email, sms and so on
- Let me ask you this, do you know your distant first cousin's email or phone number? And how do you put all the beautiful plans for the event in one email or sms text message?
- Setting up a committee
A planning committee is very essential to a successful reunion. If you are hosting a reunion, unless you are planning for say 5 - 20 guests then you might not need one, but if you have a large guests turn up annually then you should setup one.
Only concerning issue with this approach is it's a rather lengthy way of updating all guests involved if there are any change of plans. What most families have done is have a meeting every now and then and pass down any new information to the guests assigned to each committee member. Think of it like a zonal assignment; so each committee member handles an allocated zone. Hey, it works, but can it be better?
- Donation, donation and more donations
About 90% of family reunion events have fees and costs. Like I mentioned above, you have all sorts of line-items to "purchase" (if I can use that word). Most of these items are not reusable but a great time with your family lingers forever. So its the normal thing for family members to buy into the planning process, the event and fees associated with it.
How do you collect/accept donations?
- That's great, hopefully it doesn't bounce!
- Actually still the best way to donate if you have same bank as the reunion account. Saves lots of time and financial costs.
- Use merchants e.g. PayPal, Stripe...
- There are costs involved (ah, you didn't estimate for this did you?), but its the most real-time way of accepting donations. And they are usually universal, so no bank transfer fee involved (well, in most cases).
- Lots of paperwork
I want to stress this here, my perspective and probably yours too, on mailing reunion letters.
A stamp costs, say, $0.25.
You want to mail 100 guests, maybe twice before the event.
You can try to squeeze all the information in a letter so let's assume you have done so and not gone pass a regular mail size.
To send a mail cost $0.50 for 1 oz. (each additional ounce costs $0.21)
So the cost to mail 100 guests twice is starting from $100.00 (again 1 oz. each) + stamps + envelopes.
A typical reunion package (mail) is about 2.5 ounces.
The more paper you print the more ounce you add (more paperwork is more paper - cash).
A 2.5 ounce letter will push the price up to $160.00!
The cost to send these mails are not usually included in your reunion fees, so the host or committee pays for this.
- Lots of chasing down family members to rsvp and
A very discouraging thing about planning a reunion is, not all family members move at your pace. While you are thinking of making reservations as soon as possible, they have a completely different agenda. So you have to work on family-pace or pay in advance with your own cash.
Most family members, r.s.v.p a week before the event. Some just show up on the day (oh and with a plus-one or two)
What I have observed is, it takes a family member an average of 5 minutes of hearing about the event to decide if they want to go, but up to 3 months to reply or even longer to donate!
How do you solve this?
- Keeping track of all the booked venues...and many
Few days to go, and you still don't have all the donations in, so you naturally put your money down to secure the venues. You are busy and deeply involved in chasing down family members, exhausted and eager at the same time to get this over with. How does one make sure all the necessary t's have been crossed and all i's are dotted? How do you quickly update or motivate your guests to come early? What if there is a last-minute change of plans? Do you spend another $160.00 to update the guests or leave it to chance?
See what happens next section for answers to some of this.
This article is first of 7 in this series. Once I have the subsequent posts available I will update this section and send out a message to all subscribers. Feel free to subscribe to our articles (you can go here to subscribe).
Part 3 - The Execution
Part 4 - Guides & Tips
Part 5 - What Happens Next
Part 6 - Sit Back and Relax
Part 7 - Conclusion - Job Done