Also see Inlaws, Outlaws and other Relatives.
- I remember when...
- Once upon a Time
- Photographs and Memories
- Remember when...
- Together Again
- A Walk Down Memory Lane
Songs about Family Reunions
- Family Reunion - Missy Krueger (2005)
- My Family Reunion - Soggydawgs (2006)
- Reunion - Peace Family (2001)
- Reunion, With Dinner on the Ground - Frankie Miller (1959)
It wouldn't be a real family reunion if...
- Someone didn't mention the extra five pounds you've put on.
- Four relatives didn't confuse you with your sister, who doesn't resemble you in the least.
- You didn't make more potato salad than most people see in their entire natural lives.
- One of your kids didn't say something like "Mommy, is this the Aunt Martha who gave us the ugly vase?"
- Your husband didn't invite several sets of distant cousins to spend Labor Day weekend at your house.
- By the end of the day you weren't already making plans for next year's get-together.
From east and west
north and south
We're all here.
Taste the excitement.
Cars, van, airplanes and buses
One way or another
We're all here.
Feel the pleasant contented exhaustion.
Mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters
Aunts, uncles, and cousins
We're all here.
See the thread that connects us.
Yesterday's memories we will visit today
And plan for tomorrow.
We're all here
Touching time in our thoughts.
Labeling a Group Photo
When you have a photo of a large group that are not in straight rows it is difficult to label the names so people can identify who is who. One way is to trace the silhouette of the people in the photo on a piece of paper using a light box--or just sketch it. Write the names of the people in the appropriate place on the paper. You can put the sketch in the album next to the photo or you can make a pocket for it. You can put the photo in a photo mounting sleeve and adhere it to the page with a paper hinge with the sketch mounted behind it. You can also copy and reduce the size of the sketch but I would write the names in first.
(from an Ann Landers column)
A lot of people for various reasons say they hate family reunions. I, too, come from a family of bores, hypocrites, lushes and egomaniacs. Family get-togethers have subjected my four children to all of the above, and believe it or not, my kids are all well-adjusted, friendly, kind and non-judgmental. Perhaps it is because they learned at a young age how to deal with relatives who had every kind of flaw imaginable.
Maybe when my kids have to face a boring in-law, an egomaniacal boss, a hypocritical co-worker or a neighbor who is a lush, they are able to cope better than others because of all those years of training at family get-togethers. That's really what childhood struggles are about- training for the future.
One thing I learned from the bores, hypocrites, lushes and egomaniacs is that when tragedy strikes, they sometimes turn out to be the most loyal, empathetic and kind ones of the entire bunch because they understand what it's like to have problems, unlike the 'perfect' woman who wrote to you. Oh yes, we also have snobs in our family, but I love them, too.
Family Reunion Album
Do a double-page spread for each family. Request that each "family unit" send photo(s), birth dates, addresses, full names, etc. You could send pieces of acid free paper and ask them to write old family stories. Complete most of the album in advance and leave room for each family to put their signatures and add some journaling about the photos and memories of the family. Include a page or two of photos of the common ancestors and a family tree and descendant chart. At the end of the album put photos from the reunion. Try to find a place that will color copy the album at a reasonable cost in case others want a copy, or scan it and put it on a CD.
Reunion Photo Taking Tips
- Encourage everyone to bring cameras and lots of film.
- Ask people to send you copies of their more unusual or interesting shots.
- Have disposable cameras so people can take photos while you are busy. You can get them developed and send copies of the best ones to the people who took the photos. Children can add a unique perspective of the activities because of the things they take photos of.
- Have a non-family member take a photo of the entire group. Either a professional photographer, family friend or neighbor. Or ask someone from a nearby campsite if you are at a lake.
- Set aside a specific time for group photos, otherwise it may never happen. Be sure it is in the middle of the day so you include late comers and people who leave early. At a small reunion right before eating works well. If the group is large try immediately after eating before people start to wander off.
- It works well to combine photos with introductions. Call people to the photo area by family groups. Have them introduce themselves and get addresses and other info while the photos are being taken. Have someone compile the info and send it to all the reunion attendees. If you had people sign in when they arrived with name, address, phone number, etc. you could use that sheet for taking notes during picture taking.
- Have someone keep track of the number of the photos they are taking and who they are so you can match names with faces later on. This is especially important at a large reunion where many of the people are meeting for the first time...or the first time in many years. Take a photo of each individual family even if there is only one member present.
- After each individual family group has their photos taken be sure to get various combinations:
-Groups of grown siblings
-First cousin groups
-Descendants of specific people groups
-Generation groups (first, second, third, etc. generation descendants of a common ancestor)
-A photo of the oldest and youngest attendees together
- Get email addresses from everyone that has one. It would be a great idea to have a family website before the reunion. If not make one shortly after and encourage people to scan in photos to display.
Things to Take to a Family Reunion
This list is meant for the people hosting the reunion but a guest might want to bring some of them as well.
- Eating and Serving Utensils - paper plates, paper cups, napkins, plastic spoons and forks, serving spoons, knives
- Cooking Supplies - can opener, measuring cups and spoons, foil, pot holders
- Cleanup - paper towels, trash bags, plastic wrap, dish towels, dish soap
- Condiments - salt, pepper, sugar, coffee creamer, margarine, bread
- Drink - instant tea, lemonade mix, ice cubes, coffee (instant and regular), large containers (for mixing and dispensing beverages)
- Decoration - scotch tape, scissors, balloons, string, thumb tacks, crepe paper
- Misc - masking tape, hammer, name tags, toilet paper, camera, lots of film, small folding tables, first aid kit
- Entertainment - games, cards, frisbee, sports equipment, musical instruments, color books, jigsaw puzzles
- Family History - files, notebooks, photos, charts, pens, paper
- Mementos - for all those who attend (copy of ancestor photo, pedigree chart, etc.) Some people order hats, t-shirts, etc with the family name and reunion date on them. If you do this you will have to take orders and get paid well in advance or face the prospect of large out-of-pocket expenses.
- Prizes - for specific people (oldest, youngest, one who came the farthest, most grandchildren, married longest, also those who helped the most with the reunion). You can also have some "fun" categories (most talkative, best sport, most energetic, funniest, etc.) The prize can simply be a certificate with their name and the category or it can be something donated by family members. You can buy pencils and other small articles engraved with names.
Tips for a Successful Family Reunion
- Don't try to do it all yourself. Ask for volunteers and then don't be afraid to ask them to do specific things. Many people are willing to help but don't know what to do. It's better to make a list of specific tasks and ask for volunteers than just to ask "who is willing to help?".
- For a large reunion have committees for different jobs--finance, food, planning, lodging, publicity and attendance, activities and entertainment, genealogy, cleanup, etc. It usually works best to have the main person in charge handle planning and the people who live closest handle cleanup. If you think it will make people more willing to participate you can form "teams" instead of committees.
- Have one person who is ultimately in charge. It is great to have a lot of people working together but you need one person to coordinate things and be sure nothing is undone and efforts aren't duplicate.
- Plan ahead--the larger the reunion the further ahead you need to plan.
- If this is a first reunion for the family or one hasn't been held in a long time the first order of business is to gather addresses of people who will be invited--usually older family members or those interested in genealogy will be the best source of info.
- Let people know the date as soon as possible.
- Things to consider when setting a date--the climate where the reunion will be held, the age of the people expected to attend (people with school age children might prefer summer), time and traffic (most people have time off on Labor Day or Memorial Day, 4th of July--but there is a lot of traffic). It is best to ask for suggestion about a good date but don't try to please everyone. Select a date best suited for those hosting the reunion and any guests of honor (a couple having a 50th anniversary, someone's 90th birthday, etc.)
- Things to consider when selecting a place--where most of the attendees live, what is meaningful to the attendees (home place of an ancestor or where family members grew up).
- Places some people hold reunions--cemetery, church, homestead, YMCA camp, camp grounds, parks, community buildings, rented tents. If you have the reunion outdoors have plans for bad weather and be sure there are bathrooms available or rent portable ones. In indoor locations check for air conditioning, heat, electrical outlets, cooking facilities, refrigeration, etc. If there will be a lot of elderly people attending be sure the place selected meets their special needs (special diets, wheel chair accessibility, air conditioning, etc.)
- If a family member has a house with a large yard, swimming pool, etc. they might be willing to host the reunion if they are reimbursed for extra expenses like renting tents, portable bathrooms, etc.
- Reserve the reunion site as soon as possible, some places get booked months or even years in advance.
- Give people an estimate of the cost as soon as you have a good idea--and explain what the money is paying for (building rent, food, postage, etc)
- Some families maintain a fund and have enough from the last one for initial costs. Some have members willing to temporarily foot the cost until people pay. If cost is a critical factor have a fund raiser--white elephant auction, sale of t-shirts with family name, sale of a family recipe book, etc.
- Even if you charge per person to pay the total cost set out a donation jar. The money collected can be used as startup costs for the next reunion (deposits, postage, etc.) Some families collect money to make a charitable contribution in the name of an ancestor or set up a scholarship or plant a tree in honor of a family member.
- Send info about local lodging to relatives from out of town. Besides local motels check into camp grounds, college dorms that rent rooms in off-season. Also ask local family members if they have extra room or are willing to put up tents, rollaways, etc. Kids, and even some adults enjoy "roughing it" once in a while so sleeping bags on a porch or cots in a garage are possibilities to consider. Usually rollaway beds and tents can be borrowed or rented.
- Plan activities--especially for children. Try to have the reunion where there is play equipment. If not appoint a committee to bring sports equipment and to plan other suitable activities and supervise them. Often it works well to have teenagers entertaining the little ones--it keeps them both occupied while adults renew acquaintances. It also encourages the shier of the cousins to get to know each other. If enough people are interested you could hold a talent show or have people perform skits. As an alternative you could hire local teenagers to supervise and entertain small children at the reunion.
- Have an official "reunion photographer". (See the Reunion Photo Taking Tips)
- Discuss future reunions--should they be in the same location each year, should they be every year or every two or every five, should they be on the same date each year (first Sunday in June for example) or be decided by whoever is hosting, etc.
Before the reunion ends try to get a volunteer to coordinate the next reunion and set a tentative date for it. Also try to get some volunteers for specific committees. Some families have different branches take turns hosting the reunion. Be sure the next host gets a copy of the sign-in sheets and addresses of those who couldn't attend this time.
- In most cases it works best to sent out two invitation. Either an early postcard with just the date and place and a more detailed invitation closer to the reunion date. Or a detailed invitation three or four months in advance with a reminder post card two weeks before. (Hopefully many family members will have email so you can save a lot of time and cost.)
- In the main invitation provide a detailed map for getting to the reunion. Also provide a time table for the main activities of the day (sign in, group photo, eating, etc.) If people might be in the area for a few days provide info about local recreation possibilities. If ancestors lived in the area provide the location of homesteads, cemeteries, etc. Make it very clear if there is a deadline to RSVP. The attendance committee will probably still need to make reminder calls. Provide alternate ways for people to contact the host--postal mail, email and phone.
- Some reunions are set up so that each branch notifies their own members or each of the older generation notifies their children and grandchildren. This saves a lot of time and money but in some families it doesn't work very well. Perhaps you could send out an early invitation to everyone and leave the reminders to the heads of families--or vice versa.
- Have charts showing the family ancestry and how everyone fits in. Have paper handy so people can provide info on their branch of the family. If possible have different color name tags for each branch of the family.
Be sure everyone signs in--including address, phone number and email.
- Food - If the dinner is catered make arrangements far in advance so people will know the cost and have a chance to get their money sent in. If you have potluck be sure to have a few volunteers who will bring main dishes. If possible get people to sign up for a specific category (dessert, side dish, salad, etc.) It often works best to cater the meat and have people provide the side dishes. If you have potluck make provisions for guests traveling long distance. Either have them bring things like paper plates, or allow them to provide money or pick up foods at a local deli.
- If your reunion lasts more than one day be sure to have a specific time--such as Saturday afternoon--for "official activities" like group photo, family meetings, awards, discussion of next reunion, etc.
- At some point introduce all those who helped with the reunion and any special guests. Ask for info about births, marriages, deaths, etc since the last reunion. Also read letters sent by people who couldn't attend the reunion.
- Don't overdo scheduled activities, especially in a one-day reunion. There should be plenty of time just to sit and talk. Be sure everyone has an opportunity to participate in the activities but don't push anyone who doesn't want to.
- Encourage people to mix and mingle. Talk to a few of the more gregarious family members ahead of time and ask them to keep an eye out for people who are sitting alone or who appear hesitant to approach others. Often just a few words is enough to break the ice and get them circulating. If possible mention special interests of some family members to help people find others with common interests.
- If the reunion lasts an entire weekend you might schedule a visit to a local church that ancestors had attended. If you have a fairly large group who plan to attend the service notify the pastor ahead of time.
- Some families include a work-day in their reunion plans. For example cleaning litter and pulling weeds at the cemetery where their ancestors are buried.
- Try to get feedback at the end of the reunion or later. Ask what people liked best, what they liked least, and things they would like to have added next time.
- Whether or not you plan another reunion try to find ways to help people keep in touch--distribute everyone's addresses, start a "round robin" family newsletter, start a family website, etc.
Using Your Computer for a Family Reunion
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- Try to get email addresses for as many people as possible--this will drastically reduce the cost and time and trouble in planning a reunion.
- Set up a database of names, addresses and other info--use a program that lets you print address labels.
- Use the database to keep track of the jobs of the people who help and the people who RSVP
- Create invitation for the reunion--make them something that works well both in email and printed out.
- Set up a private chat room for members of the planning committee
- Set up a family website. There are places that host free sites where all you do is type some info. If you have a family member who is interested they could set up a site. Also it would be a good collaborative effort for teen cousins (probably a little adult supervision would be in order). The website can be mainly for the planning of the reunion and to display photos later or it can be a continuing project focusing on family history or exchanging news.
- If you have a lot of people in the family, especially elderly members, who don't have computers but are interesting in keeping in contact consider ways they won't feel left out. Perhaps someone can periodically print out info from the website and send it to them or send it in a "round robin".
- Create a family recipe booklet to use as a fund raiser. You can gather recipes at on reunion and sell them at the next or gather the recipes by mail and sell them at the current reunion.
- Create decorative and attractive family trees to sell or give as gifts at the reunion.
- Use your computer for decorations, banners, signs, a booklet with everyone's addresses, name tags, award certificates, etc.
- Have a laptop computer at the reunion so you can add info directly to the database.
Have a scanner at the reunion so you can make copies of old family photos, letters, etc. Consider writing them on a CD to send to people later (perhaps charging a fee large enough to help cover costs from the next reunion.)