10 steps for family reunion success

Kevin Penner

10 steps for family reunion success

Whether you’re expecting a dozen cousins or a hundred relatives, planning a meaningful experience that’s fun for the whole family can be a challenge. It takes time, organizational skills and learning how to smile a lot. These 10 steps will help make your reunion a success—and keep you sane.

Family reunion organized in small steps

1. Procure a family reunion plan

First thing is to pick a date and location. It’s generally accepted to begin planning at the end of last years family reunion.  Booking doesn’t need to happen right away, but it’s great to have a general consensus on a date and location.  Using the telephone and sending out emails with questions to the family to get their say on when, where and what they want.

Gather together a small group to select two or three possible dates and locations. Send your emails asking family members to rate the options. You won’t be able to meet everyone’s opinion but a survey is probably the best method for finding out what works for the family as a whole.

2. Create your team and delegate

No single person will be strong at managing all details of the family reunion. Make sure to get a lot of capable and enthusiastic people in your group to help. As the leader, you’ll oversee the gathering, look after communications between your group, and be the coordinator when it comes to finding volunteers.  When things get a bit touching take on the role of peacemaker.

For a small gathering with 20 or 40 people, you’ll need only a few helpers. Large events will require more volunteers and helpers. Here’s a brief list of family reunion jobs:

  • Money person: maintains the budget, looks after the purchases, keeps the bank account records straight
  • Retreat centres point of contact: Finds a retreat centre that specializes in family gatherings and works with them on accommodations and prices.  Try to find one in a forested area with a number of activities.
  • Food person: Make sure to find a retreat centre that will cater all your meals.  They are generally very reasonably priced and having them cook gives you far more time to catch up on stories and have fun
  • Email and Newsletter person: they keep the family members informed
  • Entertainment person: organizes activities for a variety of ages.  Often your retreat centre will have a prearranged list of fun family activities.
  • Mementos procurement: gathers mementos for display
  • Welcoming committee: have some signs made at VistaPrint, and get’s some simple name tags, create a schedule that you provide to each family member

3. Create a central "go to" person

If you are working with a retreat centre that specializes in family gatherings and they are doing all your catering, the paperwork will probably be at a minimum.  Make sure there is continuous communication between the centre and your central person.  That will ensure the surprises are kept to an absolute minimum and all the main details will be well known before arrival.

4. Stay on budget

Cost is always a factor.  It’s a balance between services and keeping costs low.  Often you can find retreat centres in rural areas that are far lower in costs than attending one near a big city.

During your emailing, asking each family to send in money that will be used for making a deposit to secure your centre.  Keep everyone up to date on the money situation by providing an update with each new email that is sent out.   Keep careful accounting records.

You might be interested in this article 8 things to know about a Manitoba Retreat

5. Have a plan B

If your family reunion will be outside, make sure you have a meeting room at the centre you booked just in case the weather is not the best.  Pack a full box of puzzles, board games and simple crafts that the children can do indoors.

6. Use social media or email to let everyone know

Send out your invitation emails as early as possible.  Including family trivia in with each email will keep the open rate fast and opened by all. Find some new stories to include information about the newest babies or someone recently returning from a trip.

7. Have something for everyone

When booking in at a retreat centre make sure they offer a variety of activities that will be good for the full age range of your group. Create optional activities outings such as golf, a hiking tour, and excursions something historical.

For children keep ideas for both indoor and outdoor. Get your young people involved with your youngest, and it is a great way for the cousins to build relationships.

8. Kick it off with some thunder

Icebreakers or an initial event of some kind can get everyone laughing and off on the right foot from the beginning.

  • Greeters at the entrance to your centre will warm peoples hearts after their long travels.
  • Make sure everyone get’s a written schedule so that no one is outside the loop
  • Use Vistaprint to create inexpensive rubberized banners
  • Have some of the aunt’s bake some of their favorite cookies and hand them out as people register

9. Make sure to share the family story

Get out the old photos, old 8mm film and maybe some scrapbooks or old letters.  Make sure to celebrate your heritage and get some food served that reminds every one of their favorite dish growing up while playing some music that reminds every one of yesteryear.

10. Keep the same pace all the way through the event

While you are at the gathering make sure that everyone’s contact information is updated and a central registry is emailed to everyone so that it’s easy to keep in touch during the remainder of the year.  Use social media to store photos and videos of this year’s event so that you can refer back to them in family reunions years into the future.

Wilderness edge amenities
Group of people

Large meeting rooms


143 guest rooms


Catered meals

Location pin

One hour from Winnipeg

Located in Pinawa, East Whiteshell Provincial Park


25+ outdoor activities

Rafting, canoe rentals, snow boarding, hiking trails, etc.


Team building

Rafting, canoe rentals, snow boarding, hiking trails, etc.

High tempurature

Hot tub

Spa / sauna


Parked car

Free Parking

Fire pit





Walking trails

Convenience store

Convenience store

Credit card

nearby ATM


Golf Course

Umbrella on a beach



Pickle ball

Tenis ball


Plan everything in one place

A super simple dashboard for you and your attendees

Pair of people

Easily share with anyone

Open book

Attendee self sign-up option


Special organizer pricing

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