family gathering checklist

Getting Started

Thinking of planning a family reunion this year? Who are you planning to invite?  Often it’s first cousins, aunts, and uncles, nephews and nieces.  But what about second cousins or those your family may have adopted in as family?  When it comes to family gatherings try to be as inclusive and open as possible.

How much time do you need?

If you have a large extended family it’s nice to plan a year in advance.  For families that are a bit smaller, six months is usually going to work just fine.  Gatherings are often held when school is out to make it work for all the families with school-age children.  An alternative to summer break is using national holidays such as Thanksgiving.

How many days should you plan for?

Generally, weekends or long weekends are a fabulous amount of time to spend together as an extended group.  Sometimes if the older siblings are retired they maybe book to come to a retreat centre or Hotel a few days earlier.  That gives them time to visit and all the young people can join them once the weekend arrives.

When getting organized, you need a central person

When planning a family reunion someone the family is expected to lead and organize is always a nice way to bring confidence to the event.  Next is surrounding that person with the needed helpers.  Support people are always important.  This will form your committee.  From here you can start organizing and delegating the different tasks.  Plan to communicate maybe twice a month.

Where are you going to host?

It used to be that homes where common places to host a gathering.  But houses with a lot of bedrooms have become less common.  The younger generation may be expecting hotel style rooms.  The older generation may not want to do stairs.  What is becoming more and more common is to rent rooms at a hotel or rent out retreat facility.  Both types of accommodations are usually set up for groups of people, providing both accommodations and food services.  Retreat Centres are generally not as fancy as hotels, but a big upgrade from cabins and run a lot less money once you figure in the food, activities, and entertainment.  Retreat centres often bundle accommodations together with catered meals and offer activities and entertainment.

The cost for the weekend

Often when planning a family reunion the costs for each person or family can become important.  Not everyone will have a lot of excess funds.  Families with a lot of children may have a tight budget.  That makes retreat centres an obvious choice for most larger family reunions.  Check Trip Advisor and use Google to find retreat centres in your area.

Location of your retreat centre

Generally, you want to keep the majority of the people driving less than 90 minutes.  If people are going to be flying in, try to find a centre that is 90 minutes is less from the airport.  Often if you can have a few families all land at a similar time you can arrange a shuttle to drive everyone is a large 15 passenger van for a very reasonable fee.

Food and organizing your meals

All that “reunioning” is bound to make people hungry. One of the first things to discuss is food. With the all-inclusive food packages available to groups at the retreat centres, all you have to decide as a group is when you’d like to eat.  A facility like retreat centres charge reasonable meal prices.  Often you can’t even prepare food for the price of their meals.  By comparison, retreat centres often charge closer to half of what modern hotels or mid-priced restaurants.  When making a booking at a catered facility you will need to provide; Meal times for each meal, food allergies or special dietary needs.  Make sure to take down the phone number and email of anyone needing special meals in case there are more questions.

Group Activities

While the whole point of a reunion is to play together it’s bound to happen that you’ll congregate into small groups of similar interests.  Some of the young people may want to keep active throughout the stay.  Others may be happy to visit and tell stories during midday.

When planning a family reunion make sure to include creating a schedule of activities.  Make sure to set up at least the evenings after supper for group activities.  A campfire and storytelling is always a nice touch.  A talent show can be a lot of fun.  Whatever you decide, decide to do it together.

For a list of group activities, you may want to see: Retreat Ice Breakers

  • Have each family make a list of their favorite activities
  • Based on preferences, come up with a few activities that work for the group
  • Make a written schedule for the daily activities
  • It’s a good idea to book guided tours and adventures in advance

When it is all over

After the reunion post up photos and videos.  Use them throughout the year to build momentum for next years gathering.  Exchange contact information and start talking about what you want to do at next years event!