With an estimated quarter million reunions held in the United States annually, more and more families are reuniting. But is it right for your group? Here are some reasons why your group should consider a family reunion.
- Reunions create unity among extended family
- Reunions help the younger generation learn about their ancestors, culture and heritage
- Reunions nurture existing family traditions and inspire new ones
- Reunions create new lifetime memories while sharing fond memories and reflecting upon family members who have passed.
If you decide to hold a reunion, you must be devoted to your reunion event from start to finish. Plan early, preferably a year in advance depending on the size of your extended family and distance they must travel to the destination. You must be able to spend time on the project, be willing to take charge and ruffle feathers if need be. Some decisions are easy, other times you feel like you’re herding cats. Be eager to do everything necessary to plan a successful event and keep smiling through the process. The payoff is well worth the pain.
Don’t Do It Alone
Someone must be in charge, but all successful reunions need people to help before, during and after. Ask for help immediately and start forming teams and committees to tackle the various tasks.
Schedule meetings in person if you can. If not, by conference call (try www.freeconference.com), email (can become messy with chains of email back and forth and “reply to all”), Facebook pages/posts and Skype instant messaging/internet phone service.
Stress the importance of members being involved. New people mean fresh ideas. People who work to implement reunion goals will continue to support them. Avoid burnout by sharing the workload – and make it a lot more fun. Reunions are best ruled by consensus. Equality and ownership are great group motivators. Every member owns a reunion equally. Every member has a voice; those who choose not to use theirs make the choice to enjoy what others plan.
Like any major undertaking, it’s important to have a designated leader – who arbitrates final decisions, coordinates details and is always willing to go the extra mile. The leader can volunteer, or be elected or chosen by consensus. Never try to do everything alone. These are job positions that may need to be filled:
Must be willing to gather and nurture reunion members. Able to harness pesky details, capable of comprehending and settling conflicts. Able to act on gut instinct. Diplomatic to a fault. Able to bear early costs such as deposits, printing, copying and postage. Loves hugs.
Collects and spends the reunion’s second greatest asset – its money. Makes and manages budget, keeps books and pays bills. May also handle reservations, registration and purchasing reunion keepsakes.
Takes and maintains meeting minutes. Develops and maintains member/mailing lists. May write and distribute invitations, newsletters, registration materials.
Must be creative. Able to identify members’ talents, skills and desires. Able to plan and organize memorable activities involving participants of all ages. Selects entertainment. May hire photographer. Arranges set-up and clean-up.
Shares a passion for research and reveres the past. Collects and archives group history. Displays family tree, historical wall charts, yearbooks, memory books, albums, historical documents, computer printouts, artifacts, and tells the story.
Committees are crucial and add to the fun and ownership of reunion organizing. Choose committee members of all ages for their expertise. For example, a chef might be in charge of food; teachers enhance the scholarship committee or program planning for kids. Here’s a list of sample committees:
Accommodations. Selects site; makes reservations, site arrangements and welcomes members.
Fundraising. Develops long-range fundraising projects. Plans and stages reunion day fundraisers.
Transportation. Sends directions, maps, instructions, lists of accommodations and restaurants along the way, airport pickup schedules. Makes arrangements to move members during the reunion (hotel to picnic, tours, off-site entertainment).
Food. Plans, chooses and provides food, or works with a caterer or food and beverage professional.
Program. Plans and coordinates reunion activities, registration.
Scholarship. Sets rules and requirements. Reviews and judges applications. Plans and officiates at scholarship awards ceremony.
Worship or Fellowship. Plans, presents rituals, ceremonies and memorials.
Set-up/clean-up. Works very hard on Reunion Day.
Ultimately your committees will develop a consensus for all aspects of your reunion, dates, locations, activities and formal program, theme and budget. It’s important that committees share progress reports regularly and report any complications early on to avoid a disaster down the road.