I have a large family. And they are all very…supportive…of me and let me plan birthday parties and the like. Or at least, they did until I went away to school. Now I only see them at holidays and birthdays in the summertime. I usually don’t get to plan anymore because they figure I’m “always so busy” or something. So I decided to host a family reunion last summer. Some of my cousins thought I was crazy; first of all, they still all see each other pretty regularly. I am the only one who really went away somewhere. Second, my family is big. And opinionated. How was I going to make sure everyone had a good time?
The answer was easy. Here’s how I did it.
The first thing you need to do when you are dealing with a party for a large group is to set a date. Set it as early as you can. Be prepared to badger people and remind them. Try to schedule it around a weekend or a day that the majority of people will have off. Once you have a date that most people can agree on, figure out where you are going to have it. Think logistically. If you have a big backyard but only one bathroom, inviting 50 relatives to your house might not be the greatest idea you’ve ever had. You can try your luck renting a portapotty or you can have it somewhere else. You also have to think logically. If you plan an outdoor BBQ, will there be a sheltered space for everyone if it rains? Are there going to be small kids there? If so, is it child-friendly? Is there anything to do, or are you planning on feeding everyone and then sending them on their way? Questions like these will help you narrow down the type of location. Once you know what you need in a venue, it is easier to find a good place to hold your reunion. A centralized or familiar pace works best. I decided to rent a pavilion on a nearby lake.
Next, you have to decide what kind of entertainment to provide. When you have something like a family reunion, there are many different age groups and people with a variety of interests. In order for people to have a good time, you need to provide different types of activities that will appeal to the majority of attendees. This is your family, so think about the things they would want to do. Sometimes it is as easy as arranging the seating into little conversation pockets so they can chat in small groups, or as big as hiring a DJ. Luckily my venue choice helped me out with most of that. It was near a playground, had kayak rentals for the adventurous types, and there was a volleyball net. There was a covered area where we could eat and be free from the sun and bugs.There were also clean, indoor facilities that would accommodate everyone. I decided on a potluck so nobody felt too put out making the all the food and I didn’t have to get money from everyone. I checked with everyone to make sure there were no duplicates (otherwise we would have gotten four serving bowls of Great Grandma’s Potato Salad. One’s enough, thanks) and gave suggestions when people didn’t know what to bring.
Then you have to set the mood, so to speak. I didn’t have to do a lot of setup or provide much in the way of decorations. I made a family reunion banner as a kind of as a photo backdrop and that was it. I lucked out in that it was a nice day and so the lake looked more beautiful than anything I could have hung up. That’s more of a preference thing I think. It is another time where you have to know your crowd and whether they are going to be looking for tablecloths and centerpieces or if they expect a piñata or fireworks.
Just a warning, though: if you do too good of a job, your family might be like mine and expect it to be an annual event!