What is a Family Reunion?

Family Reunion PlanningThe first problem for which you must find a solution is just what type of reunion you want to hold. Do you want to deal with the whole extended family (BIG reunion), or just your own little bitsy branch (you know, the Spiffy branch of the family)? Do you want an annual gathering (once a year), once every few years (which would be…uh, once every few years, obviously), or a once-in-a-lifetime event? Perhaps a ‘once upon a time.’ Oh, the choices…

Which Part of the Family Do We Invite?
The decisions on which side of the family to invite, and what type of reunion go hand in hand. Mister Spiffy advises against inviting all 300 descendants of Great Grandpa Jones to a pool party reunion, unless you have a really big pool.

The least planning intensive family reunion is simply invite those living in your own household (“Kids… think of dinner tonight as our family reunion”). OK, so that’s not really a reunion since nobody is being “reunited”. This means you need to figure out “who else” to invite. Start with your closest relatives and work out. Then stop when you’ve reached your limit.

What Type of Reunion Should We Have?
The simplest reunion to host (and fairly cheap, if you have one every year) would be a picnic or barbecue at a family’s home or a nearby park. If you’ve never held a reunion before and are a rookie to all of this, Mister Spiffy says this could very well be the way to go. It takes less time to plan and doesn’t cost a whole lot. It’s the easiest to spring for, too. It can be rotated between the homes of various people over the course of years or you can just find a nice park and hold it there each year. Just make absolutely sure that there are plenty of trees to sit under for shade and for the smaller folk to climb on. Mister Spiffy understands children very well and that they like to climb things – and he would prefer if it were not the rose trellis leading up to the roof.

Other relatively easy-to-plan reunions include a nice dinner and reception at a good restaurant, or maybe a nice hotel and resort. These don’t require a large amount of planning on your part (which has always been a plus for Mister Spiffy). All you need to do is make reservations, plan a few activities for people to enjoy, and notify relatives of the address of wherever you happen to be going.

Family ReunionIf your family is the outdoors type, try out a family camping trip. Make sure the campsite you reserve is large enough for the family and that everyone knows to bring their own accommodations (RV, trailer, tent, or just a sleeping bag). If everyone brings his or her own food (you know, sharing and creating a massive smorgasbord), this becomes very easy to plan and carry out.

But, Mister Spiffy feels obligated to mention – don’t plan this during the winter or rainy season when there will be snow or six-inches of mud on the ground up there in all the campsites. That’s usually a damper on the occasion. Literally.

Big reunions need to be announced very far in advance to give everyone enough time to plan around it and save up. This would include, but is not limited to, reunions at theme parks (like DisneyWorld…Mister Spiffy likes going there), or larger reunions where massive swarms of relatives descend like locusts upon an old family homestead for several very long days. You can also take one of those family cruises if your family wants to pay for it (and pay for it they will).

Most of these larger reunions will require a significant amount of planning by those in charge – and can demand quite a significant outlay of cash from those members attending. Make sure you are ready to spend Mister Spiffy-like hours planning one of these.

Get Acquainted Activities (Icebreakers)
There are a number of activities which are specifically designed to help people get acquainted with each other. Here are just a few of Mister Spiffy’s favorite icebreakers.

The most common family reunion activities are, of course, Mister Spiffy’s favorite – the games. There is a huge variety of games, from sports (like softball and volleyball), to “kids” games (which are especially fun if the adults join in), to board games. Here are ideas for some games you can use.

Sit around in a group and tell stories (preferably embarrassing) about each other. The best story wins! Try to aim for funny and embarrassing (therefore funny) areas. Kids always love to hear grandpa and grandma tell stories about their parents (you know why kids and grandparents get along so well… they have a common enemy). And don’t forget to ask the kids to tell stories – they’re the best way to get the good stories about their parents. Mister Spiffy warns that you may need to act quick to stop them from telling some stories.

Keeping the Kiddies Busy
Kiddie pools, coloring books, and sidewalk chalk are good ways to keep those kids busy when the “growed-ups” want to sit around and talk. Keep plenty of crayons handy to prevent squabbling, and make sure it’s a hot day so kids won’t protest the cold hose water in the pool. And make sure they only use the sidewalk chalk in places the rain can reach (if they color on the floor of the garage, it’s never going to go away).

Craft Table
Provide the supplies and let the kids creativity keep them busy. Set up a table outside and cover it with butcher paper. Then set out construction paper, scissors (round tip), glue, water soluble paint and paint brushes, markers, and other arts and crafts supplies. You can even put out some newspapers and paper mache (remember that water and flour paste)? Mister Spiffy says you can either assign specific activities, or just let the kids do whatever they want with what’s available. Here’s a place to purchase inexpensive craft supplies of all kinds and themes.

Family Memorabilia
Create an attractive display of old photographs and family paraphernalia. Ask everyone to bring something to display. Set aside a table for “missing persons” – pictures of ancestors whom you can’t identify. Maybe someone else will recognize them. Mister Spiffy recalls a reunion where just that happened. You might get lucky.

Group Photos
A family reunion is the perfect place to use that camera that Mister Spiffy is always toting around, just out of sight. Where else could you possibly get a photograph of four or five generations of a family all together at one time? Other groups that Mister Spiffy likes to photograph include: grandma and grandpa with their grown-up children, all the young cousins or all the older cousins. Make sure that after you get the pictures developed, you write down who each person in the photo is, so that twenty years from now people aren’t asking, “Who was that”? Mister Spiffy made that very mistake earlier, when he wasn’t a family reunion expert. If you aren’t a photography wizard, here’s some photo tips to help you become one.

Family Reunion Video
Creating a video of your family reunion can preserve memories that last a lifetime (unless TVs go obsolete sometime soon). There are many options, from recording family members in activities (everyone loves watching dad fall into the mud in slow motion) to interviewing family members and hearing stories all about their past. If you plan to do a video interview, make sure the family member is comfortable with that. Ask questions that trigger memories, and let the family member do most of the talking (reminiscing). If a question appears to cause anguish or distress to the family member, just change the subject to something else. This is supposed to be a fun activity. Here are a few video tips.

Family Map
A fun way to help the reunion guests see where they live in relation to everyone else is to create a family residence map. Honest, Mister Spiffy claims it’s more fun than it sounds. Simply buy a large map of the United States (or whatever countries you and your family reside in). Make sure the map is fairly detailed, so that family members can easily find where they live on the map. Mount the map on cardboard, so that family members can write their names on small pieces of paper and pin them where they live. This doesn’t work real well though, if everyone lives in the same town. Here’s a place to get a large US map.

Family Talent Show
You would probably be surprised at the talents of your various family members. Put on a talent show at your reunion. Make sure you tell everyone about this in the invitation or information packet, in case they need to bring something with them (like their violin, juggling balls, or blowtorch). Print up certificates or awards for the various categories.

Family Skits
Every family has some major league hams in it, just dying to show off their acting skills. Have various branches of the family put on short skits for the whole group. Have each group come up with their own skit, or assign a skit for them to perform. Don’t know what a skit is, or need some ideas for skits? Here ya go.

Family History Research
A family reunion is a good time to get the old family history updated. Ask family members to bring what information they have, so that it can be shared with each other. Create a large wall chart of the family and hang it on a wall. Ask the family to write on this chart with any information that might be missing, including missing people, as well as missing dates and places for each person. That way, everyone walks away a little bit more knowledgeable.

Time Capsule
This is an activity which also needs to be announced prior to the reunion. Ask each family to contribute something which represents themselves or their family to be placed in a time capsule. Choose a date when the capsule should be opened and store it someplace with the instructions as to when it can be cracked open (ten, twenty, fifty years). Mister Spiffy wants to point out that even though it would be fun to open a 50 year old time capsule, those who add to the capsule often aren’t around 50 years later.

Related Party Ideas:

2 responses to “What is a Family Reunion?”

  1. WebDrops says:

    wow these are soem cool suggestions and the games ideas are very impressive… family talent show is one of my favorites at the reunion parties… 🙂 Here i have scribbled something on Family reunion decorations… thought u might be interested in checking it out… 🙂

    Cheers!! 🙂

  2. Shirley says:

    Mister Spiffy, thanks for all the great information you have given out to host a great Family Reunion. Your help is greatly appreciated!

    I will let you know later, how it turned out!

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