Family… ASSEMBLE! Woodloch’s Family Reunion Planning Tips
~shared by Joseph J. Ranner
You might not have it all together… but together, you have it ALL.
No matter who you are or what you have been through, it’s safe to say that once life begins, paths veer off in all sorts of different directions. Our experiences bring us to all different places for all sorts of different reasons, yet one thing will ALWAYS remain the same: your family (for better or worse).
Wherever we all branch out to, there’s no denying that everything eventually leads back to our roots.
Yet sometimes, as way leads on to way, we find ourselves going months, years and sometimes even decades without spending quality time with those most closely related to us. And in the process, you deny yourself a portion of your own identity. Your family is- and always WILL be- your best link to your own past, and also the most likely to stick with you through stormy seas in the future.
Thus, the appeal and need for multi-generational family reunions.
Of course, like everything worth doing in life, it’s going to take some good old fashioned WORK to make your reunion everything that it can and should be. Whether you are hosting a small gathering or swinging for the fences with 100+ relatives, know this from the get-go: you don’t have to do it all alone!
You’re not the only one in the family (clearly) so you shouldn’t have the sole burden of arranging everything yourself. So before any decisions are made, form a Reunion Committee of sorts to split up the planning. We get the distinct feeling that you will thank yourself down the road.
And you know what? Since we feel like guests are a part of our “family” as well… we’re going to hook you up with a few helpful hints to make your reunion one for the ages.
First things first: establish date, guest list, and location– a seamless reunion is planned an awful lot like a wedding (hopefully at a substantially lower and divided cost), but approach it with that mentality. Broach the subject during a larger gathering (birthdays, anniversaries etc.) and get the ball in motion.
For a large reunion (for argument sake, let’s say over 30 guests) we’d suggest planning a year or so in advance. That might seem like a large amount of time but in reality it really isn’t. Kids play sports. Uncle Marshall and Aunt Lilly are going to Italy in the spring. Cousin Eddie bought an RV and is going cross country for the holidays. You get the picture. Life happens and pinpointing an exact date is going to be a challenge. HOWEVER, it is imperative that once you find a date, you need to stick to your guns. In a perfect world, everyone would be able to attend, but we all know how that goes.
Again, not that any of has the power to control this, but weather should also factor into the equation. If you’re planning a reunion in the middle of winter in the Poconos, there’s a chance there could be some snow, for better or worse. This needs to be considered when mapping out your event, especially for relatives traveling a great distance.
Before any invitations are sent out at all, have a clear and defined list of guests. Are we making this a “Smiths Only” affair? Are we sticking with just Grandma Walton’s kids and grandkids? Or is the entire town of Hawley going to be invited? Take the time (with your helpful committee) and create an established guest list.
Again, budgets need to be considered for this. While reunions are nice, they certainly don’t materialize out of thin air. And we all know THAT relative that simply lacks the social graces to chip in and contribute to the pot when it’s necessary. You might be faced with some tough decisions… choose wisely!
A very large part of the success of your reunion rides on venue selection. Accommodations? Dining arrangements? Activities? Travel decisions? They ALL rely on where you decide to hold your event. (All of these decisions are streamlined when you book your reunion with us… just sayin’.)
Again, we live in a world that is far from perfect, so with venue comes the consideration of costs. Is it feasible to have a relative host the event at their home? Might you seek out a vacation home or possibly a resort to host your affair? Are you going to board a plane and go all out in Tahiti? All families are different, and there are pros and cons to each scenario. You need to talk about this, come up with a concrete plan and book.
Once all of these decisions have been made, draft up some save the date invites and send them in the mail. Coordinate group emails and group chats on Facebook to keep everyone in the loop on things.
Tips from the Pros
We’ve hosted our share of family reunions (big & small with all sorts of “families”) and we’ve learned a few things along the way.
Plan… but don’t overplan.
While it certainly is important to make sure you’re getting the most out of your time together, you just might make people hate you by becoming a micro-manger. Be flexible and acknowledge the fact that you’re working with a diverse group with diverse interests. It’s OK to split up for portions of your event. We suggest publishing an activity sheet (maybe even a bit like ours!) that lays out the imperative must-attend events and letting family members choose how to use their time. As a matter of fact, you can even put together your own events in the style of Woodloch. Create your own Scavenger Hunts, set up relay events similar to our famous Olympics, or even a Bakery War of some sort… easy enough to scale down for “home editions!’
Besides, we all know that Mother Nature will do whatever she pleases, so things might have to vary. Don’t stress- take it as it comes and enjoy the moments. Adults may wish to consider babysitting services at some point- adults need to unwind and be with just “grown ups” for a night or two. Along those lines, consider hiring a photographer to capture candid moments and group portraits. Money well spent.
They come in various forms, but mainly consider physical and dietary issues your family members may have. Ski mountain retreats are beautiful, but it would be somewhat sad to have a good portion of your family not be able to traverse the hills because of walking disabilities. Furthermore, there’s nothing more annoying like booking a great restaurant and finding out your sweet mother can’t enjoy a meal due to lack of gluten-free options. Issues like this are easier to deal with early in the process than they are at that moment!
Remember WHY you are there.
In the mix of all the planning, banter, back and forth and traveling, sometimes the reasons are unfortunately lost. You are there to spend good quality time with those you hold to be important in life- make the most of it. Ditch the cell phones, laptops and tablets- trust me, they will be there when you return back to life as usual. Vacations are best spent wireless.
Catch up with your relatives. Now is the PERFECT time for some of the younger family members to hear stories from Grandma and Grandpa (possibly embarrassing ones about their parents… those are always good). Maybe Uncle Jesse and his college bound niece get to have a good heart to heart, chock full of advice that will help her in the coming year. These little moments, as trivial as they might seem at the time, are going to be talked about and remembered for years to come…