Throw a fabulous FAMILY REUNION

Written by ELA LINDSAY   Illustration by West MAÄTITA

Throwing a family reunion can be as simple as gathering everyone at a local park for a barbecue or as extravagant as jetting to an exotic location with the whole extended family. Either way, reunions create precious opportunities for family members to connect, share stories and renew bonds. Here are some tips for creating a fun and memorable event.

Spread the word

From the start, engage as many family members as possible so they’ll feel connected to the event—plus it’ll mean less work for you. Ask everyone to spread the word. Social media makes inviting relatives as easy as posting messages on Internet sites such as Facebook and Twitter, especially for large families or ones that have lost touch. Make sure you don’t forget to invite anyone. You don’t want a family feud on your hands. Online networks such as Ancestry.com can help find people not even known to be part of your family, and websites like Peoplefinders and Peoplesmart can help find long-lost relatives. Creating a family reunion website can make online registration a snap. Websites also provide a place for posting photos and videos. Free website providers include Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr.

Choose a theme

The theme should reflect your family’s uniqueness or values. Incorporate it throughout, in the invitations, venue and food, as well as decorations, costumes and activities. An All-American celebration, for example, can feature everything red, white and blue. Think Fourth of July barbecue with hot dogs, hamburgers and apple pie. Add some flags, patriotic shirts, games and invitations, and you’re good to go. A Hawaiian luau theme can lead to an exotic buffet and prizes for the most outrageous Hawaiian shirts—with coconut-inspired invitations to get the ball rolling. Be creative. Other fun themes might include sports, cartoon characters, TV shows or films, a Mexican fiesta or a country and western extravaganza. A giant birthday bash is a great way to honor all family members at once.

Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year’s celebrations in July can be fun as well. Try going retro with a groovy 1960s theme, including peace signs and tie-dye shirts, or entice folks with a 1970s disco party with happy-face invitations.

Find the perfect spot

Where the festivities take place will depend on budget, where most family members live, number of guests, timing and theme. Beyond The Acorn - Family - Summer 2014_Page_50Some popular ideas are cruises and trips to Disneyland or other family-friendly destinations. Use your imagination. Renting a beach house, for instance, would offer plenty to do, and it’s ideal for families that want to cook and share informal meals together. If traveling is viable, pick a popular U.S. city to explore, or consider tracing family roots and heading to your country of origin. Camping can be a fun alternative—or “glamping,” aka glamour camping, for those who don’t appreciate roughing it—and an all-season resort will appeal to most. Of course, there are always local parks, banquet halls and community centers, or home-hosted events for backyard fun. Some families have a set place (a local park) and a set time (the first Saturday in August) so there’s never an excuse for missing the annual event. Venues should be accessible to all generations, and if lodging is involved, give out-of-towners time to travel. Opt for off-peak times and locations for lower rates.

Plan fun activities

The location will dictate many of the activities—the key is to keep the fun flowing by involving as

many people possible. Games and sports can lead to great interaction for family members of all ages. Picture an egg toss with Grandpa as well as the family’s toddlers all in a row. Keep adults happy by keeping kids busy: Get children involved in crafts such as making keepsake bookmarks for everyone. Supply white T-shirts and colorful fabric markers so everyone can sign each other’s shirts. Icebreakers and family trivia games for old and young alike are a must, as is viewing family videos and old photos. (Be sure to include a mention of this on the invitation so everyone’s sure to bring their favorite photos to share.)

Document the day

Assign someone to take photos or give everyone disposable cameras so they can get those candid shots. Encourage tech-savvy relatives to take snapshots on cellphones, and be sure they upload them to the family website afterward. Set up a video camera on a tripod or have one to pass around so family members can record the fun or tape a message for future generations. Photo booths with event-themed costumes are not only a blast, they give guests fun—and instant—mementos of the reunion. Give everyone a mug with a family theme or other souvenir to take home with them. Consider having T-shirts made with a photo of the original family home, a map of the family’s country of ancestry or a phrase in the ancestral language: Famiglia da sempre (which means “family always” in Italian). Afterward, send or email a video compilation of the festivities or create a calendar with photos from the reunion—and circle a potential date for the next family gathering. Most of all, keep the buzz alive by staying in touch with the relatives until you all meet again.

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