How to Plan the Best Ever Family Reunion
It’s time to gather up the entire gang.
A family reunion is a beautiful thing. It’s a chance for relatives of all ages, generations and locations to come together and celebrate. Make the most of your time together with these expert tips for organizing a reunion. We’ll help you plan, set a menu and keep everyone entertained.
Plan in Advance
Organizing a family reunion takes a lot of work. You’ll want to start planning months—or if your family is particularly large—even a year in advance.
- Get started by picking a date. Communicate with other family members to determine a good day or weekend. Since it’s unlikely that you’ll find a date that works for everyone, try to accommodate as many people as possible.
- You’ll also want to decide if the reunion will be a single-day affair or a longer event. If most of your family is local, one day should work fine. But if many family members have to travel, consider a full weekend.
- Then, determine a location. If a family member offers up his or her home—great! Otherwise, stick to a public space such as a park or lodge. Try to pick a central location that minimizes travel for as many family members as possible. And if you’re stuck, check out the best family reunion spots in every state!
- Once you have the basics covered, send out invitations with all of the info. You could also create a Facebook group or event that makes it easy for people to ask questions and post updates.
- Ask everyone to RSVP. Having a head count will make it easier to plan for the correct amount of food, chairs, etc.
Stick to Simple Meals
When it comes to feeding your family, stick to the basics. Easy comfort food and fresh summertime fare are guaranteed to please. These are the family reunion recipes people will look forward to all year:
- First determine what meal(s) you plan to serve for the reunion. One big meal—like a lunch or dinner—is definitely the easiest, but you can serve as many as you’d like.
- Don’t try to plan the entire meal by yourself. Trying to provide all of the food for the family is both expensive and stressful. Instead, ask each of your relatives to bring a dish to pass (like one of these tasty family reunion recipes!). We recommend providing the main dish, then having other family members supplement with sides, salads, desserts and beverages.
- Buy in bulk. When planning a reunion, save time (and money!) by heading to your local warehouse store. Costco or Sam’s Club are great for stocking up on bulk-sized quantities of snacks, drinks, paper products, etc.
- Does grandma make an amazing potato salad? Or is there a cookie recipe that’s been passed down for generations? The reunion is the perfect time to prepare your favorite family recipes. We’re particularly partial to these retro dishes.
- In addition to food, you’ll also want plenty of beverages on hand. Keep a giant cooler stocked with water, soda, juice and our favorite lemonade recipes. For the adults, consider getting a keg or two.
Make a Plan for Food Safety
The last thing you want is anyone at the reunion getting sick—so make sure you have a plan to keep foods safe.
- Set up in the shade. If possible, keep your buffet in a cool area—like a garage or under a big tree. Get more tips for keeping food cold here.
- Have plenty of ice to pack around dishes, chill meat and more. Not only will food taste better when it’s properly chilled, but you won’t have to worry about foodborne illness.
- Monitor any hot dishes or grilled meats as well. They need to be refrigerated within one or two hours, depending on the temperature, to stay safe. An insulated casserole carrier (like some of these picks) can help.
- Designate a meal time—and stick to it. Set aside two hours for the meal and only serve hot and cold foods during that time. Afterwards, put leftovers in the fridge or pack ‘em up in well-iced coolers.
Ask for Help
Ensuring the reunion goes off without a hitch is not a job for one person. Spread out responsibilities between guests of all ages. Here are some areas you should ask for help:
- Check-In Table: Depending on the reunion style, you may want a table for relatives to check-in before the bash and grab name tags, T-shirts, etc.
- Kitchen Prep: Chopping vegetables and slicing brat buns is not a job for one person. Grab a cousin and catch up.
- Beverage Station: Assign someone to tap the kegs, keep an eye on the ice bucket and re-stock drinks as needed.
- Clean Up: Since it’s arguably the least-fun part of a party, you should not be expected to clean up by yourself. Enlist a group of helpers to break down tables, take out the trash and more.
Keep Everyone Entertained
Sure, it’s fun to sit around and chat. But there are other ways to bond, too!
- There’s nothing more fun than some friendly competition. Set up a bunch of backyard games like corn hole, tug of war or capture the flag and let the family rivalries begin!
- Lots of children coming to the reunion? Set up a kid-friendly zone. This could be a sandbox, blankets set out in the backyard or some other kids-only space. Stock the area with toys and designate a few older kids to keep an eye on the extra-little ones.
- Set up a bubble station for the kids (and adults!). Fill a kiddie pool with water and stir in a few cups of gentle dish soap. Let everyone take turns dipping in their bubble wands and chase the bubbles! For a neater trick, place a hula hoop in the pool and let someone stand in the middle while everyone else slowly pulls the hula hoop up around them—they’ll be surrounded in one giant bubble! Better make sure someone has their camera ready!
Gather Up the Family
Make your family reunion one to remember!
- Once everyone has arrived, take a group picture. It’s an easy way to commemorate the occasion.
- Honor your family’s history by passing around old photo albums, sharing family recipes (these are our favorite ways) or displaying a family tree.
- Foster a feeling of togetherness by making family reunion T-shirts or hats that everyone can wear.
- If this is an annual tradition, gear up for another family reunion by announcing next year’s date and location. This will give everyone a chance to mark the date in their calendars way in advance.