Tips for Planning a Family Reunion

When should we hold the reunion?
How do I create the guest list?
What about money matters?
What are some ways I can help make the reunion run smoothly?
What can we do for activities?


When should we hold the reunion?    Back To Top

While most people think of summer as the time to hold family reunions, don't limit yourself to just that. Long weekends during other parts of the year can also be a good time for a family get-together. You can plan around:

  • Family milestones or special day: These types of dates might include a silver or golden anniversary, a grandparent's or elder's birthday, an ancestor's birthday, a wedding or graduation, a date of immigration, a retirement party, a birth, or an ethnic or religious holiday.
  • Time of year/season: Most family reunions are held between June and September because the weather is better, travel is easier, school is out, and summer is the traditional time for vacations. However, some families prefer to take advantage of "off season" value rates, which extend from January to the end of April (see the Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center's profile sheet to view the different rates for each season). You also may consider "long weekends" such as Labor Day since that makes it easier for business people to get time off.
  • Holidays: In Branson, holidays such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day are celebrated with parades, festivals, fireworks, or other exciting activity. You can check with the group sales department at the Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center to see which activities are planned for those holidays.
  • A specific reunion date, weekend, or month: Many families set a particular reunion date they can count of from year to year, such as the "second Saturday in August."

Note: Reunion length is determined by how far the average attendee will travel. The farther he/she travels, the longer the reunion should be.

Now that you have some ideas for dates, choose several different reunion dates that will work for you and call the Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center to check availability, which is especially important if you will be needing a conference room or catering. Once you have the availability dates, you may want to check with significant family members who absolutely must attend (such as grandparents). Now you are really rolling. It's time to nail down some exact dates. You may take the liberty of choosing the dates yourself, or you can send out postcards or letters asking people to mail or call you with their "vote." If you choose to allow people to vote, make sure everyone realizes that "majority rules."

Now you have the majority's first & second choice dates. As soon those votes are counted, call 1-800-942-3553 to reserve a block of rooms for your family. Use the 2nd choice date if the 1st choice date has sold out between now and the last time you called. You may consider a conference room or catering at the Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center. The key aspect of choosing reunion dates is to stick to your final decision. Changing the date will only lead to confusion between family members and overall havoc.


How do I create the guest list?    Back To Top

One of your first tasks is to make a list of everyone to be invited. Do you want to invite all the descendants of great, great, great....or just your immediate family? How many can you track down in an amount of time?

The number of people on your guest list will be a factor in many ways, such as which conference room to use (Cardinal Room, seats 130; Sunshine Room, seats 110; Hummingbird Room, seats 25), how many rooms to block off.

Begin by making a list of people to invite. Contact the people you already have addresses and phone numbers for. The best idea is to put that information in a computer program specifically designed to manage names, addresses, and phone numbers. Microsoft Works is a good one. You can also print labels with this program, which will save many hours of handwriting addresses.

For those family members you do not have all contact information for, ask your close family if they have the information. For free, you can go online and go to Yahoo.com, then select "White Pages." You will need the name of your relative, and Yahoo! will then bring up every single person in the United States with that name. You will then sift through those people until you come to the one you are looking for. If you know what state or city they are from, that will help you narrow your search immensely. As a last resort, you may try a "family tree search," however those do have an expense.


What about money matters?    Back To Top

Your first financial task is to create a budget for anything that is to be paid for or reimbursed by the reunion committee. Make sure you include everything you think of - stamps are an important part of every budget. Plus, it's always a good idea to allow a little bit of leeway in the budget to cover any unexpected expenses.

After you have decided how much this reunion is going to cost, you must determine where you are getting said money. Be sensitive to the financial situation of your attending family members. You don't want to plan a reunion that hardly anyone can afford.

Here are some ideas for collecting money:

  • Charge an admission fee: This is a common way to collect money. The money goes into the "reunion treasury." You are able to finance things like giveaways, food, etc. Charging an admission fee is also effective in reducing cancellations - if people have already given a deposit, they are less likely to cancel at the last minute. Explain in great detail what this "ticket price" does and does not include. Have people mail their fees to you and put the money in the "reunion treasury." Divvy up the cost of a conference room and find out how much it would cost per person for a catered dinner. These are some things that really add a lot to a reunion without costing very much. Do not include the room price in a ticket, because it everyone will make his or her own reservations by calling 1-800-942-3553 and saying, "I'm with my family reunion!" Some people may stay longer than others may since they get the group rate even after the reunion ends.
  • Hold an auction: Everyone in the family will bring something to auction off, such as crafts, surprise bags, fruit baskets, toys, videos, or even used items. A silent auction is easy to maintain with paper and clipboards in front of each product, or, if you want to eliminate the cost of the clipboards, actually have a family member play "auctioneer." This is also a fun family activity to bring everyone together - even with the silliest of items.
  • Raffle: Have a family member or local business donate an item of value to the reunion to hold for raffle, or you can purchase an item from the reunion treasury money. Another idea is this: Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center gives 1 free room after 20 paid guest rooms. So if you have at least 21 rooms in your family reunion, you can raffle that free room- and it's free for all the reunion nights. Tickets should cost between one and two dollars each.



What are some ways I can help make the reunion run smoothly?    Back To Top

  1. Get folks signed in: Set a table up at the entrance where everyone can sign in. A guest book, just like used in weddings, can be used for family reunions. This is nice because you will have a record of everyone that attended. Or, if you have a family reunion picture that was taken at last year's reunion, you can blow it up, mat and frame it, then have everyone sign the matting. This is a unique way to remember everyone. You may want them to fill out a registration form. This is a form which asks for family information which can be sued by future reunion committees or to create a family directory. It works best if you have the form already filled out with the information you know about the family, so that they just have to change or add anything new. Give everyone nametags. These can be computer generated ahead of time, or they can be the blank kind for people to fill out and stick on themselves. Give them any handouts. These should include the festivities for the week/weekend, so that if many people are planning on going to a certain show one night, everyone will be informed so that if they want to come, they still have time to make their reservations. Tell everyone where everything is: bathrooms, indoor & outdoor pool, breakfast area in the morning where they can get their free continental breakfast or a full breakfast buffet (scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, etc.).
  2. Be Prepared: Prepare for the unexpected. Make sure you have back-up plans. If Saturday, the family is planning on renting a pontoon for Table Rock Lake to go out for the day, also think of another activity indoors in case of rain. Have plenty of help. You have the right to enjoy the reunion too, and it's hard to do that if you are constantly running. Plan for everyone else to do things, so that you will not have to. Of course, we know that inevitably, you will be busy no matter what, but this way you haven't obligated yourself beforehand. It's good to be free so that you can resolve anything that comes up unexpectedly. Make sure you have a clean-up crew. Parents freely volunteer their children to help clean-up. If you ask ahead of time, parents will know to stay a little later so their children can help with the final clean-up. Don't expect everything to go as planned. Be flexible to the inevitable changes that take place and you will find yourself enjoying the reunion that much more.
  3. Take Pictures: Most importantly, take pictures. You can hire a professional photographer to take picture or delegate a loved one to snap those shots. Either way, get those spectacular 4th & 5th generation photos. The pictures will help you when putting the newsletter together for next year's reunion and speak of a well-planned family reunion. You will have lots of memories to scan onto your computer and email to friends and, yes, family.


What can we do for activities?    Back To Top

Renting a conference room is a very good idea for a family reunion. Since the point of a reunion is to "re-unite," being able to have a common place to come together and socialize, play cards or other games, and enjoy other bonding activities is really important.

Here are some ideas to guide your time spent socializing in a conference room:

1. Welcome Address: (5 - 10 minutes, max.)
  • Welcome everyone to the reunion and thank them for coming.
  • Mention which different families (or family lines) are at the reunion.
  • Give a general outline of the reunion's festivities.
  • Name and thank the people who helped put the reunion together.

2. Certificates and Awards: Create certificates to give to people. Use your creativity to have fun with this. Possible recognition categories include these basics:
  • The oldest and youngest family members
  • Who traveled the least and greatest distances to attend
  • Who has attended the most consecutive reunions
  • Coupe with the most children or grandchildren

3. Organize Games: Games that involve more than one person at once are wonderful. Place some chairs in front and enjoy these classics.
  • The Not-so-Newlywed game: As a spin-off from the Newlywed game, choose a couple that just got married, a couple married about 25 years, and a couple married 50 years. Be creative with your questions. This is a game everyone will enjoy watching and participating in.
  • Family Lineup: In the game Family Lineup, the aim is to get your team (of eight or more players) lined up according to a single distinguishing characteristic that's called out by an emcee: birth order, age, height, distance traveled to the reunion, alphabetical state of origin and so on. The first team to get lined up yells out its order and wins. For a more challenging variation, ask the teams to figure out their order without speaking.
  • Who is that baby? Have everyone send in their baby picture prior to the reunion. Number each baby picture (Post-It's are good because they don't ruin the picture). Then post all the baby pictures for everyone to see. People will then write down as many people they think that they recognize. The one with the most correct answers wins!



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