Edith Wagner, Reunions Magazine:
We could not agree more that communication is key to a successful
reunion. Once you've experienced success, members look forward not
only to the reunion but also to your reminder notes, newsletters,
or postcards. Having your reunion the same place or weekend each time
is no assurance that members will remember. There was never a party
without invitations, and reunions are no exception.
Funding issues have become a thing of the past since we initiated
an auction. Besides giving people a chance to get rid of their white
elephants, show off their creative talents (ceramics, sewing projects,
homemade stuffed animals, dolls, woodworking, and silk flower arrangements)
and culinary prowess (cookies, candy, canned goods, and bread), it
is a lot of fun. Struggling young families can feel free to come and
have fun without paying. We emphasize that attendance is the prime
goal. The "family fund" supplies meat and drinks and everyone brings
a side dish to share.
Wagner, Reunions Magazine:
It sounds like the Hammonds have great participation in their reunion.
The more people are involved in any way, the greater ownership they
feel. This brings more participation and dedication to the event,
as well as dedication to the family. Having an opportunity to share
talents, skills and homemade products adds to the richness of the
reunion and to the personal esteem of each contributor. In this case
individuals can "show off" while donating to an important cause: their
The Hammonds are also sensitive to the needs of members with limited
resources. The youngest families and oldest members are often least
able to afford reunions. Recognizing that and doing something about
it assures greater attendance.
As for activities, people are encouraged to bring treasures to display
on a table reserved for memorabilia. We also play bingo and you'd
be amazed at how thrilled anyone is to win any kind of trinket. In
addition, a horseshoe tournament with cash prizes is a big hit. Children's
games or stories...tug of war...20 questions...these are all things
we've enjoyed. We let the Macarena craze slip by so there is talk
of having a Macarena contest this year. Several, in fact, by age group.
We have presentations and prizes for different things, sometimes
just awarded randomly to someone who came, other times for people
who've come the farthest or are youngest or oldest. We may even announce
the names of all the women over 70 or draw a name for the sexiest
grandmother or some other fun, laugh-provoking idea. It always produces
a lot of joy.
We also take many, many pictures. Some are displayed on the memorabilia
table in future years. Our first video was made in about 1986 when
the brand-new video camera was used by a first-time cameraman. There
are many pictures of walking feet and dizzying cement, but it is still
interesting to see. In addition, we'll collect genealogical information
at the reunion to update the family history.
Wagner, Reunions Magazine:
Planned activities are essential at all reunions. When we hear from
people who fear their reunions are dying we often discover two things.
1) They think swimming and softball are enough to entertain (particularly)
kids and 2) they haven't asked members what they'd like to do. The
same place and weekend are fine from reunion to reunion but not planning
age-appropriate activities can result in disastrous outcomes.
Themes Go Hog Wild!
For a different twist on your usual reunion, have a theme. It's relatively
easy to carry out and is sure to add to the fun.
Jean Wolf Kirschenman says her mom and aunt went hog wild with a pig
theme for their Robinson Family Reunion. Everyone got a good snort out
of it. Invitations were pig cutouts with a pig sticker for each family
to use as a reminder on their calendar. Food related to the theme as
well: BBQ pork loin and ham sandwiches, pork and beans and pig cutout
cookies. Everyone was encouraged, of course, to pig out.
Their program included readings and poems about pigs, plus songs like
Old MacDonald Had a Farm and a hilarious pig round to the tune of Row,
Row, Row Your Boat. There was even a Hog Calling Contest with a representative
from every family. Prizes consisted of pig-themed towels, pictures,
figurines, salt and pepper shakers. Decorations included pig paper towels
in the bathroom, strings of pig lights in the kitchen and a talking
ceramic pig who greeted members as we arrived.
The Potter Family "milked" their reunion theme in newsletters, invitations,
on t-shirts and in goody bags that were filled to overflowing with items
with cow designs on them. Cow jokes and references, posters of cows,
cow erasers and koosh cows, were all part of the fun. The reunion and
its clever theme will not soon be forgotten.
If your family celebrates its ethnicity at reunions, there are many
possibilities. An Irish family might concentrate on the color green
or the Irish flag colors of red, white and green. Or, they could celebrate
St. Patrick's Day even in July or August. Goody bags can include
buttons that reinforce pride and even include in-laws (Honorary Irishman,
Irish for a Day); mugs or glasses; green derbies; stickers for the kids:
leprechauns, pots of gold, shamrocks; chocolate coins from the pots
of gold, shamrock-shaped things like erasers, cookie cutters; maybe
even little shamrock plants that will be a reunion reminder for a long
Every four years you can celebrate the Olympics when you'll find Olympic
logos everywhere from partygoods and decorations to lots of souvenirs,
toys, trinkets and knickknacks. You can also expand upon this patriotic
theme with flags and items with flags on them.
More fun themes:
- Crazy costumes; outrageous ties, crazy sweaters, silly socks, denim
and diamonds, vintage clothing from other eras
- Flamenco fantasy; gypsy music, mantillas, castanets, Flamenco dance
- Pirate party; costumes, eye-patches and sabers, a treasure hunt,
- Old West/Wild West; cowboy garb, ropes and horseshoe decorations,
barbecue on a trail and horses, if you can!
- Gatsby party; everything and everyone in vintage white, with a gazebo
close by, croquet, champagne and a 1920s car, if you can get one.
If your theme includes costumes or some special accommodations, announce
it well in advance so everyone can be prepared.
Holiday Themes a Year in Advance
Planning themes takes lots of creativity ...and time at least
a year ahead to make it a thorough, authentic event. Announce your theme
a year in advance and you give everyone the benefit of "the day after"
the holiday sales. For example, if Halloween is your theme for a June
reunion, give members time to plan their costumes. Use the day after
the actual holiday the year before your reunion to shop. Buy decorations,
costumes, paper goods (plates, cups, napkins), banners, posters, garlands,
prizes, presents...stock up for your theme.
Christmas in July is a popular theme particularly for far-flung families
who know they can't spend the holiday together. By the same token reunions
that celebrate Christmas at Christmas can benefit from the same advance
planning. Everyone dreads the rush the day after, but you'll find nothing
for Christmas in stores in July which, of course, is why advance thought
to holiday themes is important. Auction items can be bought during the
season. White elephants can be chosen and set aside when other holiday
paraphernalia is packed for the next year. At a Christmas-in-July-themed
reunion, you can include decorations, stockings, a gift exchange, cut
and decorate a tree, and even make ornaments.
The Lambert Family Reunion is regularly on Thanksgiving day in Louisiana,
with the holiday providing the theme. They have a handmade family tree
with leaves colored and designed differently for each branch of the
family. Name tags in the same color and design link each member to the
family tree. The family also does memory baskets for special family
elders. Every holiday has reunion theme possibilities, think about yours
Fun Web Site
You don't often cook for a crowd the size of your family reunion? Give
yourself a break and get food catered. Check out www.kfc.com
for portion sizes when you're feeding your reunion. There's also a contest
for reunion hints with food prizes. Take a look!