Resolve that you'll not organize this reunion alone. Follow up with family members to verify that they're doing what they agreed to do. Remind. Cajole. Urge them to stay on top of what they promised. And keep yourself focused to be on top of details all the time.
Reunions Workbook and Catalog is a perfect checklist for any stage of planning. The fresh new 6th edition will be available in January; see www.reunionsmag.com for ordering information or call 800-373-7933. If all else fails, send a stamped, self addressed envelope to Reunions magazine, PO Box 11727, Milwaukee WI 53211-0727 and ask for a reunion timetable that will at least give you the most crucial steps.
Organizing a successful reunion requires many, varied steps, not unlike a convention. In fact, I've heard from reunion organizers who have actually given some thought to becoming meeting planner professionals after successfully staging their reunions.
Timing is everything, because once you set your reunion date, you know precisely how many days, weeks or months you have to successfully pull off all those details. Starting with a strategy on paper is essential to avoid some complications along the way. Create a calendar starting with the reunion date(s) and work backward to ascertain what you should be doing today. In this column, we'll look at planning for souvenirs, in this case t-shirts, and we'll also discuss how to choose a location.
Planning for Reunion Souvenirs
T-shirts are popular souvenirs, so we'll use that as our example. If you expect to provide t-shirts for your members, you must start early enough to be certain the shirts will arrive in time for the reunion. Nothing is worse than a large order of t-shirts that doesn't arrive in time so you have to wrap and ship them.
Getting the information you need to make a t-shirt order, in fact, should probably be going on right now for a reunion next summer. You must decide if you're going to get everybody's sizes and order for each person or guess how many shirts you'll be able to sell, ordering them and hope you can sell them. In any case, there are many steps and details to consider on your way to having your family posing happily for pictures by next July.
There are many steps and details to consider on your way to having your family posing happily for pictures by next July.
Picking the Place
Unless, of course, your reunion is always in the same place, selecting a location for your reunion may also not be as easy as it sounds and if your reunion is next summer, it is a crucial decision to make now.
If, on the other hand, yours is a reunion that travels, selecting the place becomes part of the challenge. Is there somewhere everyone has always wanted to go? The mountains? beach? a theme park?
Once the place is determined, where will you locate? At a hotel or resort? For smaller families, how about a ranch, bed and breakfast, or inn? Condos are nice because you can do some of your own cooking. Or do you want to go camping? These are all considerations which family reunion organizers face year after year.
Selecting a location for your reunion may not be as easy as it sounds -- if your reunion is next summer, it is a crucial decision to make now.
And no list of possible reunion locations would be complete without the suggestion of going on a cruise together. Don't be put off by prices, because there are many ways you can make a cruise affordable if it is a reunion dream. Cruise prices are all-inclusive so the individual expenses you might incur at other accommodations are taken care of: room, food, activities and entertainment. Stay away from high season, depart from smaller ports, make your own shore excursions, limit alcohol, and some cruises can be downright reasonable. Also, consider older ships which usually have very high quality accommodations and often also have well-seasoned staffs to make cruising a wonderful experience.
Diana Burkhart, of Mount Vernon, Ohio, wrote to describe a location conflict the Wolford Family Reunion was having. Many wanted the reunion in Shelby, Ohio, which is where the majority of Wolford descendants live. However, several years ago they decided to have the reunion in Mount Vernon, near George and Phebe Jane Wolford's homestead where many of their previous 64 reunions were held. I wondered to Ms. Burkhart about alternating between the two places; one year in Shelby, the next in Mount Vernon.
Burkhart also lamented that reunions are getting smaller. But there's also nothing wrong with having a reunion, no matter how small, with those who really want to come. Then, send a summary afterward that lets those not in attendance know they were missed. And what they missed.
With people scattering, it becomes more important to have reunions but perhaps not each year. Or have some special celebrations to entice those who've moved away to come back for a visit. Plan something different or special that will attract the attention of your family...and perhaps attract others' attention as well. Get more people involved in planning and you'll easily have more at your reunion.
With people scattering, it becomes more important to have reunions but perhaps not each year.
Cres Ganpatt, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, wrote when she started to plan a reunion. Her dilemma is that many relatives live in the West Indies while others are in Japan, England, Canada and the U.S. Ganpatt says, "I felt if I plan a reunion for 2005, members will have enough time to save for it." For family so wide spread, this seems like a wise decision.
For we suggested a central location if everyone can afford it. But also thought with many relatives still in the West Indies, maybe the others would like the opportunity to visit there.
Ganpatt also wondered if it would it be rude to have a reunion for her side of the family alone. For family reunions, there are no rules. Each family defines itself. Many family reunions are of people who are descended from particular relatives, such as your great-grandparents. Even though there are no rules, it is often still wise to invite everyone, because in some families, mending fences and building bridges may be a goal of getting everyone together.
"Talk up" Your Reunion
I am always eager to hear from family reunions about all aspects of their reunions and particularly the organizing and planning that goes on before. Share your ideas and triumphs with other reunions in Reunions magazine, its web page, this column and other places where audiences are looking for reunion information/news.
How do you incorporate genealogy or family history into your reunion? Do you have some special ways to display and feature your family tree? Is it on paper or the computer or both? Do you incorporate heritage touring? Genealogy research? What aspects of your family history do you include besides the family tree? Photographs? Movies? Videos? Artifacts? Memorabilia? Activities of your ancestors? Travel to the land(s) of your ancestors? Celebrating your ethnicity?