Here’s my first tip for how to plan a family reunion: Pick a memorable date and stick with it.
For over 50 years, my dad’s family has reunited on the second Sunday of October. It’s typically the end of harvest. The fall leaves *might* (depending on Iowa’s weather) be at their peak colors. And the weather has a 50/50 shot of being nice for an outdoor event.
Our annual fall picnic and family reunion is a pretty simple affair: a big bonfire, all the hotdogs you care to eat, a table of chips and salads, and a table of desserts. We bring our own lawn chairs and drinks. We roast hotdogs, eat chips by the handful, share beer and bottles of whiskey, and have a great time catching up with relatives we rarely see. The highlight for me is the afternoon hayride around our century family farm. Each new generation hears the same stories and is shown the same special landmarks.
It’s one of my favorite fall events. However, there’s a lot more we could do to take advantage of that special time with family members that we might only see one day a year, or every few years.
How to Plan a Family Reunion
Family reunions hold a special place in many people’s hearts. It’s a time for all the generations to come together to celebrate, update one another on life happenings, and share favorite family stories.
However, if your family reunions are anything like ours it can be a struggle to get different branches of the family tree to talk to one another, and nearly impossible to get different generations to share time together. (By the way, we created a handy How to Plan a Family Reunion Checklist that you can download for free on our Resources page. It starts with tasks to begin one year before the reunion!)
In this guide, I’ll give you ideas to ensure your next family reunion creates meaningful connections and lasting bonds across generations. I’ll provide tips for fostering open conversations, explore the importance of sharing and preserving stories, and introduce you to some tools and services that can help you capture your family’s priceless memories.
Bringing Family Together
At the heart of a family reunion is the treasure trove of shared life experiences and stories that bind your family together. These connections are extremely important for all generations, and can even make our children more resilient and emotionally stronger. Why? Because family stories hold the power to strengthen bonds between grandparents and grandchildren, parents and children, aunts and nieces, uncles and nephews, and cousins of all ages! Your family may be crazy, but there’s something wonderful in knowing that they’re yours and will be there for you.
When we acknowledge the importance of family stories, we can set the stage for meaningful connections that will be cherished and remembered for years to come.
Setting the Stage for Connections
To create genuine connections at your family reunion, it is essential to design an atmosphere that encourages open and relaxed conversations. While planned activities and structured events can be enjoyable, start with ample free time for family members to reconnect and catch up.
Here are some tips on setting the stage for meaningful conversations:
- Arrange your furniture strategically. Position your seating in ways that promote conversation and interaction. Create cozy areas with comfortable chairs where small groups can gather and engage in conversation. Have some larger group seating options around a fireplace or scenic view, to encourage face-to-face interactions. Create table signs that promote different groups of people sitting down together: First names that start with A-H. Winter birthdays. Dog lovers. Sauerkraut fans. You get the idea.
- Create conversation starter cards. Place conversation starter cards on tables or near the food area to spark discussions. These cards can be thought-provoking questions or prompts related to your family history, favorite memories, or family members. Make your own cards or buy a premade set, like these.
- Set up a memory-sharing station. Dedicate an area where family members can share and display old photographs, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia. It’ll prompt great stories about past events and memories of family members who are no longer with you.
- Make an accomplishment board. Hang blank posterboards, dry erase boards, or just blank sheets of paper on a wall and encourage everyone to write down something good or exciting that happened to them in the past year (or since your last reunion). Make sure they sign their names so other people can ask them for more details!
- Provide fun, easy game areas. Set up a bags/cornhole game or two. Borrow a Giant Jenga or Giant Connect Four game. If you have outdoor space, consider horseshoes or a croquet set. The point is to offer games that encourage people to gather, engage in conversation, and have fun together. Don’t forget to provide spectator seating for those who would rather cheer than play!
Preserving Family Stories
For the most part, your family reunion really should be all fun and games and good food. The point is to allow people to relax and enjoy one another. However, a family reunion is an amazing opportunity to finally record memories and stories from your family members. One of the simplest and most convenient ways to capture family stories is through video or audio recordings using your smartphone.
There are lots of free and inexpensive apps and tools available to enhance the recording experience and make it even more enjoyable. Consider popular audio recording apps such as Voice Memos or video recording apps like FilmicPro or OpenCamera. These apps offer features like high-quality recording, easy editing, and the ability to add timestamps, ensuring that the captured stories are both well-preserved and easily accessible.
Next, designate an official camera person or interviewer. Choose a family member that most people know. Someone who is tech-savvy and also has an approachable, friendly manner. Set up a quiet area with two comfortable chairs. Casually invite people to the recording area to tell a short story or 10 minutes of family memories. Consider bringing in long-time married couples to interview together. Or brothers or sisters. But limit it to one or two people at a time.
Your interviewer/camera person can ask questions or let your family members wing it. It is helpful to have a few questions for shy or reserved personalities who might need help getting started. Not sure what to ask? Download our free 200+ biography questions to help get you started.
Finally, thank all the interview participants for their time. Tell them how you will share their stories/memories with them, and with the rest of your family. And then, follow-through and do it! This will be a fun and wonderful way to remember your reunion after it’s ended.
Enlisting the Pros to Help
As you consider how to plan your family reunion, think about the importance of capturing your family’s stories and memories. Enlisting the help of professionals can elevate the experience and take the pressure off you! The Circa Legacy team can help you record and save your family stories. With our experience and skills, we can interview your family members, create the audio and/or video recordings, turn those stories into a treasured keepsake, and make it a fun, memorable experience for everyone involved!
In conclusion, as you prepare for your next family reunion, remember the immense value of capturing and preserving your family’s stories. These narratives hold the essence of your family’s legacy, connecting generations and providing a sense of identity and belonging.
To ensure that no story goes untold, consider enlisting the help of the experienced interviewers at Circa Legacy. Having a professional on-site during your reunion adds a unique and invaluable touch to the storytelling process. Circa Legacy will bring their expertise, equipment, and passion for preserving memories, ensuring that each cherished moment is captured with care and authenticity.
Email Keesia at email@example.com to discuss availability and ideas for your next family reunion. Remember, the time to capture these stories is now, while you have the opportunity to gather your loved ones and create a lasting legacy for generations to come!
P.S. The photo above was taken by Kait Miller Photography at my family’s 50th annual fall reunion!