Start planning next year's family reunion now

Start planning next year's family reunion now

(Derek Hatfield/

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SALT LAKE CITY — Fall is in the air and the holidays are on the horizon. Soon it will be time to think about trick-or-treaters, your favorite Thanksgiving recipes, and how to decorate the Christmas tree.

But if you're thinking of holding a family reunion sometime next year, now — before the holidays are in full swing — is the best time to start planning how it's all going to come together. Here are three reasons why:

1. Pick the perfect date

Planning six to nine months in advance gives you the jump on choosing a date that will accommodate the majority of your guests.

With vacation schedules, seasonal work obligations, sports and camp commitments, and other activities, summer days tend to fill up fast. It's often hard to find quality time for your own family to spend together — and the more extended family members you add to an activity, the more difficult it becomes to try to schedule a date to accommodate everyone. By beginning now to plan your reunion, you'll have plenty of time to toss around options for dates.

Start by determining what months are best for you. Correspond with heads of household to come up with a ballpark plan; break it down into options of months and days and come up with at least three or four alternatives. Often, it's nearly impossible for a large group to agree on one date that fits all needs and schedules. Some families avoid scheduling hassles by opting to hold their reunion on or near specific holidays so everyone can anticipate the event and know how to schedule accordingly from year to year.

Reunions, and the planning that goes into them, demand flexibility: doing the best you can and making the best of everything — and everybody. However, when it comes to setting a date, it's best to choose one when the majority can attend and stick to it. If you repeatedly change dates in an attempt to accommodate the whole group, you may well find that after all your hard work many people decide they can't attend anyway.

After options have been discussed and debated for a few weeks, set a firm date and let individuals and families work toward being there. Setting the date six to nine months in advance allows plenty of time for everyone to rethink or reschedule other obligations and commitments.

2. Time to create a committee

Keep your stress level low by putting a committee in place.

Family reunions are a lot of fun — and a lot of work. If you're the one in charge, enlist as many family members as needed to help: a group of individuals who can easily stay in touch with one another over coming months. By putting your reunion committee in place now, you'll keep your own stress level low as possible as the reunion approaches. Your committee can include:

  • A chairman (usually you) who keeps things moving forward, keeps the passion/purpose/goal/objective of the reunion at the forefront of planning.
  • A secretary who compiles contact information for attendees, sends out invitations and tracks RSVPs.
  • A finance chairman/treasurer to track budget and receipts and help with any needed fundraising efforts to cover costs.
  • A location coordinator who helps pin down possible places to hold the reunion and makes reservations.
  • A food coordinator who works with the chairman to oversee menu planning and shopping, and delegates responsibly for decorations, food preparation, serving and cleanup.
  • An activities coordinator. A goodwill ambassador (or two) who, above all, has patience and a good sense of humor.
  • A medical specialist who has training as an EMT, or a family member who is a doctor or nurse. No one wants to think of accidents or illness at a family gathering, but from bug bites to sunburn or sunstroke, skinned knees to stomach upset, it's good to have plan in place.
Use your committee to help make decisions about reunion souvenirs, like T-shirts or hats. Have your secretary set up a family website or blog, or create a family newsletter to keep everyone up to date. Use your activities coordinator to help plan crafts for all ages, and to appoint photographers and videographers.

3. Go where you want, do what you want

Planning several months in advance ensures you can lock in reservations for the places you really want to stay and firm up plans for the activities you most want to do.

What kind of reunion do you want to have? Something exotic, like an overseas cruise? Maybe something fun or relaxing at a popular resort destination. Do you yearn for adventure? Or perhaps just a simple, laid-back event where you can share family stories and photos? Where will you hold your reunion? How long will it last? What activities, contests or games will best complement your event? What kinds of food will be served, when and by whom? What does your purpose, guest list, duration, theme and budge allow for? Will you eat meals at a restaurant or undertake cooking yourself? Now is the time to ask such questions and to gather ideas for making your reunion truly memorable.

If you wait until just a few months before your reunion to begin making reservations, you'll run the risk of being disappointed. Fox News travel editors say you should get a head count and make lodging reservations at least six to nine months prior to your reunion; plane tickets should be purchased four to six months in advance; and activities should be booked at least two months in advance. It's also a good idea to double-check your head count one month prior to the event. Plans for transportation from the airport and car rentals should be securely in place at least a week in advance. Fox also points out that apps such as TripIt or Google docs can help you store and share important dates, times and ticket info.

Starting now to plan your reunion also gives you ample time to decide how it will be funded. Most often, reunion costs are split as equitably as possible among those who will be attending. With the help of your committee, settle on what kind of budget will be available and which costs will be split by attendees or shouldered by individuals and or families.

When the holidays arrive, you'll have the framework for the reunion in place. As everyone gathers at Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can take a few minutes to address questions and subjects for discussion. Then, by the time the new year rolls around, you'll already have a jump on making sure your family reunion is destined to be a success.

Lori Nawyn is the author of the recently released inspirational book "Simple Things" and "The Great American Family Reunion Cookbook." To learn more about Lori, her art, and books, please visit her website

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