The promise of warm weather and a break from school is the opportune time for many families to reconnect. When your family is as scattered as mine, getting together can be a huge and potentially overwhelming undertaking. To help you prepare your next get-together, I’ve shared some of my best tips for serving up a successful family reunion.
Start by Prepping Your Space.
One of the beautiful things about planning a reunion in the spring or summer is the fact you can use the weather to your advantage. If you have a small space and a large number of relatives, you can always move the bulk of the festivities outdoors. Picnic tables and benches or camp chairs are wonderful for sharing food, conversation, and keeping an eye on the little ones.
If you live in an apartment and don’t have outdoor space you can reserve or utilize, check out your local parks. Some take reservations while others have a first-come-first-serve policy, so do your research as soon as possible after the date for the event is set if you choose this option.
Add Plenty of Good Food.
Sharing a meal is usually an integral part of family time, so plan ahead. Try to over-estimate on the amount of food that you think you’ll need, because the last thing you want to do is send someone away hungry! Be aware of relatives with special dietary needs, such as for medical conditions and allergies, and make sure there are plenty of options for picky eaters.
Consider having willing family members help in the preparation, or in bringing their own signature dishes from home; everyone wants to feel needed and to be a vital part of the gathering. Also, don’t forget to have plenty of disposable containers on hand to pack up leftovers.
Blend in Activities.
Be prepared for when the conversation lulls or the kids get bored by planning a number of activities appropriate to the group as a whole and the ages of the family members. There are any number of games the entire group can enjoy, from three-legged races to water balloon tosses to Pictionary or charades. These require very little equipment, and can be adapted to suit the size and ages of your group members. If you have one available, a fire pit can be a wonderful addition to your party, offering a venue for toasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories as the evening winds down.
Prevent or At Least Chill Conflicts.
The last thing you should have to worry about at your family reunion is a major argument between attendees. There will always be disagreements between family members, but a group party is more than likely not the ideal time to resolve these problems. If conflict is unavoidable, try to encourage those involved to move to another room or space and calmly, quietly discuss their issues. Offer impartial intermediation if needed. Hopefully they can work out their differences or at least agree to a truce. After all, they may only have the opportunity to see each other and the rest of their relatives once or a few times a year.
Enhance with an Archivist.
If your family gatherings are as rare as mine, they feel all the more precious each time you gather. Children grow up and move away, and older relatives sadly pass, so it’s impossible to predict who will make it to the next reunion. Consider creating a Facebook event page or similar where photos and memories can be shared and posted. Put everyone in front of the camera. Elect one relative to film each attendee as they share personal remembrances, funny stories, or nuggets of wisdom to pass on to other members.
I hope you get to spend time with your extended collection of loved ones soon, and that these tips help you host your ideal event. Remember: family is special and irreplaceable, whether you have a large clan by blood, or a few you call family by choice. Either way, they provide us with a sense of belonging and community that fills our hearts and enriches our lives.
Until next time,