African-Americans have long prized family gatherings. The family reunion contributes to the survival, health, and strength of their families. They have also helped maintain cultural heritage in uncertain and turbulent times. The Defender shares how families can successfully plan a vacation together for the sole purpose of reunion, reconnection and rejoicing in the opportunity to hang out with extended family and loved ones.
Create a plan
To plan a successful reunion, it’s best to start by picking a date and a location. To do this effectively, gather a committee to select three possible dates and locations. Then, send questionnaires asking family members to rank the options on when, where and what they want.
While you can’t meet everyone’s needs, a survey is the best tool for finding out what works for most relatives.
Recruit and delegate
No one person can manage all aspects of a family reunion. It is important to recruit reliable and capable family members to oversee ‘reunion’ jobs. For example, enlisting a finance director who handles the reunion checking account, maintains the budget, and makes purchases;
A lodging liaison who finds accommodations and negotiates group discounts; and a food director who either works with a caterer or handles the potluck.
Build a budget
Cost can be a huge factor in attendance. It’s important to keep costs down or try to give the family plenty of lead time to budget, at least 6-12 months in advance. Give an idea of the price in the first mailing. In mailings, also asking each family to pitch in a set amount of seed money. This is a good way to offset startup costs.
Prepare a back-up plan.
If the family reunion is initially outside, reserve a pavilion that can accommodate all the attendees in case of unexpected weather. Pack a few board games or crafts for the children to play while indoors.
Get the word out
Sending out invitations as early as possible is key. Ways to do this is by creating a simple flyer, an elaborate newsletter or a postcard. Use mailings to relay information and incite interest. Opt for e-mail if the family is plugged-in to keeping costs down and also make sure to give an easy point of contact.
Set up the family reunion website
Start by adding all family members on Facebook, Twitter, or some other social platform. Also, frequently post status updates to inform the family on the process to keep them aware and involved. But remember that some older relatives may not be as ‘tech-savvy’ as the rest of the
family. Make sure they still get all the important reunion news the old-fashioned way, like in a phone call.
Offer something for everyone
Offering a range of activities to meet varied ages and interests is important. You can also have optional outings such as golf, mall trips or excursions to historical sites. For the older relatives, have a deck of cards or box of dominos available. For kids, aim for a mix of outdoor and indoor activities. Teenagers can organize the younger children’s games
Nip Feuds Quickly
Every family has its drama. Try to see to it that well-known inflammatory topics aren’t introduced. And if an old argument should reappear, defuse the situation quickly. Have a joke at the ready; put recognized family peacemakers on alert; send the squabblers to separate corners to simmer down; or bring the kids in to distract everyone from the tension. Make sure that the memories everyone carries away from the event are happy ones.
Share your family’s story and make memories
No matter how different your relatives are, your family heritage is one thing everyone in the family has in common. Celebrate it by setting out old photos and memorabilia and talking about them. Incorporate family favorite dishes and turn up the old ‘skool’ slide music. Use this opportunity to create a family photo album (everyone brings pictures and create a page), and record a video of reunion footage. Consider investing in a camera that prints polaroid pictures right after you snap a photo, so that you can easily hand them older family members for keepsake.
Maintain the momentum.
After the reunion, plan to keep in touch until the next one. Continue to send family newsletters through your family website. Recruit volunteers to send a newsletter, share photos, or send updates.