Successful Family Reunions
|Whether planning a reunion for 10, 50 or over 100 relatives, MyEvent.com can provide you with numerous tips and secrets to guarantee you the best possible family reunion. For the last 10 years, MyEvent.com has helped thousands of families plan and reconnect with their relatives by hosting Family Reunion websites. Organizing a family get-together can be time consuming and require significant planning, however the process can be made fun, simple and stress free using MyEvent.com to build a reunion website.
|By working closely with our client’s, we have gathered the necessary knowledge to advise you on all the do’s and don’ts of reunion planning. This book will provide you with a greater understanding about what is involved, and the tools you will need, to plan a family reunion. We hope that anyone in charge of planning a family reunion will gain a lot of information from this book in order to help you achieve a successful and well attended event.
|Organizing a family reunion can be a lengthy and challenging task, but by using the suggestions in this book, your job can be made much easier. We will provide you with everything you will need to tackle your family reunion from start to finish. The information in this book will be beneficial whether you are only considering having a family reunion or if you have already started planning. In either case, you will find great tips to make your reunion a success. The ideas in this book apply to reunions as small as 20 people to as large as over 200, and are suitable whether it has been 10, 20 or 50 years since your family has all seen each other.
By continuing to read this book, you will learn critical information about how to stay on track, within budget and various methods to connect and communicate with your relatives.
Family Reunion Planning in the Age of the Internet
|The process of planning a family reunion in the 21st century has been made a great deal simpler primarily due to the Internet. The web has made it much easier to plan a reunion, search for lost relatives, collect information, and enhance communication amongst family members.
In the past, creating a website required a lot of technical skills and knowledge that the average person did not have. Thanks to “do it yourself” event website builders such as Myevent.com, the task of creating a family reunion website is straightforward and uncomplicated.
The best way to update, inform, gather feedback and stay in touch is to build a website exclusively for your family reunion. Your website will allow
|you to share your family history with present and future generations, and serve as an efficient means to disseminate event details, share photos and stories, sell tickets, collect donations, and so much more.
We hope that this book will help you plan a successful reunion whereby you can reunite and stay in touch with all of your relatives for many years to come.
PART I: HOW TO START PLANNING A FAMILY REUNION
Chapter 1: Getting Started
|Whether your family reunion will reunite 20 or 200 people, the best way to assure that it is a success is by starting to plan far in advance. Before spending a large amount of effort and time in putting a family reunion together, you should first make sure that your family members would be interested in reuniting. You may not have the contact information for your extended family, so you can start by asking your closest relatives for their input. You should consider conducting a survey to gather the opinions of potential attendees. By letting people know there is a reunion in the works, you will create awareness and excitement about the event. The survey responses will help you learn about who would want to attend and the preferences of your relatives in terms of date, type and location for the reunion. This is a good time to ask those willing to attend to join the planning committee. This survey will allow you to start building your potential reunion guestlist.
When To Start Planing
The earlier you invite people, the more likely they will be able to attend. When to start planning depends on various factors such as; how many people will be attending, the location, type of reunion you will be having and the activities and entertainment that needs to be arranged. A family vacation, for example, will require far more organizing and coordinating in comparison to a BBQ dinner. Ideally, the initial planning should commence 12-18 months ahead. You should have the finalized date of the reunion set at least 1 year in advance to make sure everyone marks their calendars.
TIP: Regardless of how early or late you begin planning your reunion, you should always send out reminders and emails to keep the reunion in the minds of your relatives.
Who To Invite
Ideally you want to invite everyone to your family reunion, however this is not realistic. Some of the first questions you need consider are; do you want one or both sides of the family to attend and should you invite just your immediate family, such as parents, grandparents and grandchildren, or have a big reunion with your whole extended family including aunts, uncles, first cousins, second cousins, etc. You can start off small for your first reunion, and add more extended family in later years. It is important to establish who to invite as how many relatives you have will effect:
- Amount of planning time required (will you have to search for relatives?)
- Location and size of facility needed
- Type of festivities, entertainment and activities
- Cost per family
TIP: As soon as you decide who to invite, begin to make a list (include relative, spouse, children, grandchildren.) Next you need to get in touch with those you already have addresses, email or phone numbers for. This will make creating a guestlist easier later on. You can also ask your relatives for the contact information for those you are missing or not aware of.
How Long Should It Last
The length of a reunion can vary greatly. It can take place over one afternoon or throughout several days. The rule of thumb is the farther people have to travel to attend the reunion, the longer it should last. If everyone lives close to one another, then one day should be enough time to reconnect, however if many relatives are travelling to attend, the longer the reunion should be to justify the travelling and lodging expenses.
The time that has elapsed since everyone has seen each other can also help determine the length of the reunion. If your family holds an annual reunion, then one day or one weekend is sufficient, however if it has been over 10 years, then a longer reunion is warranted.
|When you are having your reunion is also a factor. If your reunion is planned over a holiday, such as Thanksgiving or Memorial day, your relatives will presumably want to make a mini vacation out of the long weekend therefore the activities and duration should be planned accordingly.
Cost (hotel, car, meals) and accommodations must also be considered when planning the length of your reunion. If you are organizing a large one week reunion, it would be quite difficult for everyone to share one cabin for the entire week. The longer the reunion, the more expensive it will be as it requires more meals and activities (and longer hotel stay for travellers.)
Chapter 2: How to Get Organized
FORM A COMMITTEE
Why not get your family members involved in the planning process? Not only will having a planning committee make your life easier, but it will allow members to feel as though they have contributed the reunion’s success. If your reunion is small (>25), then a single person committee is sufficient, however the bigger the reunion, the larger the committee should be. You can start by recruiting those in your immediate family, and then request aid from those more distant relatives.
Your committee should be made up of people with different strengths, and their delegated task(s) should match their interests and abilities. For example, the accountant of the family should be in charge of monitoring the financial expenditures. There should be at least one person in charge of all major aspects of your reunion including; budget, location, invitations, decor, planning activities, travelers accommodations and more.
|Time management is crucial to success. The best way to stay organized is to establish clear goals and deadlines. Committee meetings should be held periodically to follow up, track progress, and make sure everyone is performing their tasks. You need to mark dates in a calendar, send out reminders and ensure that everyone is meeting their responsibilities and cut off dates. You must keep your committee motivated by providing them with regular progress updates, offer support and guidance, and reminding each member of their assigned task.
CREATE A REUNION WEBSITE
“Utilizing Myevent website builder has proved to be one of the easiest tasks in the planning of my family reunion! Not only does the website builder provide all the tools and resources necessary to create an interactive site, but some of the features surpassed my expectations. Namely, being able to accept donations and payment online, the family tree maker, and a plethora of designs from which to choose. I highly recommend Myevent website builder and look forward to using this service for subsequent family reunions and other events!”
A simple solution to alleviate the hassles of organizing and arranging is to create a website dedicated solely to your family reunion where all the planning, connecting and communicating will take place online using the helpful built-in tools offered by MyEvent.com. Today it is fun, fast and inexpensive to make a website made specifically for family reunions. You can quickly and easily create one by visiting celebrate.myevent.com. Your family reunion website will be the go to place to learn about all the details pertaining to the event such as where and when the reunion will take place, as well as act as a means to connect, share important information, and stay in touch. MyEvent.com offers a 7 day free trial and our website builder is specifically designed for people who have no technical skills. MyEvent.com has extremely helpful toll free and online customer support that is available to help you 7-days a week. Your website will include all the communication, planning, design, and e-commerce tools you need to easily customize and update your website at any time to make your reunion a true success.
How a website will enhance your family reunion:
- It is a great way to create interest and increase attendance.
- Displays reunion information such as maps, accommodations and event details.
- Effective way for family members to receive reunion updates.
- Enhances communication amongst relatives, before and after the reunion, by creating a private social network.
- It is a simple, convenient and secure way to get relatives to register and buy tickets online.
- Raise money for family members in need through online donations.
|Your website should be developed 6-9 months prior to your family reunion. Seeing as it is so easy to use and build, designing and continuously updating the website can be task assigned to a committee member. The website will be the one place where all of your relatives can go to learn and share information, therefore the more content you put on your website the better.
The welcome page of your website should include a message that reveals that a family reunion is being planned.
|Your relatives should be encouraged to keep visiting the website for updates, register on the online family page, and tell other relatives about it. In order to get your relatives to keep returning to the reunion website, you can continuously post videos and photos and activate your “Who’s Coming” page to demonstrate who will be attending the reunion. Having a blog is also an interactive way to foster online dialogue and keep your relatives involved and informed. Your website will be a great way to spread the word, create interest and increase attendance.
Best things a website will do for your reunion:
1. Create a Communications Hub
Your reunion website will be the go to place to share and collect information and communicate with one another via private messaging, message boards and blogs. The website will alleviate stress and save you time and money as you no longer have to worry about constant phone calls and postage, as everything can be completed online. Your website will also allow relatives, who can and cannot attend, to stay in touch before and after the reunion.
2. Increase Attendance
By promoting your reunion using broadcast emails and built in social media sharing tools, you can reach more relatives and generate more interest in your reunion. By making it easy to register and pay online, more of your relative will be willing to attend.
3. Produce nostalgic sentiments
Pictures, videos and stories from past generations and previous reunions can persuade your family to attend. Creating a family tree is a great way to learn about your heritage.
4. Save time and money
Having e-commerce tools built into your reunion website allows you and your relatives to register, make payments, and fundraise all online using your credit card. Along with low transaction fees, MyEvent.com handles everything for you so you will never have to worry about manually collecting payments from your family members or about checks getting lost in the mail.
MYEVENT.COM BUILT-IN FEATURES
|• Custom designs and solutions
You can choose from hundreds of pre-designed family and located themed templates or you can personalize your family reunion website by having one of MyEvent.com’s designers create custom headers and images of your family which can be used throughout your website.
• Online polls
In order to gather opinions, preferences, involve everyone in the planning process and ensure that the largest number of people can attend, you can create an interactive poll on your reunion website. The responses and suggestions will facilitate you to create an itinerary that satisfies the whole family.
• Register online
On the family page of your website, every member of your family can register online to create their own personal profile in order to share information regarding occupation, marital status, number of children, children’s names, birthdays, etc. This will create a private social network as each registered person can send private messages to one another, which is an efficient way to enhance communication amongst your family.
• Upload photos and videos
Videos and photos albums are a great way to share memories. A great way persuade your relatives to attend is by creating nostalgic sentiments with pictures, music and videos of past reunions or of previous generations. A picture can be included with each profile created. A Then and Now page can feature past and present photos which is always amusing for website viewers.
• Family tree
Learn and share your family’s history and heritage with friends and family all over the world.
• Memorial page
Respectful way to remember and celebrate the lives of lost relatives. Visitors will be able to leave tribute messages and post photos they have with the deceased family member.
• Budgeting tool
This allows you to monitor and keep track of your expenses and calculate the cost-per-ticket for your reunion.
Useful way to remind your family about upcoming events, when to RSVP by, when each activity will occur, as well as holidays, birthdays and other celebrations. You can enter information such as when you need to book certain vendors by and the calendar can serve as a reminder to keep all committee members on track.
• Event details page
Clearly display all the information relevant to the event - location, parking instructions, map, date, etc.
You can add a map for any destination simply by entering the civic address. You can include more than one map which is helpful to direct family members if your reunion takes place over several days.
• Travel page
Will provide useful information for those travelling to attend the reunion. Can include accommodation options and prices, where to rent a car, things to do in that city, restaurants to try, etc. You can even have a link on your website to the city guide where travellers can learn about the best clubs, museums, shopping, entertainment for children, and more.
• Message board and blogs
Gives everyone a chance to leave a comment and makes suggestions before and after the reunion.
• Selling tickets online
Offering potential attendees the ability to purchase their reunion tickets online with their credit card is not only convenient, but a great way to increase attendance and reduce your workload.
• Send & track invitations
It is easy to send out invites to all potential guests using the broadcast email tool. You can also send out reminders and thank you letters. Being able to do everything online makes it easy to maintain an upto-date guest list.
The RSVP page is a good way to know who intends to come to the reunion. This can give you important planning information, and give you a list to follow up with. A Who’s coming page can be activated to inform others who will be attending the event.
• Send broadcast emails
Continuously update guests on event details or important information at any time. Also a great way to send out follow ups, reminders and thank you notes.
• Accepting donations online
MyEvent.com websites have donation pages integrated within them, which allows for donations to be made online, using a credit card, to support the reunion, a particular cause or family member.
• Custom forms
Build any type of form to collect information from your family members such as registration forms, menus, reservation forms, order forms, and surveys. This allows you to ask the questions and receive responses that are relevant to your reunion.
• Social media capabilities
Promoting your event on Facebook and Twitter will drive more visits to your website and help you extend your reach and increase attendance and interest. It is also a great tool to locate and get in touch with relatives.
• Lost Relatives page
A page on your reunion website whereby others can see who is missing and try and help find them.
• Site on CD
You can purchase a keepsake of your reunion website, mailed to you on a CD, so that you always have the photos and comments from family members
Create a list of all the questions you are asked most frequently, and answer them. This will save you time answering emails and phone calls.
• Unlimited pages
Add an unlimited number of pages to your Family reunion website, and give it any title you want. Examples of additional pages can include; family recipes, pets, hobbies, meet your planning committee, scholarships funds, etc. Regardless of how big or small your reunion may be, MyEvent.com
websites have built in features to make planning and reconnecting with your faily fast and easy. Using the integrated social media capabilities, you can promote your reunion by linking your facebook and twitter pages to your website, which will drive more visits and increase awareness, ticket sales and attendance. MyEvent.com makes it seamless to accept payments and donations online at an affordable rate and has numerous certifications to assure online security and privacy. MyEvent.com has toll free customer support 7 days a week as well as live chat, email support and an excellent help center.
In order to get some great ideas and guidelines, you should take the time to explore all of the features on the main family reunion website at celebrate.myevent.com. Click on features to see all that you can do with your reunion website, and click on testimonials to see how MyEvent.com has helped thousands of families reunite.
PART II: SET THE TONE
Chapter 3: Picking And Planning
|Reaching a consensus on a date and place does not have to be difficult. Unfortunately you will never be able to satisfy everyone, but an efficient way to learn the availability and preference of potential attendees is by creating a poll or survey. It should be featured online on your family reunion website and can be customized to include pertinent questions. There are certain members of the family that must be there, such as grandparents and great grandparents, so you should ideally check with them first to see what works best for them. You need to pick a date and location that suits the majority of people. Your poll or survey can offer 3-4 options where family members can respond with which they would rather.
TYPE OF REUNION
There are four main types of family reunions you can have, each differ in the amount of planning required, length, cost, and time in advance need to notify your relatives.
A picnic or BBQ at a nearby park or family member’s home are examples of simple reunions. It is quite easy and cheap to plan and host. It is a good option if it is your first family reunion. This type is also appropriate for annual reunions since it not costly or difficult organize. You can alternate amongst different relatives homes or use the same park if you enjoy it. This sort of reunion can occur in a single day and does not require significant advanced planning or guest notification. This is a great option for when there are a lot of children, as they can run around and play. It important to have a contingency plan in case of bad weather - such as different location or date.
2. Easy to plan
A nice dinner at restaurant or hotel is a type of reunion that you can have that does not require a large amount of planning. All that is required is finding a restaurant with a menu that meets the taste preferences of attendees, making a reservation, and plan some entertaining activities if there is a reception with dinner. The reunion will be short and sweet. Relatives should be notified about the name and address of where it will be held a couple of weeks prior. The cost will vary depending on the restaurant chosen, but usually you can get a cheaper per person or group rate.
If your family is the outdoors type, a family camping trip is a great bonding experience. These reunions tend to take place over a weekends or span 2-3 days. The cost will depend on the campsite chosen and accommodations. (You may have to rent a trailer, or a tent or just bring a sleeping bag.) You need to consider the weather when planning an outdoor reunion, summers are usually the best time to have this sort of reunion. A camping trip does require planning as the best possible date, location and amenities need to be take into account to meet your family’s wants. You must also consider the camping site and equipment that needs to be reserved in advance and the menus and meals that need to be arranged. You should notify your family members several months in advance seeing as it will occur over several days and may require people to take time off and rent camping gear. Tip: To make this sort of reunion cheaper, have every family bring their own food or each family supply one meal.
4. Big reunions
Cruises, theme parks and vacations are big reunions that require a large amount of planning and organizing. Your relatives need to be informed far in advance (min. 1 year) to give everyone enough time to plan and save up for it. These sort of reunions will usually take place over several days, such as a long weekend or over Christmas break when there is no work or school. Big reunions are often expensive due to travel costs including flights and hotels, and they are usually occur during high season ( long weekends or holidays) where prices are the highest.
CHOOSING A DATE
A note of advice to reunion planners - once you have selected your date, it is final and you must stick with it. The larger the reunion, the harder it is to find a date that is convenient for everyone. You must select the date that works for the most amount of people. You should ideally plan way ahead, 12-18 months, when deciding on the date for your reunion and the date should be finalized 1 year in advance. This enables you to reserve the ideal location and activities and allows your relatives enough notice to take time off from work or school. Even if you do not start planning that far in advance, you can still have a successful reunion, but you do need to make sure you provide yourself with enough planning time so that everything is booked and well organized.
As mentioned, choosing a date can be made simpler by polling family members and selecting the most frequent response. Here are a few date suggestions that may work for your family:
• Family milestone or special day: golden anniversary, grandparents birthday, or when there is a wedding, graduation, birth, or religious holiday.
• Time of year: Between June and September are the most popular time of year to hold family reunions primarily due to good weather, easier travelling, children are not in school and people tend to take vacation at this time. However, flights and accommodations tend to be more expensive. Some families may prefer to take advantage of cheaper airfare and hotels during off peak times, but harsh weather may affect your plans.
• Holidays: holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day and Fourth of July, are common for reunions as many have time off which is good for out of town guests. TIP: Do not give short notice if you decide to have your reunion on a holiday because a lot of people make plans for the long weekends.
• Specific date: you can set a predetermined date when your family reunion will always be held, for example the second weekend of August. Regardless if it is held every year or every 5 years, everyone knows when it will be.
LOCATION AND SITE
After finalizing the type and date, it is then time to chose a location and/or site for your family reunion. Your location choice depends on several factors including:
• Size of the reunion
• Type of reunion
• Time of year
• Preferences of family members
Ideally, you want to chose a location that is most affordable and accessible to the majority of your invited relatives. If your family all lives in one area, then a nearby location should be chosen. If you family is scattered around the world, then selecting a central location is your best option. You want to make sure that you choose a place where everyone will be comfortable and enjoy spending time with one another.
Once you have selected the location, you then need to decide on the site of your reunion. The possibilities are endless whether it be an old homestead, somewhere close to home or a national park. When deciding on the location and/or site for your family reunion, you should consider:
Most of your relatives will not be willing to travel long distances for a short reunion, therefore selecting a location close to where the majority of your family members reside is your best option. Longer or one time reunions do warrant more elaborate locations such as a resort or cruise.
If there are numerous travelling relatives, then you should choose a location close to the airport. This will be most convenient and easy to get to, otherwise people may be less inclined to attend.
Location must accommodate wheelchairs for elderly relatives and strollers for young children. You want to make sure everyone will be comfortable and safe.
You must make sure that the location you choose fits into your budget. Try to obtain group discounts and packaged deals.
You need to make sure that you choose a location with nearby and affordable entertainment, hotels and restaurants.
• Features and Activities
Which activities you want to do or attractions you want to see should be considered prior to selecting. Where your reunion is held should be nearby the entertainment or activities planned.
Before selecting a site you should inquire about:
- When is it available?
- What is the cost?
- Are there any group or off season rates?
- How many people can the site accommodate?
- What activities and restaurants are nearby?
- Can you bring your own food and entertainment?
- Does it meet child and elderly requirements?
Here is a list of possible site ideas (some more elaborate than others):
- Nearby hotel or restaurant
- A country club in the vicinity of where most guests still reside
- An outdoor park with lots of activities and picnic areas
- A cruise ship
- Family Ranch
- Bed and breakfast
- Theme or Adventure Park
- Church or religious institution
- Historical Landmark
- Camp grounds
- National Park
- Ski Lodge
- Rent a cabin
Having a theme for your family reunion is not required, however it can definitely add a lot to the ambience. It is a great way to build interest and increase attendance by creating excitement. Incorporating a central theme will facilitate with planning, as it can be the base for location choice, invitation, decorations, website design, food, activities, games and more. Example of possible themes include; birthday party, circus, family history, fiesta, specific holiday, Hawaiian Luau, safari, under the sea, wedding anniversary, or rodeo.
Coming up with a menu to satisfy the varying tastes of your relatives can be quite a challenge. The best solution is to create a menu that is related to your culture, family heritage or reunion theme. You have several options when it come to providing food for your reunion. The choice is dependant primarily on your budget and type of reunion.
1. Everyone for themselves
Having each family bring and cook their own food is the simplest and least expensive option. There should be a main eating area so that although eating your own food, everyone is still interacting with other relatives. This is impractical when many of your family members will be travelling to attend your reunion.
Every family brings a different item whether it be hors oeuvres, salad, main dishes, dessert, drinks, etc. This is a great way to bring your family together and in a fun and cost effective way.
This is a more expensive option, however you can enjoy the whole experience without having to worry about organizing, cooking or cleaning up. You will need to make a reservation several months in advance and find a restaurant with a menu that offers many types of food.
By having the food come to you, you need to make sure there is a place to eat at your location large enough for everyone to fit comfortably. Although costly, it is less expensive than a restaurants because food is prepared in bulk. A caterer can provide you with all different types of food to meet the preferences of your relatives.
TIP: If your family reunion will take place over several days, then you can combine the four options.
Make yourself aware of any special dietary needs of your family members. You can learn that information by asking about food preferences and allergies on your customized online survey or registration form.
ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT
The main purpose of your family reunion is to get acquainted with those you have not seen for a long time or with those who you have never met before. When deciding which activities and entertainment> you want at your family reunion, you should keep in mind that you want the event to be fun and encourage interaction amongst family members. You should try to plan activities where family members do things together, a large number of people can participate, and that it will be enjoyed by all ages.
Deciding on the appropriate activities and entertainment can be a task assigned to a committee member. Ideally, you should start planning which activities you want to have at your reunion 6-9 months prior, as you may need to book entertainment such as a photographer, DJ or videographer, and you may need to rent equipment for certain activities and games. Your location choice may play a role in the type of activities or entertainment you can have. For example, having a slideshow playing continuously in the background displaying then and now pictures will be very enjoyable for your relatives to watch, however cannot be utilized if your reunion is taking place at a campsite or amusement park. If you have the budget for it, hiring a photographer and/or videographer is a great way to preserve memories. This will allow you to share with those who could not attend and be good for sharing stories and history with future generations.
Having a bunch of people together who do not know each other may be awkward and uncomfortable, therefore the best and most fun way to encourage interaction amongst relatives is by having icebreakers, as well as games and activities that have relatives participating together.
TIP: Come up with activities that involve getting to know and learning about one another. You should also have name tags to make it easier for everyone to learn each other’s names.
Here is a list of possible games and activities you can have for your relatives to get to know each other better. Some require more set up time and equipment which is why you need to decide in advance the activities you want to have:
• “I got my name because...:”
Each person reveals who they were named after.
• “Truth or Dare, without the dare:”
Have everyone answer a specific question, such as; how would you describe yourself in one word? what is your favorite ice cream flavor? what is your most embarrassing moment?
• “Find a perfect match:”
Have everyone fill out a questionnaire; what year were you born? what color eyes do you have? can you roll your tongue? what is your favorite movie? Then go around and find another relative who has the same answer as you for each question.
- Musical chairs
- Duck duck goose
- Board games
- Sack rack
- Egg toss
- Family trivia
- Hide and seek
- Story telling
- Scavenger Hunt
- Capture the flag
- Family talent show
- Family history research
- Pie eating contest
- Create family map
There are some activities that need to be announced before the reunion because they require your family members to bring something with them. You can ask your relatives to bring pictures of themselves, baby pictures and photos of relatives from older generations, so you can play ‘Guess Who?’ games and see if there are any family resemblances. You can also use pictures to create a family scrapbook or memory book. Another great activity is to ask each family to bring an item that represents them to be placed in a time capsule and once all together choose where it should be buried and a date, such as at our 25th reunion, when the capsule should be opened.
You should have prizes for the winners of games and activities. Another way to entertain your family is to have an award ceremony whereby a prize can be given to:
• The oldest and youngest family members
• Who traveled the least and greatest distance to attend
• Who has attended the most consecutive reunions
• Youngest grandparents
• Couple with the most children or grandchildren
PART III: GET YOUR FAMILY TOGETHER
|Once you have created a list of those relatives you want to invite, you should reach out to at least one person from each family branch to obtain the necessary contact information (name, address, phone number) for all those on your list. You can also ask them for information about people you are missing or unaware of. You should get everyone’s email addresses, as sending broadcast emails is an easier and more efficient and economical way to share information and provide updates. It is very important to have an approximation of who will be attending your family reunion, because the number of people on your guestlist effects many other decisions, such as planning time, location / site, type of reunion, activities, and cost.
Chapter 4: Track Lost Relatives
|The purpose of a family reunion is to meet or reconnect with those who you have not seen for years, have never met before or did not even know existed. If you are having a small reunion then you probably already have the contact information for most of those you want to invite. However, if you are planning a big reunion with all of your extended family, than gathering information and tracking down relatives may be quite difficult. You can appoint a committee member to be in charge of locating lost relatives, conduct research and investigations, and to learn more about your family history and lineage.
Finding people you have lost touch with will probably be the most difficult task you are faced with when planning a family reunion. There are several reunion people finding tools you can use to help locate your relatives:
1. Ask your family
The first step you should take is to talk to your close family (siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles) as they may be able to provide you with useful information.
2. Hire a genealogist
Genealogists have the required skills and access to records that you may not.
3. Promote your reunion
Print a reunion ad in newspapers and magazines. You can even have an announcement printed that you are looking for someone. Using social media is also a great option whereby you can achieve a much further reach.
4. Online search
The internet makes it so much easier to locate and learn about lost relatives. Thousands of people use the Internet every day to find names, addresses, phone
numbers, and other current information on missing people. There are a variety of free online search databases.
Some online methods include:
a) Your family reunion website
You can have a missing person’s page so that all viewers can help locate those relatives.
b) Family reunion registry
You can add your reunion to an online registry. You never know who will be searching for family.
c) Reunion websites
You can post your reunion on websites that have reunion listings.
d) Social networks
Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have become so popular and are excellent ways to find people.
e) Search engines
Using the information you have, even if it is just a name, you can search online at:
f) Online directories
- Yahoo People Search
• Phone - if you know the particular area the person lives in.
• City and householders - provides detailed information such as name, address, place of employment.
• Alumni - if you know which high school or university that person attended.
• Associations - if you know the persons type of work or hobbies, then contacting interest groups or professional associations can be a good search tool.
• Religious institutions - contacting churches or synagogues in the area where the person last lived to see if they are still a member Manage, keep track and record all new information such as name, address, phone number and email, to be used for future reunions.
TIP: Try and get as many relatives as possible involved in searching for missing relatives. The more people looking, the higher the likelihood that relatives will be found. You can even incorporate a contest to encourage your family to search and award a prize to the individual or family who locates the most missing relatives such a free tickets to the reunion.
PART IV: SPREAD THE WORD
|Now that you have chosen the date, location, type of reunion, and tracked down your relatives to inform them that a reunion is being planned, it is now time to invite them.
Chapter 5: Invites and RSVPs
SAVE THE DATE
As soon as you have made your final decision about the date of your family reunion, you can send out a fun and informative “save the date” card to create excitement about the reunion. You want to let your relatives know the date far in advance so that they will be more likely to attend. Your “save the date” should be attention grabbing and only include key information such as the date, type and location (if already decided). If you do not have many people’s email addresses at this point you can send the “save the date” by post, however using your MyEvent.com website it can easily be sent out online using the broadcast email tool. The “save the date” should encourage people to visit the website and provide details about how to register online. (A custom registration form on your reunion website will allow you to gather important information such as e-mail addresses so you can send out information, invitation, and notifications all online.)
If you want to gather the input of family members in terms of where the reunion should be held and what activities should be included, then your “save the date” can explain how to vote online to be part of the decision making process. Making people aware of the event way in advance is a way to maximize RSVPs. You can even include a short personal note letting people know how fun it will be for everyone to catch up.
If you have not made many final decisions by the time you send out your “save the date” card, once they have been made, you should send out a broadcast email announcing more information such as location and activities, a list of missing relatives, a request to register online and create a profile, and you can include a nostalgic note to encourage people to attend.
Whether you are having a small reunion at your home or a large family gathering at Disney World, you will need to send out invites to your relatives whether it be by phone, post or email. Using a MyEvent.com reunion website, invites can easily be sent out online. This eliminates the hassle, costs and effort of printing and postage. Regardless how you invite your guests, you should definitely encourage people to RSVP online. Invitations should be sent about 3-6 months before the reunion.
The content of the invitation should be clear and include:
• Date, time, type and location of the reunion
• Contact person’s phone number and address for any question
• A description of the activities and game
• Explain how to register and RSVP online
• Cost per person or family and what is included in registration fee or ticket price
• Detailed instruction of payment procedure
• What you need to bring to the reunion
You need to make sure to include an RSVP deadline so you can make reservations and continue planning. You should consider offering incentives to encourage your relatives to purchase their tickets. You should also mention if there will be a refund offered.
REMINDERS AND FOLLOW-UPS
The best part about being able to send out invitations online is that if you have not received a response, you can send another as a reminder without the cost of postage. Reunions require continuous communication. Unless you are having a very small reunion with just immediate family that live close to one another, just one invitation is often insufficient.
A second follow up invitation to non responders can be sent two weeks following the initial invitation, however you should come up with a new look and subject line to capture the interest of your relatives and clearly feature RSVP and ticket purchasing deadlines.
|A third reminder invitation can be sent out about a month after that with an appealing subject line. About 6-8 weeks before your reunion you can send out a broadcast email to build even more excitement and remind your relatives about the time and place and if any changes have been made. Two weeks before the reunion you can send a short email that will include the weather prediction, an itinerary, and remind your relatives if there is anything that they should bring with them such as old photos or family heirlooms. You should also include a sincere message such as, “can’t wait to see/meet you.”
|You may also consider sending out ongoing newsletters, before and after the reunion, which can serve as a means to keep in touch, provide information, updates, reminders and announcements to your relatives. It is a great way to learn more about your family members as the newsletter can include personal articles, photos, quizzes and more.
Best Strategies to increase atten dance at your reunion:
1. Be persistent
You need to follow up and send reminders to your relatives. Sending out regular broadcast emails will build further interest which gives people more reasons to attend. You also need to encourage people to go and visit the website, register and create a personal profile, RSVP, give their input through polls and surveys, and pass the word along to other family members.
2. Promote the event
You can put ads in newspapers and post your reunion on online listings and registries to promote your event, however, using social media has become the most cost effective and popular way to spread the word and create a buzz. You can create a Facebook reunion page and share the link on your event website. You can also form a Twitter list which is an easy way for your relatives to connect before and after the event.
3. Continuously update the website
This is a way to get people to keep coming back to your website. You can include who is coming, the names of most recent registered family members, add photos and videos, and post updates about your reunion. It can be an opportunity for others to continuously learn about their family history and heritage.
4. Build excitement
Make mention of how great it is going to be to meet new relatives and catch up with those who you have not seen or spoken to in years. You can also post pictures and videos of past reunions to show how much fun they were. You can also state that there will be great awards and prizes for the winners of the various planned games and activities.
|“Since using myevent.com, our family reunion participation has increased by 50% because we were able to reach a larger amount of family members in less time. Our response has been overwhelming. Thanks myevent.”
Nola Green Aurora
PART V: BENCHMARKING
In order to have a successful reunion you need to create a budget, collect money early, and use funds efficiently. In the early stages of planning, before making any final decisions, you need to come up with a preliminary budget that will be adjusted as time goes on and decisions are made. Your budget will determine the type, location, food, decorations, accommodations and activities for your family reunion.
Before reserving locations and booking entertainment it is essential to estimate costs and revenues. You will need to:
1. Estimate your turnout
2. Experiment with different ticket prices
3. Estimate expenses (rentals, decor, awards, food, entertainment)
Your budget should be finalized 6-9 months prior to your reunion.
Chapter 6: Collect And Raise Money
|Once you have an idea of how much your reunion is going to cost, you then need to ask yourself how will you obtain the money to pay for it. This can be done by selling tickets to your reunion. To make sure you do not get into trouble, you need to secure funds in advance. You want to encourage your relatives to RSVP and pay early so you have an idea of how much money you will have to spend. You want to make sure that all of your family can afford to attend and participate in the various activities of the reunion. Making everyone aware of the details in advance will allow them to save up and search for the cheapest travel and accommodation fares. Your committee members should be the first to pay the registration fee or purchase tickets for themselves and their families. These initial funds can be used for upfront costs and deposits.
Sample budgeting template:
ESTABLISHING TICKET PRICE
Selling tickets is a way to fund your reunion. When you set the ticket price, you need to consider the type of reunion you are having and the number of family members that will be attending. The ticket price for a picnic will be significant less than if you are having a party where you need to hire a caterer, DJ, photographer, etc. Your ticket price should be established based on your expenses and how many tickets you expect to sell. You can mention that they will receive 100% refund if they cannot attend, therefore there is no reason not to purchase their tickets right away.
Selling tickets can be made so easy using MyEvent.com
as it allows for:
• Easier money collection
Being able to purchase reunion tickets online with a credit card, directly from your reunion website, is much more convenient for your relatives and a lot less work for you. This reduces the stress of collecting and chasing relatives for payment.
• Easy ticket set up
All you need to do is enter a title, description and price for your tickets.
• Increase reunion attendance
By making the purchasing process simple and easy for your relatives, more of them will be willing to buy and attend.
• Safe and secure transactions
follows strictest industry standards to ensure safety and security for all clients including certifications from PCI, TrustE, and the Better Business Bureau.
|• Track transactions and payments in real-time
Monitor all ticket sales as soon as they come in.
• Best Rates
Offers very affordable transaction and processing fees.
• Guests remain on your website
Name of those attending will appear and remain on “who’s coming” page of your website.
• Choose how you want to get paid
You choose frequency and desired method of payment (direct deposit, check or wire transfer)
• Refund policy
As long as funds are still in the account, full refunds can be issued.
• Toll Free Help
MyEvent.com has toll free customer support and online chat, 7 Days a Week.
You need to establish strict deadlines when your family members needs to register and purchase their tickets by to assure that you have the money you need to cover your initial expenses. You want to encourage people to make payments quickly and you should therefore offer them incentives to do so. You can offer early bird specials and quantity discounts.
TIP: Incorporate a contest, such as buy your tickets before October 31st or families who pay and complete registration profiles by October 31st, will be entered into a draw to win a fun filled family evening. This will push people to purchase earlier.
On your website, invitations, and reminders, you should reiterate the fact that not only will early payments be helpful and appreciated by the planning committee, but also how simple and convenient it is to purchase online using your credit card from the website. Make sure to keep track of all the money that has been collected and from whom.
Your family should be there to help and support you in good times and bad whether it be to send a niece or nephew to college, help a sick family member with their bills, or if there is a family who cannot afford to attend your reunion. MyEvent.com allows you to easily collect donations online directly from your reunion website.
Your family reunion website can include a donations page with persuasive messages in order to gain support and contributions from relatives. A graphic thermometer can be integrated onto your donation page to demonstrate how close you are to achieving your specific goal. Donors names, contributions, and words of encouragement can appear on the family reunion website for everyone to see.
A MyEvent.com website makes giving and receiving donations fast and easy. The main advantage of raising funds online is that it allows you to achieve your goal faster because it is more convenient and easier to donate online directly from your website.
|All donations can be tracked in real time. MyEvent.com offers very reasonable rates of and 7 day toll free and online customer support.
Raising Additional Funds
You may sometimes underestimate your expenses or the number of relatives that will be attending. If you do not want to increase the registration fee or tickets prices, then there are some other ways to raise funds for your reunion.
Many people will be happy to help you reunite with those who you have not seen in years. You can have friends and acquaintances support your family gathering by visiting your family reunion website and making a donation directly from your donation page. Your family members can also raise money by holding smaller fundraisers like bake sales or car washes with details announced on the website.
|Holding an auction is another way to raise money to support your family reunion. You can have a physical auction or an online auction. MyEvent.com makes it so simple and easy to set up an online auction where people learn about and bid on items online. Even if you choose to have a physical auction, you can feature the items online on your website. Each family can provide an item to auction off such as family memorabilia, photos, jewelry, children’s artwork or crafts, baked goods or surprise bags.
The entire system is automated and you can receive email notifications every time a bid is made. Guests can bid on items online before the reunion, and there is also the option to set up a “Buy It Now” price to purchase the item immediately. All payments can conveniently be made directly from your reunion website.
RAFFLES AND DRAWS
Raffles are a simple and easy way to raise more money seeing as costs are minimal, and the revenue reflects the number of tickets sold. Raffles are great for any type of reunion and any number of guests. Raffle tickets can be purchased at your reunion, online through your website, or you can include the option of purchasing raffle tickets with your reunion tickets. Raffle prizes can be featured on the website which will notify your relatives about the raffle and what they can possibly win. You can have a committee member purchase a few items, or the best way to get great prizes without spending a lot of money is to ask your relatives if they have something of value to contribute. For example, if you have a dentist in the family you can have a free teeth whitening kit as a prize. You want to make sure that the prizes will be enjoyed by all family members. The prizes can also reflect the type of reunion you are having. For example, if you are going on a camping weekend, you can raffle off sleeping bags or other camping essentials. The goal is to make a profit, therefore you need to sell or charge enough to cover the costs of raffled goods. Holding a draw, for example a 50/50 draw, requires no effort and no planning. All you need is a roll of tickets. The winner receives half the proceeds and the reunion takes the other half. It is a fun and popular way to obtain additional funds.
SELL FAMILY MEMENTOS
Your family reunion will be an event that you will always remember and is the perfect time to explore and share your family’s history. The best way to capture and cherish the memories is by having keepsakes from your reunion. You can raise money by selling souvenirs related to your reunion and your family’s traditions. They will serve as a reminder about your heritage and the good times that were shared with your relatives. Some examples of family mementos that can be featured and purchased online directly from your reunion website include:
Some examples of family mementos that can be featured and purchased online directly from your reunion website include:
A reunion will be the only time where many generations will be all together, therefore it is the perfect place to take a group shot. Be sure to include names, date, location and activities on the photo.
A Family Recipe Book
You can have each family submit their favorite recipes, include family delicacies such as grandma’s famous apple pie, and have a “how to make” sections of the best recipes for culture specific meals. You can also have awards in your book, such as best/ worst cook, or best family desert. The price charged for the book should cover the printing costs. (You can also include a recipe page on your reunion website to share with your other family members.)
Family History Book
You can use a genealogy software program to create a family tree and you can have each family scan and submit photos of their grandparents, parents, spouses, children, grandchildren, etc.
Family Reunion Items and Apparel
You can have an artistic family member create a design for a reunion apparel (t-shirt, hat, and/or sweatshirt,) pens, coffee mugs or picture frames. It should include the date and location of the reunion. Using a MyEvent.com website allows you to customize your RSVP form to include questions such as do you want to purchase apparel, how many and what size. The price should cover any printing costs. Family Reunion Memory Book A great way to remember everything that happened during your family reunion is to create a scrapbook which you and future generations can browse through. It can include:
• Note from committee members about the planning process
• Photos taken at reunion
• Then and Now photos
• List of awards and winners
• Recap of reunion itinerary and activities
• Statistics (how many people attended, how many people live in which state, how many children, etc.)
• Memorial for those deceased
Chapter 7: Reunion Checklist
The more organized you are, the more relaxed you will feel and the more successful your reunion will be. When to start planning depends on size of reunion and how widespread your relatives are. Regardless of the type and size of your reunion, this sample timeline will guide you to plan a stress free family reunion.
12 - 18 months before:
• Confirm interest from family members
• Form a committee and have first meeting
• Create a timeline and checklist
• Decide what type of reunion you want
• Pick a date (if date not settled, set up online poll with options)
• Pick a location and reserve the site (if necessary)
• Establish a guestlist list
• Prepare preliminary budget
6 - 9 months before:
• Establish a final budget
• Decide if you want a theme
• Delegate responsibilities to committees
• Start deciding on the festivities (games, awards, activities)
• Create a website
• Finalize the type of event
• Finalize the date of event
• Book venue (If booking a resort or vacation, reserve block of rooms)
• Plan food and meals
• Book caterer, if not provided by venue
• Finalize registration fee and ticket prices
• Start early-bird ticket sales
• Book entertainment / photographer / videographer
• Plan the festivities (awards, games, activities)
• Send out “save the date” cards or emails
3 - 6 months before:
• Send out the first invitation by post or email
• Determine and reserve needed equipment (tents, barbecue cookers, tables)
• Order any printed decorations (banner, custom balloons, etc.)
• Design and arrange for any on-site or online sale items (t-shirts, hats, coffee mugs etc.)
• Decide if you want to have an auction and begin planning
1 - 3 months before:
• Send out reminder broadcast emails and newsletter
• Identify and invite family members who you may have forgotten about or just discovered
• Choose and order decorations
• Reserve accommodations for out-of-towners
• Cut-off for final ticket sales and registration
• Month of event:
• Send out broadcast e-mail reminders and updates
• Coordinate meals (if having potluck menu)
• Finalize list of expected attendees
• Arrange transportation for out-of-towners
• Check in with committees to finalize plans
• Assemble slide show or video (if applicable)
Final week before:
• Inform relatives of itinerary, final updates and what to bring by broadcast email
• Make sure equipment is delivered and set up
• Pick up arriving out-of-towners (if applicable)
• Set up decorations
• Prepare final guest lists
• Give final meal count to caterer
• Confirm activity reservations
• Confirm accommodations for out of town guests
• Prepare detailed schedule of the big day
• Day of the event:
• Decorate room, tables, displays
• Take many photos
• Ensure required audiovisual equipment is set-up
• Pick up or ensure delivery of prizes, giveaways, and equipment
• Most important of all: enjoy!
• Follow up
• Cleanup and return of equipment
• Upload photos and videos onto website (send out email reminding everyone to post their photos)
• Encourage your relatives to provide any feedback or suggestions on the message board
• Make sure everyone received their purchased mementos
• Congratulate yourself for a job well done.
• Send out thank you notes to committee members and those who donated prizes
• Start planning your next family gathering! (You should have post committee meeting two weeks after your event to celebrate a job well done and to discuss what worked, and what could be improved for the next reunion.)
• Using your reunion website, you can keep the lines of communication open by sending out e-newsletters and having your relatives stay in touch using their private social network. This will keep everyone up to date on births, deaths, engagements, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and any other milestone events. If you are asking for donations for a family member, it is also a way to show how your contributions and support has helped.
|Planning a family reunion is a challenging tasks, however being able to meet, reconnect, reminisce and create lifelong memories makes it all worthwhile! Hopefully the ideas in this book with help you locate and reach out to your extended family and plan the most fun and well attended family reunion possible.
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any unique ideas that you didn’t find in this book, or if you found the book helpful and you would like to send us a testimonial.
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