Family reunions have been a great summer tradition for many families. You can have a small get together of your closest relatives or a great bash for everyone you can find dangling from your family tree. Sure, it can be a lot of work, but all things worthwhile are. The more people that are involved in the planning, the more enthusiasm and better attendance you will find. Surround yourself with a team of dedicated helpers and start as much as a year in advance.

There are tons of great resources in books and on the Internet that can take you step by step from planning the event to the final clean-up.

One of the first tasks in planning a family reunion is to send out a letter to all of the relatives as far up the family tree you think you'd like to go in order to solicit suggestions and volunteers. It's helpful to write out a timeline to keep you from feeling overwhelmed in thinking you have to do everything at once. Be sure to keep a reunion notebook so you can keep track of who you have delegated tasks to such as menu planning, activities, lodging, entertainment and so forth.

You can't hold a reunion without guests, so be sure to pick a date and location that works well for everyone. Let everyone know as far in advance as possible so they can make arrangements for the event in their schedule and enjoy the anticipation. You'll also need to decide how to handle the reunion expenses.

There are many ways to share costs such as setting a registration fee, asking relatives to donate supplies and services, and even setting up a reunion scholarship fund. A fun idea is to hold an auction where people can get rid of their "white elephant" junk, sell handmade crafts and culinary masterpieces. Money earned from the auction can fund the meat and drinks, while everyone else brings a side dish or dessert to share.

Be sure to encourage everyone to bring memorabilia to display on a designated table. Prepare some special awards to present to whomever traveled the farthest or has the most children. Or, create some goofy awards for the sexiest grandma or the uncle with the hairiest legs. Don't forget a prize for the family members who look most like a particular ancestor. Some families choose a fun theme for their reunion based on their ancestors' heritage, occupation, or location. Using a theme ties all aspects of the event together, making it easier to design everything from the invitations and decorations to the food and even activities. Here are just a few ideas for fun themes to try at your next family gathering:

  • Home-Spun Fun. Country Fair, cooking contests, pets, clogging.

  • Home Matters. Construction motif, building relationships.

  • From My House To Yours. Use rows of houses with different architecture that reflects the personalities of the families.

  • Hearts Knit In Harmony. Hearts, music, knitting service project.

  • Family Times. Newspaper, breaking news, reporters, show family videos, CNN-style.

  • Roots and Branches. Trees and garden.

  • Love Bears All Things. We can "bearly" think of any ideas, here.

  • Angels Among Us. Someone has to bring the angel food cake.

  • Survivors. Island motif based on the reality TV show "Survivor."

  • Christmas in July. Think stockings, caroling, elf caps, and Christmas cookies.

  • Luau. Who doesn't love seeing Uncle Randy in a grass skirt?

  • Olympics Unplugged. Games, torches, country flags, Opening & Closing Ceremony.

  • Family Circus. Things under the red top or that cute family cartoon of the same name.

  • Mexican Fiesta. Even better if your family has some Hispanic heritage.

  • Family History Under The Sea. Seafood, water games, ocean décor.

With a little effort and some creativity, you can host an unforgettable event that encourages family to create new memories while reflecting on memories past.

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