Did you get stuck planning your next family reunion? Most people look at this as a daunting task. With a few simple ideas, however, you can make it a pleasant experience.

If family resorts, reunion cruises, city bus tours and Broadway shows are out of your league, here are some tips for a more down-to-earth, inexpensive family reunion that will be memorable and affordable for the entire family.

Choose a park

I'm not talking about Disneyland or SeaWorld. I'm talking about a good, old-fashioned city park with a nice pavilion and restroom accommodations. City parks usually include such amenities as children's playgrounds, tennis and volleyball courts, baseball and softball fields, horseshoe pits, off-leash dog allowances, swimming pools, and water hook-ups. City parks help you tailor your reunion to the features available.

Some parks can be reserved for no fee or at least a reasonable fee. Make sure you reserve early. Choose a central location near motels or hotels for out-of-town relatives and don't make the mistake many families do in heading to high altitudes for reunions - this makes it difficult for older family members who may struggle with heart or lung issues. Get more information about available parks in your area by going online.

Save money by using the Internet

You can eliminate the cost of mailing reunion announcements by contacting family members through email, an online reunion group or even your own website. Relatives can reply via email or join the reunion group and accept or decline the invitation. Even if certain family members cannot attend the reunion, joining a group you have created for the event on a social media site allows them to stay connected and feel a part of the reunion, despite not being able to attend. Be considerate, however, of family members who may not be Internet-savvy. Consider mailing announcements to the heads of each family and have them pass the word to the rest of their descendants.

Families should make their own accommodations

As the reunion coordinator, don't make accommodations for out-of-town relatives and include the cost in the reunion fees for everyone to absorb. Local families will not pay an expensive reunion fee if they are just coming for the day and dinner. Those bringing motor homes or trailers will not want to pay a large fee for accommodations they will not be using. Provide out-of-towners with information on options such as local campgrounds or hotels and motels located nearby, but let each family handle their own accommodations.

Plan a theme

Creating a theme and planning the reunion around it builds excitement and makes the event twice as fun! Possible themes include:

  • Sports Day

  • Western

  • Safari

  • Pirates

  • Hawaiian Luau

  • Dog Days

  • Under the Sea

  • Fiesta Time

  • Family History

Choose a venue based on its available features to support your chosen theme. For example, host your reunion at a baseball or football field for a "Sports Day" theme; use a swimming pool for an "Under the Sea," "Hawaiian Luau" or "Pirates" theme; hold your event at an off-leash park for "Dog Days"; or choose a park with a horseshoe pit for a "Western Day" or "Family History" theme. Choosing a theme also helps you create announcements, plan the menu, and pick games, prizes, and music. See http://www.family-reunion.com for other reunion theme ideas.

Delegate food assignments

Don't try to provide and cook all the food yourself. Delegate! Plan the meat or main dishes and have everyone else bring side dishes, desserts, snacks, rolls, drinks, and so forth. Families are more willing to bring a dish they can afford than pay high reunion fees. Plan food around your theme or just give food items creative and fun theme names. For our "Pirates of the Caribbean" family reunion, we provided Deep Fried Bird (turkey), Volcano Potatoes (mashed potatoes piled high with cheese) and Grog (soft drinks and water).

Consider non-holidays

Holidays can be a difficult time for families to come together for a reunion. Many couples must take turns going between in-laws or share holidays with both sides of the family. In addition, divorced couples often share custody of their children and may not be able to have their kids join them on certain holidays. Try to book reunions around non-holiday weekends. More families will be able to attend, and you'll actually have more funds available to make the reunion a success.

Raise money for future reunions

Another way to keep costs down is to hold a fundraiser at your reunion for the next year's event. This provides money ahead of time so that the family in charge doesn't have the burden of financing the reunion from their own pockets in advance of being reimbursed at the time of the reunion. To raise money, hold an auction, silent bidding or raffle. Ask family members in advance to bring items for the event.

Don't over-plan

Families like to get together to visit and catch up with each other. Don't pack so much into your reunion that you keep everyone too busy to relax and enjoy each other's company.

So there you have it. Spend the time upfront on a solid plan to help avoid extra expenses. Choose an inexpensive location like a park and book it early around a non-holiday weekend. Center the reunion on a fun theme your family will enjoy. Delegate food and activity assignments to reduce your burden and cost, and remember to include activities that will generate money for the next reunion. If you are still overwhelmed, consider purchasing a book on the subject or researching further on the Internet. Whatever you decide to do, make your reunion fun and have an enjoyable time planning it.

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