This is the final installment of my multi-part article on planning the perfect family reunion. In this series I take you through all the things you will need to know to pull off a rewarding and fun family reunion.
Your reunion has been a huge success. Games were played, stories told, great food enjoyed—all while strengthening family ties and enriching your understanding of family history.
But you’re not done yet! The mark of a great family reunion is that guests are asking when the next event will be before the current one ends. Here are some ways to channel that energy in the planning of the next event.
A formal close to the reunion gives you the platform for thanking your guests and engaging them in planning the next get together. Beyond thanking your guests for making the effort to attend, it is especially important to give special notice to those who helped organize and prepare the event or played special roles during the event, such as entertaining the children.
Everyone loves recognition and giving it freely and sincerely will go a long way to influence people to sign up as volunteers next time. Your closing ceremony may include an “awards” ceremony with certificates or simple little league style trophies for “master chef”, “family paparazzi” or even “most patient” and “least grumpy”.
And a special note to those attending a reunion organized by someone in your family: it is important that at some point you grab the microphone and make sure they are amply appreciated with your kind words, and ideally, a gift of some sort. Organizing a successful reunion is hard work; it would be terrible if it were also a thankless one.
While guests are feeling good and appreciative of all the work that went into pulling off the event, it is the perfect time to determine who will take on the next one. There are many ways to do this—from simply asking for volunteers to holding a formal ballot. Regardless of how the primary organizer is chosen, make sure guests understand it’s a team effort and that many people will be expected to play a role in supporting the next organizer.
The options for parting gifts are endless—from t-shirts to bumper stickers to the ubiquitous foam finger (“The Smith family is No 1!”), but you should consider providing your guests some more meaningful keepsakes that can actually serve to strengthen family connections.
A memory stick with family photos makes a phenomenal gift. In addition to uploading all the digital photographs taken at the event itself so that guests have an immediate collection of memories, you could also include existing family photos. Depending on how many historical family photos you have and the storage capacity of the stick, you could potentially outfit each attendee with a complete archive of precious and important family photos. For larger reunions you might find it cost-effective to buy the stick in bulk and have it customized to match the color and design of your reunion theme.
A family directory makes for another meaningful and eminently useful gift. Imagine how appreciative guests will be to receive a directory that makes available all known family contact information, as well as key dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. Like the family photos, you can rest assured that much of this is information that people simply don’t have, or don’t have easily accessible.
While the directory could be a simple electronic file (saved on the memory stick, in fact), a hardcopy format such as can be created at Blurb.com or Shutterfly.com or any number of Internet sites allows you to create a memorable keepsake. Your directory may include an entry for each person, with photos, key dates, fun facts and any other information you think would interest your guests. The usefulness of the directory depends on the completeness and accuracy of the information, of course, so you should think of this as its very own research project—gathered systematically through a questionnaire well before the event.
One of the compelling aspects of this family directory is that it will definitely increase the odds of family members reaching out to each other, and isn’t that what the reunion is all about in the first place?
Even after the final guest has left and the hotel bill has been paid, there is still one very important task to be completed. To make sure that your reunions continue to improve and are responsive to the needs and preferences of your family, you should collect formal feedback. While you could gather this informational informally by simply chatting with attendees, you will receive much more comprehensive and useful input if you use a simple feedback form.
- Did you enjoy the reunion?
- What did you like best? What did you like least?
- How did you feel about the location, the accommodations, the food?
- If you could change one thing about the reunion, what would it be?
- If you were organizing the reunion, what would you do differently?
- What ideas would you offer for next year’s reunions?
The important point is to give all attendees an opportunity to provide their feedback. You won’t be able to please all family all the time, but if you sincerely ask for feedback and carefully consider it, improving things where you can, your reunion will evolve and grow over the years to a family event people would not think of missing.
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