Family reunions are usually great. Unless they're not. Then they can be painful! But what if you get put in charge of one? What can YOU do to avoid pain points and help everyone enjoy themselves?
This year, my husband and I were put in charge of his family reunion for approximately 50 people. Then we attended a reunion for my side. I learned quite a bit, so I thought I would share it in hopes it will help YOU the next time you get put in charge of a reunion for your in-laws. ;)
1. Expect to not please everyone.
I'm just sayin'. We are all so different, that it is impossible to make everything perfect for everyone. Not even Santa is capable of this. Just set your expectations accordingly, and that will take off so much stress!
2. Ask for input, but not too much.
I learned this the hard way. Since our family of 50 is too big to fit in any one person's home, we decided to rent a home. I made the mistake of sending out a couple of options to ask the adults what they thought. DON"T DO THIS! I was insecure and wanted to make everyone happy and cater to what they wanted. But they all wanted such different things. They started sending me innumerable other options, some slightly heated discussions got started in the texting thread, no one was happy, and I developed a raging headache. I had opened Pandora's box.
Instead, ask people for general suggestions. Do you want to be near water, a forest, or a city? Is having a fenced area for the kids important to you? Etc.
3. Find a venue with enough space
We have found that having enough space for everyone is key.
Less space = more stress, more noise and babies that don't sleep well.
More space = happy people.
What has been a sweet spot for us, is a private bedroom for every individual family (usually just the parents and young children sleep here, but it works as a home base for each family,) and the kids sleep in a bunk room, or even on the floor with their cousins. We also try to have a minimum of one bathroom for every two bedrooms. Large living areas such as a kitchen and living room are also important. (We rented this cabin, and it was amazing! When everyone chips in, you can rent some pretty cool places.)
The biggest thing for me is having a place to escape if you need to. I am a huge introvert. I need a place I can go to escape people from time to time. And sometimes you just need to get away from all the noise! Having a large home / camping area / whatever you pick will help spread the noise out a bit.
Pro Tip #1:
4. Establish Rules
As an extended family, before the reunion, we decided on what rules to have. If a child is misbehaving, and their parents aren't nearby, can an aunt or uncle step in? To what extent? Who is liable if something gets broken? We all decided what made sense and what we felt comfortable with.
We also had a brief meeting at the very beginning of the reunion to go over the family and rental house rules with everyone. Our cabin did not allow shoes in the house, for example. It's much easier to set expectations with the kids and explain rules to everyone at the same time.
5. Schedule Carefully.
If you schedule nothing, people get bored. Then they start to fight. If you schedule more intensely, your family can start to feel like you are controlling them. We opted for one scheduled activity for the entire family per day. Make sure the activities you DO schedule are meaningful. (F.R.E.D. talks are a MUST in my opinion!)
We made a printed schedule which listed meals and activities (and who was in charge of each!) We printed it on large ledger-sized card stock and posted it on the wall, so everyone could use it as a reference. We also invited everyone to do their own activities as well. If someone wanted to go for a hike, reserve the theater room, or start another activity, they would list the day and time on the large schedule, and those interested could sign up underneath. This really helped with our communication and lowered the confusion level.
Pro tip #3:
6. Ask For Help
Just because you are in charge, you do not need to do it all! I asked for help with:
It helps people feel important when you ask for help, gives them a chance to do something their way, and it lifts the load off of you. Delegation is amazing!
7. Be flexible.
People might not like your ideas. Timelines will get thrown off. Children (even yours) will have meltdowns. An activity might flop. Family members might go against the flow. It will happen. Try not to stress and roll with the punches.
Everyone one is an individual and should have the freedom to do what they need to do. We might not understand their motivations, but maybe we don't need to. Also, people (even you and me!) are often not at their best when they've traveled a long time to get to the reunion, stayed up too late and eaten too much sugar. Let's cut everyone some slack.
To keep things fun, I made a "Family Reunion Survival Kit" for each family, with rules, the wifi password, bubbles for the kids, and a couple of other fun "keeping it real" items.
8. Keep great records
At the last reunion, we kept the food receipts--but that was all. When it was time for me to make a menu this year, I had no idea how much food we went through and what we had leftover.
This year, I made a spreadsheet and kept track of every meal and it's ingredients. It helped me figure out how much to buy and helped me not forget anything at the store. At the end of each meal, I took a super quick inventory of how much food was leftover or what we ran out of. I kept it all on a google doc that I can share with the family.
At the next reunion, my sister-in-law will know exactly how many boxes of cereal we ate, how much watermelon, sandwich bread, and spaghetti we went through. Pretty soon, we should be pros at knowing how much food to buy.
Pro tip #4:
Pro Tip #5:
9. Family Feedback
The last night of the reunion, we have a family meeting with the adults. We go over the pros and cons of the reunion, decide the date of the next one, and who gets to organize it. We keep record (on that google drive file) of what people liked and disliked, what worked and what didn't, and offer suggestions. Because of this, every successive reunion is better than the last!
I'll say again what I said at the beginning. Family reunions are the best!
If you have other tips for a great family reunion, please share them in the comments!
Hi, I'm Jen! I adore chocolate, I'd rather read than clean my house, and I haven't seen my abs in I-don't-know-how-long. But I love my husband and kids to death and try to Raise The Good within myself and my family by making wise and uplifting media choices and having a deliberate family culture. You are probably doing the same thing. Let's share what works with each other!
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