By Leslie E. Royal
Family reunions are deeply rooted in African American culture and can run the gamut from simple to elaborate: Boarding a chartered bus bound for a picturesque city for a weekend of fun. Happily catching up on the goings on in the lives of family members – close and distant. Gleefully taking over the lobby and hallways of the host hotel to feasting on mouthwatering dishes made with secret family recipes and enjoying the loud spades tournament at the cookout. Filling up rows at a designated church to hear a word from the Lord on Sunday. And, yes, loving on one another the entire time.
As you plan your upcoming gathering, The Ashro Blog asked me to provide some tips and resources for you to plan the most fascinating reunion ever!
1. Create a database with family members
As you organize your upcoming family reunion, the first thing you want to do is to connect with relatives. Via email, text, phone and Facebook, contact everyone that you know and ask that they send you the names, phone numbers and other contact information for all of the family members in their database. Once you have corralled everyone, create a mechanism for you all to converse and have discussions. That can include free things like the Bubble Group Text and Video Chat app, GroupMe, a private Facebook group, email, text and Free Conference Pro.
2. Schedule a conference call to plan the selection of the dates and city
Utilize Free Conference Pro to schedule your initial conference call. Share that you have created the database and will be connecting with members monthly in several ways. Have members suggest prospective dates and cities for the reunion. Record all of the suggestions and send out an electronic letter to get a consensus. Schedule monthly phone calls to discuss appropriate decisions. On your second conference call, share the dates and city for which the collective group has voted.
3. Designate duties and responsibilities
As the coordinator, it’s not necessary for you to do all of the work. Your family members are there to help. Each person has his or her own talents. Put those talents to great use. Whether they are teens, tweens, millennials or seniors, everyone can help and contribute. Informal duties may include handling social media, hotel selection, fundraising, attractions and games, team lead for the cookout, decorations and so much more. Make a list of the needs to have a wildly successful reunion, and seek volunteers. Feel free to recruit if necessary. Share the list of names and duties with the group. Be sure to thank and recognize everyone monthly for their dedication. For more formal duties, read this post by Gathered Again on forming committees and subcommittees as well as electing officers.
4. Decide how and whether money will be collected
Each family is quite different when it comes to money to be paid for the reunion. Some groups prefer assessments in a certain amount per person according to age. The budget is created based on this amount. Select a trusted person to collect the funds and pay vendors. One of the easiest ways to pay is to use the Cash app by Square. If families prefer, a checking account can be opened with a reputable bank. Other families list the price of each event or activity and all members pay individually. Whatever your decision, it should be based on what the majority of the family wants to do and can afford.
5. Consider Fundraising
To help defray the costs of hosting the family reunion, some families have fundraisers. Great choices featuring delicious products are World’s Famous Chocolate, Poppin Popcorn and Krispy Kreme. There are also the tried and true car washes and garage sales. You only want to have fundraisers if the majority want to do so. If not, just have the assessments.
6. Inquire about FREE family reunion workshops in the city and other resources
Once you have chosen your city, search online to see if they have free workshops that will provide valuable information for your group. Discover DeKalb in metro Atlanta, Georgia hosts several educational workshops annually. Additionally, purchase family reunion books and download information on various types of websites.
7. Select the hotel
Yet again, you want to have a consensus. Query everyone about what they can afford. Initially, you want to search for luxury hotels. You would be surprised at the great discounts that you can find using great travel search engines like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Booking.com, Kayak, Hotels.com, Travelocity and Orbitz. TripAdvisor is exceptional because it searches hundreds of sites and gives you the best results within seconds. Moreover, everyday people conduct reviews and you will know exactly what you are getting. Your group can also get a really nice budget-friendly hotel that has free breakfast, free parking and in some cases, complimentary evening receptions. Visit the Smarter Travel site for a comprehensive list.
8. Consider a Cruise
One of the most cost-effective ways to celebrate your family reunion is go on a cruise. The price is all inclusive. No one has to do any exhausting work. There are so many fun activities. Being on the water is so relaxing. You can spend time as a group or go off on your own whenever you choose. Your family can even see an exotic island or other unique locales. Check out what GroupTravel.org has to say.
9. Decide on a method of transportation
If your family is traveling a long distance, it’s a great idea to charter and bus and leave the driving to someone else. This is a great opportunity to bond with family members while on this road trip. Contact US Coachways.
Those who choose to drive can keep a tally of fuel costs with a trip toll and gas calculator app called TollGuru. Individuals who would like to fly can use great sites like Google Flights, Momondo and SkyScanner.
10. Agree on the reunion theme, agenda and itinerary
To have a celebratory gathering that will be enjoyed by all, create a fun, engaging and exciting theme for the weekend or each day. It can include Greek Night, Hawaiin Luau, Sports Teams, 70s Soul Party and more. Click this link to All Things Family Reunions for other ideas. Oriental Trading is a great place to order really cool decorations at discount and clearance prices. Three or four days for the reunion is ideal. Be sure to allow guests private time to explore the city that you will be visiting. You don’t want to fill up the schedule with activities both night and day. A suggestion is a welcome reception on Thursday evening, dance or banquet on Friday night, cookout or barbeque on Saturday and inspirational service on Sunday. On the other hand, if the group doesn’t want to prepare food and such; just make reservations at area restaurants for everything. The most important thing is the bonding of family. Try to limit each activity to a maximum of 3 hours.
11. Share information on area restaurants
There are likely to be mealtimes outside of scheduled gatherings. Create a list of local restaurants that are popular and offer discounts on apps like RetailMeNot, Groupon and Restaurant.com. Contact the area convention and visitor’s bureau and ask about discounts. Encourage the group to download the apps prior to arriving in the host city and provide a list of other places referred to you by the CVB. Check out Clark.com for the best fast food apps.
12. Provide details on area attractions and fun games
At this point, you would certainly want to enlist the help of the millennials and teens. Find out what they like and want. Also, consult with the parents of small children. Consider some of these ideas from Reserve America, The Dating Divas and Family Reunion Success.
If you enjoyed this article, we invite you to share it on your social media pages.
And, if you’d like more tips on creating a fabulous family reunion, check out the various resources below my bio.
The Ashro Family would love to hear about YOUR family reunions – both past, present and future.
Leslie E. Royal is a Lifestyle, Travel and Fashion Contributor for Ashro. An international freelance writer, her articles have appeared in Upscale, ESSENCE, Black Enterprise, FORTUNE.com and The Wall Street Journal.
She is the author of two books:
- Leslie Lane The Book!: Your One Stop Internet Resource Guide to Links for Jobs, Inspiration, Discounts, FREE Stuff, Scholarships, Travel & More ($9.99 Kindle, $14.95 Paperback)
- How to Write and Self-Publish Your Book for FREE with Amazon’s KDP: An Easy Way to Complete Your Manuscript in Seven Stress-Free Steps (Leslie’s Lane Inc.) ($9.95)
4 Upcoming Family Reunions and The Importance of Their Continued Legacies
The Daniels Family Reunion 2019
July 5 – 8 in Atlanta, Georgia
“Family reunions are an important part of a family’s history that keeps the dots connected as we continue to carry on the legacy of the family name.” – Pamela Sanders-Thomas
The Witherspoon-Strain Family Reunion 2019
July 26-28, 2019 in Lancaster, South Carolina
“Family Reunions are important to celebrate and pay homage to our forefathers, know our lineage and DNA relationships, support and share each other’s joys and sorrows, provide positive and inspiring role models, and fellowship together. Our Reunion is significant and has been held annually for 58 years.” – Verta Witherspoon Looper
The Morris Family Reunion 2020
“Family reunions are important because they connect the family in a positive, fun way. Also, it is a way of staying in touch with one another.” – Sharesa Alston
The Dukes-Murphy-Burgess Family Reunion 2020
August 2020 in Houston, Texas
“My family reunion is so vitally important to me. Beginning in 1978, over 40 years ago, my family would come together for a weekend of fun, food, and fellowship. To me, it’s just nice to spend time together and love on one another during a happy time of celebration. We get an opportunity to reminisce on the old times, pay homage to those that have passed on and see all of the new members of the family.” – Leslie E. Royal
7 Family Reunion Guides and Guest Books That Will Help You for Sure
Fimark’s Family Reunion Planner Guidebook Author Shares 10 Great Family Reunion Tips
Over the last 14 years, Mark Angelo Askew, an author of more than 12 books and web app developer, founded and moderated a family reunion planners group that grew from 420 members to over 5000 followers across 3 networks. As stated on Wikipedia, it is “A family awareness group with a focus on genealogy and traditional family reunion planning that established “Annual Family Reunion Planning Month” to be observed in the month of November. See http://family-reunion-planner.fimark.net/family-reunion-planning-month.html. Other titles and passages from his books with free read options can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Mark-A-Askew/e/B007VFVM4K.
The Ashro Blog asked this renowned expert to offer complementary tips to Leslie E. Royal’s article on family reunions.
Get guidance from experienced former reunion planners in the family. Pick up where they left off. Some former reunion planners keep detailed notes regarding prior family reunion planning.
Today’s technology makes it easy to connect. But don’t overdo it. Focus on making good use of the most widely used social media platforms and apps by the majority of your family members.
Nothing beats a reunion planning spreadsheet complete with your contacts’ phone numbers, addresses, survey preferences and demographics. Use keywords “family reunion planner spreadsheet workbook” on popular search engines to access spreadsheet templates.
The ideal family reunion website must be a one-stop family communications hub that features apps that allows users to post, send and receive messages, register for an activity, make a payment, respond to surveys and much more. I recommend Facebook’s Events feature, MyEvent.com, as well as Fimark’s Family Reunion Planner Social web app.
Consider hotel details that include number and type of rooms, hospitality suites to welcome guests, banquet room for evening events, costs, outside food and drinks, pools, nearby dining options and conveniences to other planned family activities.
Get discounts, group rates, bulk buys, senior discounts, AARP, AAA and other membership discounts. Many corporations offer travel discounts and sponsorship.
Order t-shirts from places like CafePress with intuitive design, and Zazzle, which has a “Family Reunion Glowing Tree”, t-shirt with matching cap, apron and invitation cards.
Who doesn’t love a cruise? With Broadway-themed shows, spas and cuisine galore there is bound to be something for everyone. There are deep group rates and off-season discounts.
Go all out with a family reunion talent show, live televised ‘amazing race’ reality events or dive deep into your own ancestry with the help of DNA Geno tracking.
Visit your local chamber of commerce for free tourism related resources, marketing materials and souvenirs ideal for planning a local family reunion. Contact radio shows for donations.
As always, Ashro is here for your family reunion attire.