Family reunion ideas

This is a how-to on the family reunion. All the information is from my own experiences, which are numerous.

When planning a family reunion, the important thing to consider is the type of feeling you want the event to possess. I’m from a large and boisterous Polish family, and we don’t stand on formalities. We simply want to enjoy one another’s company, and to do that, we require a very basic assortment of things:

  • Food
  • Drinks
  • Accommodations for guests
  • Seating
  • Entertainment


Let’s start with the obvious, number of guests. One must first acquire a reasonable count of how many people, and then be prepared to be flexible as to how many of the people actually show up. There are plenty of ways to do this, such as having extra drinks in cans set aside, or extra chilled salad, provided one has the room. Also, be clever about the way you serve things, and it will preserve the chances of the food being appetizing to all your guests. Try to have enough nets on hand to keep the flies off. The type I prefer are the ones that resemble little tents. These can usually be purchased at the end of a season relatively inexpensively.
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Once I organized a family reunion for a park where there was no refrigeration on hand. We simply requested everyone bring their own meats, and we provided a huge grill and all the salads and drinks. This way, we were sure the meats were fresh, and we didn’t have to provide the refrigeration or ice. It worked out quite well.

This time around, we are using a family home, and we decided rather than knock ourselves out cooking in the heat, we are going to cater in the meat. I believe at last vote, we’ve agrees on pulled pork-a slow roasted and delicious variety, served on Kaiser rolls. This way, we can prepare our own salads and fruit trays, and be free to otherwise enjoy our holiday weekend.


Obviously, you want to have the widest possible selection of beverages without going overboard. Iced tea and lemonade are nice, but if it’s impractical, stick with cans. For the kids, I suggest the tiny juice boxes and water bottles, because outside they will set them down and forget them. This will also pull in ants and flies. The alternative is ice, cups and large bottles of sodas. Be sure whichever way you plan to go, that you have plenty of bottled water and sports drinks if you have activities that will be causing dehydration, like drinking alcohol, caffeinated drinks and the obvious, sports out in the sun.

There are many different things that you can choose to display your drinks, from coolers to huge barrels. Plan to have a few brand new trash cans, or a bunch of the 50 gallon size plastic totes, fill them with your drinks and pour ice over the top. Do this as early in the a.m. as permitted. Try having one for water, one for beer and wine coolers (if you’re serving them), one for the diet sodas and one for the regulars. If you are a frequenter of a local business with an ice machine, ask if on the day of they would sell you a large load of ice. They may, saving you the chore of purchasing and pouring out twenty bags of ice.

Accommodating guests

Let me first say that I am speaking of the actual reunion, and not where your guests will stay before or after. That is a whole different subject!! No, here I will talk about the event itself. I have rented a lovely site for more than one occasion. I have also had the pleasure of attending many backyard parties. Both are pleasant in their own rite, as long as two basic needs are filled: clean restrooms, and enough room for people to spread out and enjoy themselves. This said, it depends on your tastes and your budget.

The benefit of rented space is that it can be chosen based on location, features and the needs you have to meet. For example, many of the guests to our parties are elderly and/or wheelchair bound. Therefore, the ground needs to be smooth, and there can’t be many steps. Also, the bathrooms must be wheelchair accessible.


Obviously, if you rent a park or a pavilion, or reserve the clubhouse of your apartments or town homes, the seating will be in the form of picnic tables or folding tables and chairs, and it will already be there. If you’re working with another location where seating isn’t already available, you will have to either rent or borrow. I have done both, and although the renting is infinitely more convenient, it can get somewhat costly. Here are some things to consider:

1. Is it a holiday weekend, or close to graduation time? If it is, be prepared to think well in advance… and be ready to put down a deposit or pay in full.

2. Will the place you’ll occupy have enough shade, or should you also rent a tent?

3. Are the bathrooms sufficient? Should you rent a porta-john for the homeowners’ convenience?

4. Will you be having a bar? These are available to rent, also.

If rentals aren’t on the agenda, and you just want folding chairs brought, then the planners should supply all they can, and the invitations should advise people to bring their own lawn chairs for seating. On a shoestring budget, this can really cut the costs to next to nothing.


Depending on the ages of the persons involved, and the type of party it is, you have a myriad of possibilities for themes and games.

A water balloon toss is fun if everyone will already be getting wet. For the kids, wheelbarrow, sack and three-legged races still cause enough pandemonium to be entertaining to those watching as well as those participating. When it’s a home party, of course you have more leeway in your activities, but you may not have a ball diamond or a volleyball court set up. You may have to settle for horseshoes, bocce ball or croquet. Frisbee is a long-time favorite of mine, as well as a slip-and-slide.

Music is something to consider, as some families are musically inclined and some like to sing. Some prefer to play cards, and there is always time for a good game of Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit. This year I have made a photo album of my family to show at the reunion, because we moved out of state, and have a new addition to the family, and a new house and friends that the folks back home will be interested in seeing. If you like, you can include this into your invitation, and everyone will have a peek into one another’s lives. Some people like tee shirts, and some like a mug or a tote bag, with the family name and a picture. If you have a large group of roving teenagers, like we do, maybe a scavenger hunt is your best bet. It will allow them to get out for a while, so they don’t get antsy, assuming they can be trusted to canvas the neighborhood for Fruit Loops (six), a disposable diaper and an orange twist tie.

Whatever you do, remember that it’s a family reunion, not a catered wedding reception, so don’t be afraid to put the out-of-town-ers to work….after all, they’re family, too!

Posted by on Jul 7 2012. Filed under Family. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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