What do you want to accomplish? It was my goal to plan a Family Reunion that was low cost, low maintenance, and a time to remember for every one, especially my in-laws, Russell and Betty Payzant. They were in my thoughts every step of the way in planning this reunion. It had been 9 years since our last all-family gathering and their posterity had grown two-fold since then. Russell turned 91 in February and Betty 88 in April. Their health has been up and down this year which caused many concerns. Looking forward to this reunion was what kept them going.
I especially wanted to have an event where Russell and Betty could enjoy lots and lots of one-on-one time with their extended family. So in my planning, I arranged for them to rotate spending their meal times with different family units. At first, they were worried because they don’t eat much and going to three different meals a day was overwhelming to them. But I explained that they didn’t have to eat very much each time. In fact, they didn’t have to eat anything if they didn’t want to. The real purpose of these meal times was to give them a chance to spend more intimate time with each family unit. And what better occasion than around a table, sharing good food and good conversation. Russell and Betty really did end up enjoying these smaller gatherings with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They got to experience first hand each family’s nuances and social graces. And it gave the extended family a chance to get (re)acquainted with the patriarchs of our family. This meal time swap was one of the biggest highlights of the reunion.
Breakfast Time at our Cabin.
Keeping costs down was not all that difficult. Not knowing each family’s complete financial situation, I planned the reunion so that they could contribute what they could on a family unit basis. Each family unit was in charge of their cabin rental (determined by the rental company based on size of cabin needed), food, carpool arrangements in to Yellowstone (there was a $25.00 fee per vehicle), and extra-curricular activities. Again, all fees for combined activities were posted well in advance of the event so that everyone knew exactly what to expect and how much to bring. Of course, there was also the added expense of getting to the location. Having family members all over the country, some flew in but most drove.
The reunion ended up being very low maintenance by the sheer fact that I didn’t overbook the activities. Each day, there was only one combined activity planned. Tuesday night was a Meet and Greet Welcome Activity and Dessert Potluck. Wednesday was Yellowstone Park and visiting where Grandpa was a park ranger. We had a picnic lunch at Mammoth Hot Springs, took pictures, and looked around. After, each family was free to explore the park on their own. An entrance fee is good for a week, so several family groups returned to the park after the reunion was over. On the last day, Thursday, there were more formal family pictures taken. I also had made reservations at the Bear and Wolf Museum and a local pizza joint for the adult cousins and their spouses to have a “date night” together while the grandparents babysat. The rest of the time was family unit down time where they could plan their own activities. One family set up a zip line for their grand kids and another family had a bounce house set up.
Knowing your goals ahead of time of what you want to accomplish, keeps your plans on track for a successful event.