Recognize that some people may have pre-reunion jitters. Plan activities to help people get acquainted without feeling self-conscious. For example, give each person a 3-by-5 card and ask them to write something unusual about themselves that others might not know. Then, play a guessing game where everyone tries to match the card to the right person. Or make a family scavenger hunt for information not for items. Who has a tattoo? What are the great-grandparents’ birthdays? What country did our founders come from? Who went to the University of Wisconsin?
The Peltonen-Maki Family Reunion is held every five years. For the first, each family wrote a tribute to the matriarch, and these were bound into a book. At the second, each family made a quilt square representing their family’s interests. For the third, each family member sent a recipe, including why it is an important dish for them, to be compiled in a family cookbook.
The kids play “get-to-know-your-cousins” games. One year placards were held up such as Attended Bohn 50th wedding anniversary” while the song Have You Ever Been There, Stand Up plays and those who attended that event stand up.
Forrest S. Clark, Kissimmee, Florida, writes that a feature of one Buck Family Reunion was a 40-part family questionnaire based on little-known facts about each family member; everyone was asked to answer. This generated much discussion and prizes were awarded for those who got the most answers correct. It was a learning process because each person learned information about others.
J. Lynne Wilson Jenkins, Simpsonville, South Carolina, described these icebreakers from the Douglass-Blount Reunion: “We ask everyone to introduce themselves and state how they are related to the family. We play icebreaker games that force people to mix and mingle. We recognize the oldest and youngest, member who traveled farthest and the family with most immediate members present. We always do a memorial for those who died since the last reunion and share family history.”
Carol Idalski says the Darga Family Reunion encourages kids to sit at different tables and talk to all the aunts and uncles and play games together.
From an article in the Lansing, Michigan, State Journal, come these ideas.
Nametags can help in a crowd of extended family or for a family that meets infrequently.
Sponsor a night-before “meet and greet” for out-of-town guests to break the ice.
Schedule games that reveal family facts. Give family members a list of others’ accomplishments, such as “he jumped out of airplanes in World War II” or “she was the first person in the family to graduate from college.” Then have them circulate until they find the person.
Connect people who have similar interests, such as hobbies, jobs or kids.