Where, oh, where to start?

Q? When several members of our family got together for Thanksgiving dinner, we agreed we needed to have a big family reunion next summer. Many of our aunts, uncles and cousins live all across the country, and there are cousins we haven’t seen in many years. There are ten-year old nieces and nephews we’ve never even met. Somehow, by the end of the evening, I had been “volunteered” by everyone around the table to coordinate the reunion. Help!! I’ve never planned anything more complicated than my daughter’s birthday party … where do I start and what do I do?

A! First things first … take a deep breath, then exhale! Although it may seem a bit daunting, you have lots of company. Many, if not most, folks who put together very successful reunions are not
professional event planners, and almost all organize their reunions as a labor of love for their families.

Probably the best place to start is by recruiting two or three of those family members who were around the Thanksgiving table to assist you in planning. This is one project you don’t want to tackle alone! Your next step should be for you and your committee to narrow the list of potential reunion locations down to two or three strong possibilities. The ideal reunion destination may be somewhere roughly equidistant for everyone attending, so that no one has to travel too far. Or it may be a location that has special meaning for your family. You’ll want to take into account ease of access, costs, attractions, and the appeal of the destination to all of your attendees. Some folks love the beach; some don’t. Some will want to visit an amusement park and ride the roller coasters; some won’t! Then … you and your committee should plan to attend a reunion planning workshop. There are many offered around the country by countless destinations eager to play host to reunion. A full list of upcoming reunion workshops can be found in the pages of every issue of Reunions magazine, and is updated regularly at reunionsmag.com.

Almost without exception, registration for these workshops is offered without charge, or at a very nominal fee. You’ll find that the four to five hours invested in attending a workshop (many are held on Saturday mornings) will be time well spent. You’ll meet other planners, many of whom, like you, are planning their first reunion. You’ll hear knowledgeable speakers from the local convention bureau, area hotels, and other attractions with years and years of experience planning events, negotiating contracts, dealing with vendors, and sundry topics. They’re all more than happy to give you the benefit of their experience and advice … they want you to have a successful reunion, and they want to help you avoid making simple mistakes. They’ll show you how to work within a tight budget, and they can offer all sorts of fun ideas that you might not have thought of to make your reunion a memorable one.

Many reunion workshops include a complimentary tour of local attractions that will be of interest to your attendees, parks or other venues that can host your picnic, recreational facilities, and the like. In short, there’s a wealth of expert advice and information available to assist you, almost all of it free, and almost all of it close at hand. Signing up to attend a reunion planning workshop is one of the best – and easiest – things you and of your committee can do to ensure a great reunion!

Dean MillerAbout the Hospitality Answerman

Dean Miller, national sales director for Visit Fairfax (fxva.com), the convention and visitors bureau in Fairfax County, Virginia, is a great friend of reunions. Contact him (703-790-0643; [email protected]) when you are planning a reunion in the Washington, DC, area. Fairfax County is nearby, affordable, and conveniently located to all the area has to offer.