Family Reunions and Tips on Planning

Carol Sanders | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

sign-1241257-1599x1066Family reunions are about developing and improving family relations; bonding and reminiscing about past family members and old traditions; learning about one’s heritage; and incorporating technology and new modes of doing things,” Dr. Janette R. Wheat, Cooperative Extension Program specialist and associate professor of human development and family studies at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said.

Family reunions were not always something enjoyed by all families especially black families. Black family reunions have roots entangled in African ancestry and American slavery. Black families were torn apart as males were frequently sold off, said Dr. Wheat. But, men today have a choice; they can take their place within the family structure to make it a more secure, stable and stronger unit.

“The family unit needs them,” Dr. Wheat said.

Sharing, recording, knowing and preserving family history impacts the family and future generations, she said. Grandparents can impart a wealth of knowledge.

The responsibility of planning a family reunion should not be on one family or one family member, she said. For example, a young adult family member could plan games for the children; another member could be responsible for the menu and cater or assign family members to bring specific dishes. Another family member could be responsible for the music while another one selects the church after others have designated the venue or location.

Duties should be clarified. Everyone with a role in reunion planning should be responsible for his or her part. Everyone sharing helps to keep the family strong and to carry on the family’s legacy.

Following are some suggestions from Dr. Wheat for a successful reunion with longevity:

  • Pick a date – Most reunions with longevity do so because a certain date, such as the fourth Saturday in August, Labor Day weekend, etc., has been selected. That way all relatives mark their calendars.
  • Create committees – Committees should include responsibilities such as family newsletter, food, family recipe book, decorations, family history book, clean-up duties and entertainment. Select a responsible family member to chair each committee.
  • Delegate responsibilities – Do not expect one relative to do it all. Recruit committee members to lighten the load. For example, ask a cousin or nephew with a flair for music to organize entertainment for the banquet.
  • Communicate – Frequent planning meetings are no longer a necessity. Take advantage of technology such as Facebook, teleconferencing, texting and email.
  • Welcome change – Feel free to suggest something different keeping in mind that it best to be sure other reunion committee members agree with some of your ideas.
  • Honor elders – Show gratitude and respect for older relatives. Honor elders with plaques, awards and recognition. Family reunions with longevity do this.
  • Keep the reunion fresh – Continue interest in off years, if the reunion is not a yearly event. If it is a 30th year anniversary or a special birth celebration of a family branch member, suggest that branch host local events in their town. Younger family members of that branch may want to host a movie night, a pool party or a theme night.

“Remember, reminds Dr. Wheat, “family reunions are all about uniting the family, bringing young and old together, and it’s not too early to plan for the next reunion.” These reunion planning tips can improve family relationships and be enjoyed by all, she added.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


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