Family Reunion

Updated on April 23, 2008
K.N. asks from Los Gatos, CA
25 answers

I am hosting a family reunion at my home in August with approx. 35-40 people. I would love some creative ideas and helpful hints. Everyone lives 6 or more hours away and I don't want to spend all my time in the kitchen. I want to enjoy spending time with them. Do you have ideas for food, sharing genealogy, family cookbook, day at the beach, and any helpful hints. Many will be staying with us and setting up tents. What can I do to make that a fun experience too? Thank you!

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M.B.

answers from San Francisco on

When I was little I remember the talent show being the greatest event and it was a way to make the kids really feel a part of the clan. Somehow make a stage in the back yard and get a microphone and send out letters asking everyone to bring their talent. Also BBQ a lot it is cheap and fun etc. Have one special night where you all go out to dinner and set a price limit for everyone and ask everyone to bring items or ask for dues from each family. Even if it is small ie. $10.00 per family. Have fun!!

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G.S.

answers from Sacramento on

Hi K.,

I haven't been to a family reunion in years, but why don't you have a big cook out Barbeque, that way you are not in the kitchen all that much and family can feel free to visit and maybe even lend a hand.

hope you have a great time with the family

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L.T.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi K.

I'm very sorry to hear about your brother, my heart goes out to you. I'm glad you're giving your family such a wonderful gift as this reunion. My Dad was one of 5 boys and a girl, he passed away 7 years ago but his siblings, their children and now grandchildren have gotten together every year for 1 week for the past 40+ years. We're originally from the East coast, which is where most everyone still is. When this started, we all went to Gram's house and many did the camping thing too, then when it started to get too much for Gram, we started alternating between going to the beach and mountains each year. (State parks or beach communities in PA, OH, VA, WV, NC, SC, NJ, TN, etc.) Early on, we rented a big house and each family would share a room but now we each rent a house or cabin near the chosen location. Not everyone makes it every year but there are now often 80+ people so everyone kind of does their own thing during the day (the families with same age children often make plans together, a group of the guys often go for a round or two of golf) but we all get together for dinner each night. Over the years, we've gotten better at spending this week together. A different sibling's family provides each night. We keep it pretty simple: spaghetti night, Mexican night, hamburger/hot dogs, pizza night, etc. The last night is leftovers night. A number of the cousins play guitar so after dinner, we often sit around singing. I'm sure it sounds awful but it's great fun. (Apparently the first 5 or so years are a little overwhelming for the spouses because it's so many people, everyone tells the same silly old stories each year, etc.) We've learned to divide up things we all contribute to, like one will bring paper goods, another snacks for the children, several bring soda/juice/beer/wine. Another really helpful thing is that one aunt brings supplies for the kids to do art projects. They are often something along the lines of those foam picture frames the kids glue together then the aunt takes a polaroid of them to take home with them. "Big kids" often participate too. People bring various things to share: I had all our old movies from the 60's - 90's put on DVD and people watched them when they wanted. (We left it a bit unstructured, seemed to go over better.) Apparently I could go on and on about this. It is my favorite week of the year every year. If you want any more information, feel free to contact me. I could talk about this a lot and tell you about things that worked and things that didn't work:-) I will be thinking of you all in August and keeping you in my prayers.

Lydia

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S.D.

answers from San Francisco on

This sounds like a lot of fun!
Regarding food, I married into a large family so we have a lot of LARGE functions. You can throw together a green salad or fruit salad pretty easily and that fills out any of the options below. Barbecues are always relatively easy, as the meat comes basically prepared. I also make a salad with the ratio 1 can black beans, 1 can corn, 1 red bell pepper, tomatoes, 1 avocado, a handful of cilantro and a dressing of 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1/2 c red wine vinegar, 1/4 c olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. For breakfasts, you can cut up a fruit salad and make some quiche (these freeze well) and scalloped potatoes (low prep if you have a cuisinart). Another option is to buy rolls and get a honey baked ham. Monkey bread is easy and pleasing, if you fake it by taking pillsbury biscuit dough and dipping balls of it in cinnamon and sugar and butter then stuffing these in a bundt pan. We do "mexican" as in tortillas, black and refried beans, cheese, jalapenos, grilled onions and bell peppers, grilled meat/shrimp, sometimes mango/avocado/onion/jalapenos/splash of cider vinegar/cilantro, chopped chipotle peppers, and a selection of hot sauce. The key with Mexican is that it is so simple you can go crazy with the options and that is the fun part. We've also done greek with pitas, basil, falafel balls (you can get a mix and bake then freeze these), hummus (variety) and babganosh- STORE BOUGHT!, cucumber/yogurt/dill, yogurt with 1tbs tahini and a ton of garlic, kalamata olives, feta, tomatoes, lemons, you might make some lemon chicken or something on the grill... All of these are relatively easy to prepare or can be prepared ahead of time. The key is simple! You can spice up a green salad with cranberries, goat cheese, nuts and a vinaigrette or fresh green beans, tomatillos, bell peppers, and avocado or pear, walnuts and goat cheese with a vinaigrette... Never under estimate french rolls, lunch meat, and a selection of cheeses like brie (with roast beef), swiss or gruyere, and the standby cheddar with a store bought or handmade fruit plate. Costco is a life saver these days with their giant cheeses and great fruit and veggie plates. If you've got platters and can get ahold of some berries, kumquats or a few pomagranites, you can make THEIR platter look like you slaved away!

If you can tell, I'm all about food.

Regarding genealogy, I love the idea of drawing a tree on butcher paper and having the family sign in what they know. I also think it would be great to have a polaroid and a hand drawn tree and post pictures on the branches... too bad it is hard to find those polaroid stickers these days... We set up a download station at our wedding where we bought a universal card reader and asked people with digital cameras to download their pictures to add to the wedding album. We got a ton of great pictures this way. (and a lot that people probably didn't expect to give us, but that we enjoyed like water skiing pics!) That would be great for you guys at the end of the weekend, and then you can either post pictures through something like picasa or you can burn cds of pictures (or have costco or someother such place burn some for you...)

It is relatively easy to capture the moment in t-shirts from cafe press.

If you can't do a family campfire with ghost stories or stories from the "elder's" childhoods (as those are a blast!), a fire pit is fun.

Martha Stewart had a movie party for a kid's birthday party where they had a bunch of old fashioned candy, popcorn and rented a projector to show a movie on the wall of a house... I've been wanting to copy this.

Hope you have a great time.

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C.C.

answers from Sacramento on

Hi, K..

Very sorry to hear about your brother. Life is very fragile and it's good to live every day like it's your last.

One thing that I would cook when we would have huge BBQs (30-40 people) was Mom's baked beans. I would start with one package of dried northern beans but you can use the canned northern beans. If you use the dried beans you need to cook them regular and then add the other ingredients. I baked them in 2 9x13 pans... or you can use one of those large aluminum throw-away pans. For each batch, get the little bottle of catsup... I think it's 8 or 12 oz... something like that and mix it with a chopped onion, a box of brown sugar, and a tiny bit of mustard (couple tsps)... then mix all together and put in the pan. Put bacon covering the entire top and stick in oven at 200-250 degrees and cook until the bacon is all cooked. Sometimes I would take the bacon off and put more on and continue to cook. This can be made a day ahead or left in your oven all night to cook and reheated in your oven. It's easy and everyone will love it.

Enjoy your reunion!

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T.S.

answers from Sacramento on

sure, make it a pot luck where everyone makes and brings a favorite dish. also have them bring their photo albums to share special moments that they were unable to share in person. as for the "camp out" you could roast marshmallows over the bbq and have s'mores

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D.C.

answers from San Francisco on

Look at the website www.familyfun.com. It will have answers to many of your questions. I recall that it even had an article about family reunion activities.

We had a family reunion several years ago and had the kids make a family tree. We used big pieces of butcher paper and a circle (about 4") or oval for the head (no bodies). We put out all sorts of materials-paper, yarn, sequins, feathers etc. Kids of all ages participated. We had a great time working together and later admiring our work.

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C.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi K.,
You are brave for taking on this task, but it is very rewarding if you are prepared. Try to plan a lot of your meal prep outside if you can. If you are BBQing or even if you aren't, you can set up a temporary kitchen outside so everyone can visit while the food is being prepped. We have a large family gathering at my son's once a year and again at Thanksgiving in the desert, and Mother's Day at my sisters. Don't be shy about getting everyone involved. The kids too can help make salads or organize games. A few things to do might be to have everyone bring baby pictures of themselves and their family, and make a guessing game out of it. Pin them up on a board and everyone has so long to try to indentify them. You don't have to use originals, copies from the computer work great.The names can be on the back. If you are going to the beach, you can have everyone bring stuff to make kites to fly. Newspaper, sticks, string and tape work wonders. You can get kite patterns online with instructions. The best ones are usually made from stuff you can find around the house. Paper bags and pieces of fabric for the tails and you have a work of art. Feel free to call me, I have lots of ideas, I have been planning family parties for 30 years.
C. Brown
###-###-####

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V.R.

answers from Redding on

I have hosted a family reunion. I can give you a couple of ideas that worked for us.

Before the reunion, I had everyone send me pictures of their family either through e-mail or the actual pictures. I put them into my computer, added music and made a dvd for everyone to watch. This is not difficult to do and I can walk you through it if you need help. My e-mail is [email protected]____.com This really helped the kids to know their family who live further away or who have passed.

One thing I found was something online called Make Your Own Puzzle. You can transfer a picture on it. My grandmother had 12 siblings so we put a picture of each of the twelve of them on a puzzle, broke up the pieces and put it out on a table for their immediate family to put together.

Another thing I did was something like bingo. I made a piece of paper with different squares on it and each square had a different question in it. The game was for the kids but to answer the questions they had to go to the adults. For example, one of the squares was Find someone who is a twin, another was find someone who is a lawyer etc etc. You can tailor it to your family. Everyone had fun and I had some dollar store prizes in the end.

Also, Family Fun has a board game that you can make with details of your own family on it. You have game pieces and go around the board, landing on different things. You can make it up any way that you want but Familyfun.com has some more ideas.

As far as food--make it easy.

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A.U.

answers from San Francisco on

Dear K. - We had a family reunion some years ago & my suggestion is to make several thjings ahead & freeze, if you have room. Dessert lb. cakes, zucchini &/or carrot breads, angel-food cake slices, some casseroles freeze well, milk freezes well. bread freezes well, stir-fry freezes well; you probably have many other ideas, by now, too. Games - Bocce Ball is fun for many & not too strenous, kites &/or pin the tail on (donkey, dog, cat or animal or person of your choice) for the youngsters; as well as Monopoly, Clue or Apples to Apples games for all & quiet mostly. Big, big paper (white or pale in color). Draw a big tree - have everybody sign in family area as your Family Tree. Someone in faqmily might be willing to take kids to local swimming pool, bowling (maybe for all), on a hike or walk to several sights. Have fun! Fondly - A. U.

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S.R.

answers from Sacramento on

I have everyone bring a creative dish....maybe add a theme to the party...hawian or fiesta. Fresh fruit kabobs are always a hit with kids....You can buy plain yogurt add some lime juice and some lime rine...They dip the fruit in it and love it.
Good luck
Stacy

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A.T.

answers from Sacramento on

We used to live on 2 acres of land, and family would come from all over in their motor homes over 100 peoeple... The cooks (usually the women) would get up early and start breakfast (easy stuff, scrambled eggs, pancakes, sausage or bacon) and set a cut off time for when it would be no longer cooked. Most families fended for themselves for lunch, then a potluck was planned for dinner, with a couple of BBQ's being manned by the men.

Having the pot luck, mom always picked up some great recipes from the other families, and then typed them up and sent out a book to everyone for Christmas. It included pictures that she collected from the reunion, and pictures that people had brought in with them.

The kids usually ran around like kids... we had horse shoes, soccer, volleyball, and if it got hot the sprinklers... The kids usually all piled into the living/family rooms with sleeping bags, or we had a aviary that was cleaned out and converted to a club house.

Stock up on bug spray and a few methods to deter bugs from coming around, everyone liked congregating outside. You might be able to find an outdoor fireplace to rent. Plastic cups, plates and silverware are the easiest to 'clean' but aren't always good for the economy, it's up to you... There's a few party rentals around that can deliver extra chairs and tables

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M.J.

answers from Sacramento on

What about setting up a table or two with all of the supplies for a make-your-own sandwich? (different breads, meats, pb&j for the kids, condiments, lettuce, tomato, etc.) Could have regular salad, fruit salad, cookies as extras. I did this at a large baby shower and it was a hit because people could make things just the way they wanted. And I wasn't stuck in the kitchen.

Have fun!

G.P.

answers from Modesto on

Our family reunions always took place at a park. The family member hosting it would tell us to bring our own food. We all share the food, and have fun mingling. We have a family tree on paper, and update information if needed. I have more than 70 family members. Start a family tree and have them put their information on it.
I know some of your family would help assist you with the food. We put up a picture board showing pictures of our family members, and talk about them. We quizzed people if they can identify the family members from a long time ago.
Potato chips, salads, pies, are great food ideas. Badminton or sports are a good thing for the young ones. Have fun. G.

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J.Z.

answers from Sacramento on

Chafing Dishes. You can rent them from any party rental place. If you are going to make food ahead of time, use chafing dishes. The keep the food warm but do not dry them out. 35 to 40 people is the usual number at our home for any family gathering, whether it be a birthday, Christmas, Easter, you name it. We use them all the time. We also use crockpots. If your family can, I would ask them to bring things like salads, so that all the prep isnt left to you. A lot of times I send out a sign up list on evite.com and people pick items off of there when they RSVP. When in doubt, BBQ. Everyone likes it, and everyone can help make it, no one is stuck in the kitchen!

Family cookbook... I would ask each family member to email you however many recipes you are asking for from each person. You can then either put it on a CD for everyone, which is kind of neat, or you can put it into report folders. It is always neat to have them bound, but if you were going to do that at like your local office supply store, I would make sure to go and ask what the cost would be, then ask everyone to send you a check for that amount.

Day at the beach... Again your local rental company can probably help out. I would get one of those big tents (like the ones Costco sells, not wedding sized by any means, just outing sized). There is nothing worse than having to be out in the sun with kids and no respite. So those tents, that are not real huge but pop up, can give people room to move around.

Kids.... Dollar Store Bubbles (huge bottle), Dollar Store bubble toys, also Bocci ball sets, and badmitton, is what we do, nothing real competitive, although sometimes the family softball games can get rowdy! LOL

Anyway just some ideas. We have that many people so often it seems like second nature! LOL

Good Luck, and above all, Have fun and enjoy your family!!!

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V.T.

answers from Redding on

I did some research on the Ellis Island American Family History website and found the log for when my great grandparents came to America. I registered their names for engraving on the Wall of Honor at Ellis Island along with the name of their infant daughter who made the crossing with them but died shortly thereafter. I then researched the ship they came on and found a book that had pictures of it and a couple of pages on its history.

I registered my name as the sponsor of family info on the Ellis Island site and through so doing found cousins in Texas and France about whom my family had no knowledge. We were all working on the family genealogy and I was able to obtain lots of info to share with my family.

For Christmas I made copies of the certificate honoring the family names on the Wall of Honor, the ship's log and the ship's picture and info, contact information for our new cousins and a summary of the family's history (back to 1200 Bavaria) for each of my family members (including cousins, etc.). It was a gift that touched each of them deeply ... several of them had the documents framed and hung in prominent places in their homes, thereby honoring the work I'd done.

I don't think anything you do would be too little. Enjoy the time!

V. T

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J.G.

answers from Sacramento on

Hi, don't know if this will help but at www.familyreunion.com, on the lower left side of the page, there is a 'resource guide'. Check it out, there may be some cool ideas there...

Good luck!

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L.L.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi K.,
I read recently in a scrapbook magazine that a great way to capture family members you don't see all the time is by taking a posed photo of each person as they arrive. Have a side area near your front door set up with maybe a curtain backdrop and maybe a stool. Also have cute props available for guests to use in their photos - hats, flowers, etc. Then share the pictures online with all family members after the reunion and they can purchase the ones they want. Or even make a digital scrapbook with the photos, share that online with everyone after the event and they can purchase their own. Have fun!

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A.C.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi K.,
Delagate!!! Since everyone is coming from far away, ask them to bring all the nonparishables...paper products, decorations, chips, beverages, deserts etc. Keep it simple!
A couple of really good dishes is all you need. BBQ chicken, chile/beans, salad, cornbread, cookies, drinks.
The less work and stress the more fun everyone will have.
Since you are the home base you will need to have the ice, cold beverages, meat and other parishables.
Do you have any high school or college age kids coming that are good organizers? We had a party of 60 for my mother-in-laws 70th bday. I delegated the music, drinks, decorations and invitations to the others that didn't live close by. It all went smoothly and I wasn't totally exhausted.
For a family tree I've seen huge poster boards with pictures glued along drawn on branches. Have a great time>

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D.J.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi K.,

When we do our family reunions, we have each family pick a night to do dinners. That way each family is responsible for buying and cooking the food for everyone for one night during the reunion. Also, it gives everyone the chance to show off some of their favorite recipes and one person isn't responsible for all the food.

Another fun thing is for each family to write down a funny story they remember from childhood. Then, you can collect them all and distribute them.

Last, my parents made a family cookbook with all the family favorite foods and some funny anecdotes included throughout. They printed them and bound them and gave them out for Christmas.

D.

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M.C.

answers from Sacramento on

Someone sent me this recipe. It turned out to be fun, kids loved it and after awhile the Adults got into it. Best of all I made 16 omelets in 15 min and everyone got exactly what they wanted.
ZIPLOC OMELET
(This works great !!! Good for when all your family is together. The best part is that no one has to wait for their special omelet !!!)
Have guests write their name on a quart-size Ziploc freezer bag with permanent marker.
Crack 2 eggs (large or extra-large) into the bag (not more than 2) shake to combine them.
Put out a variety of ingredients such as: cheeses, ham, onion, green pepper, tomato, hash browns, salsa, etc.
Each guest adds prepared ingredients of choice to their bag and shake. Make sure to get the air out of the bag and zip it up.
Place the bags into rolling, boiling water for exactly 13 minutes. You can usually cook 6-8 omelets in a large pot. For more, make another pot of boiling water.
Open the bags and the omelet will roll out easily. Be prepared for everyone to be amazed.
everyone gets involved in the process and a great conversation piece.
Imagine having these ready the night before, and putting the bag in boiling water while you get ready. And in 13 minutes, you got a nice omlete for a quick breakfast!!!

P.S. If you have a Dollar Store close by go see what they have for "To Do Stuff" also an interesting project Draw a tree (or go to craft store find scrapebook paper with a tree) paste white box on it, make lotz of copies have each family fill out Family History. Collect and after reunion is over make Family history booklet, send to everyone as memmory gift.
Most of all You remember to have fun

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H.J.

answers from San Francisco on

For your Family History project, it might be fun to set-up a station with cute paper, pens and maybe stickers and during the event people can take turns writing down favorite family stories or tales and decorate them with the stickers. Then, you can easily put them in a photo album or scrapbook along with photos of the event and it can be a great memory keeper to pass around at the next reunion.

If you pre-cut the paper into 4x6 pieces, they will easily fit into the little clear pockets in a photo album. You can also buy pre-cut 4x6 "paper stacks" at any scrapbook store or Michael's and they are cool because they all coordinate around around a theme, such as "summer" or "Family." Ask guests to use as many pieces as they want to write their story, but ask them not to write on the back.

I love this project because all ages can participate and then it is fun in the coming years for the kids to see how much their writing or art has changed. This could be the start of a new yearly tradition. You can even combine the recipe idea by having some guests write down the recipes of things they brought to the party, a memory and a recipe to share!

Sounds fun, good luck!

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K.R.

answers from Stockton on

Hi K. :-) I might be able to help you with your family reunion in August ! I am a "Klown" and do birthday parties, etc. I have done several family reunions, company picnics and so on. I am known as "K. The Klown" and am in the phone book under "Klowns" :-) I do the balloon art (animals, flowers, hats, swords, motorcycle, etc) and face painting. I charge $100 per hour and i am more than happy to give you a great deal !!! If you buy two hours @ $200.00 total, I will GIVE YOU ONE HOUR FOR FREE !!!! Give me a holler and we can talk more about your family reunion, I am going out of town tomorrow for nine days, so you can reach me on my cell phone or email me (i will be home LATE on tuesday the 2th!). Have a blessed day !

Hugz, K. :-)

email: [email protected]____.com
cell phone: ###-###-####

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A.F.

answers from San Francisco on

K.

First of all I am sorry to hear about your brother.

If you can find a park that has decent enough bathrooms, playground for the kids and plenty of shade you should have it there. Depending on how many kids are planning to be at the reunion would depend on how manyjumpers you should get. I am saying two, one for the boys and one for the girls or one for the older kids and one for the younger kids. We have a family and friends get together once a year and we have it a campground/picnic area. For those who want to go camping can stay after the picnic and camp out. If you live in the San Jose area I can give you some great picnic areas for large families.

For the food, we have everyone bring their own meat. Some people bring trip-tip and share others bring meat for just their family. And everyone brings a side dish or appetizers. The host family brings the drinks, plates, plasticware, napkins. Only beer is allowed in the park so if anyone wants beer they need to bring their own. One person does all the barbecuing. We usually have about 150-200 people show up every year. So we got the thing down pat.

The picnic area has a large enough field forthe boys to play football, volleyball. They can also go swimming in the lake.

We have a closed in gazebo tent with a cot for the little ones to take a nap.

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L.S.

answers from San Francisco on

Use your neighbors refridgerators! Make as much ahead of time as you can, or just have the whole thing catered (or just cater part). I bought garbage cans for the back yard when I hosted our reunion (see the Clampets come to San Francisco). You might check with the chamber of commerece to see if any businesses in town have one of those HUGE bbq grills that you can rent for the day-there is a car dealership that does that in town here, and when people ask to come early, or what can they do to help, HAVE A LIST ready-that makes a huge difference-espically if you put things on a time line.
Good luck and have fun.

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