Organizing a family reunion is a daunting task at best. The intricacies of conflicting schedules and family dynamics are typically the first hurdles in reunion planning. Additionally, when you consider the mix of divergent family interests, opposing politics, varying physical capacities, budgets, and the time constraints of the family, the prospect of a reunion might seem impossible.
The organizer of any family reunion must navigate through these complications and somehow achieve a buy-in from the larger family. Buy-in from the participants is essential in maximizing attendance, and in the final success of the reunion. Here are some tips on getting the organizational job done and on motivating family members to attend and to participate in the reunion by considering a reunion at a family friendly dude ranch.
Contrast the flavor and tone of a reunion scheduled on a cruise ship with a reunion that is planned at a Western dude ranch. The Cruise ship will engage a group with divergent interests in a variety of activities, but the family will be divided into small cliques as they migrate different directions into the pool, the disco, the casino, the bar, the movie theater or at ports of call. A multi activity dude ranch will tend to sequester your family on one location and in closer proximity. In contrast to the cruise ship, while at a dude ranch your family members will spend time together in shared events such as trail rides, white water rafting, arena events, fishing, and shooting sports that are offered in a more intimate and private setting. If connecting extended family through the course of the reunion is a priority, then engineering shared activities with participants in close proximity is a must.
If an afternoon picnic and game of softball is all your family needs for a reunion, the venue selections are much simpler. Reserving sufficient space at a centrally located community park and a well arranged pot-luck can do the job in this case. A bit more of an upscale reunion could be accomplished by planning the same reunion at a private beach home or small resort in the woods. The more unique locations and unusual settings will add excitement and mystique to the event. The increased excitement over the novelty of a new location will increase attendance and perhaps add some novel activity options such as beach hikes, trail rides or forays into the forest with nature walks or scavenger hunts. Extending the idea of an exciting and novel reunion site a bit further leads us to the consideration of holding your reunion at an all inclusive dude ranch. The novelty of the dude ranch location, the various activity offerings, the all inclusive program with easy planning, and the more intimate setting will make your reunion easier to plan and enable more excitement and buy-in for the event.
2.Keep the reunion private and secure! Some thought should be given to the point of privacy when you target public access venues. If you do not have exclusive use of a park, a resort or other reunion venue, you may struggle with unwanted intrusions from neighboring parties. Some level of seclusion is helpful in order to allow attendees to focus on maintaining proximity to family while avoiding conflicts with outside groups with a differing agenda. Imagine your celebratory dinner event disturbed by a near-by intrusive boom-box blasting unwanted music into your peak reunion moment. You might also contrast the vision of your reunion at a Club Med resort, theme park, or larger cruise line where any intimate inter-family engagement will be largely diluted by the masses of surrounding travelers on location along with you.
3.Costs and Budgets. Not every family member is going to have the fiscal stability to be able to take time off from work or to afford a more expensive reunion venue. An invitation to attend a large family reunion at a chartered resort or dude ranch might preclude or embarrass young families on limited budgets or those that are otherwise fiscally stressed. In this case, cost savings can be realized by attempting to plan reunions in “shoulder seasons”, by negotiating discount group rates, or with a shorter stay duration.
A fiscally secure grandparent might also consider sponsoring the event as a patron of the reunion, but this can have some adverse side effects as well. When there is no “skin in the game”, when people do not have a vested interest in the event, there can be an increased propensity for reticent participation or nit-picking the particulars.
Some may attend the reunion under family peer pressure and fiscal sponsorship, but arrive with a less than ideal attitude or demeanor. In this case, a non-participant is better off staying home rather than detracting from the positive moments of those who truly want to attend. Seldom is there a family that does not have some measure of family dynamic or discord in the family mix. Forced or pressured attendance is a sure way to amplify the discord. Discretionary sponsorship by an event patron may be a reasonable solution to enabling attendance by willing attendees who are less financially secure.
4.There Never Is A Perfect Time. In spite of your best efforts, there will likely never be a time that every member of a large family will be able to attend your reunion. Demands from school, work, health limitations, or other constraints will virtually eliminate the possibility of choreographing reunions at a time when every family member can attend. The best solution I have found to resolving the problem of reunion scheduling is to do a survey of available dates with an internet scheduling application. Some suggested applications include “NeedToMeet.com” or “whichdateworks.com”. These are effective in allowing participants to respond to an email survey request and to post open dates. The survey can then identify the time frame with the most possible attendees. The organizer can also effectively be divorced from the politics of choosing the date by placing the onerous onto an inanimate program that identifies the date that is open to the most attendees.
5.Stay Busy, But Build Time For Private Dialogue. Avoid the critical error of letting the reunion turn boring and leaving the youngsters with too little to occupy their attention. Sharing time in engaging activities and new adventures will connect the generations in attendance at your reunion. However, it is also important to enable quiet times to talk one-on-one and to build, repair, and reflect on relationships. Engineered times to talk can be as simple as a pre-meal hors d’oeuvres moment, shared time at meal preparations, relaxing at pool-side, or sharing time over a board game. Reinforcing relationships is done both within the larger group activities, but most importantly with direct communications in these smaller group settings.
6.Reinforce And Preserve Your Reunion With Swag. Photos and videos of the reunion may prove to be priceless cherished family artifacts as the generations pass. Do not let the occasions of this significant family gathering pass without documenting and recording the events. Of course a professional photographer could be in order, but simply choreographing some group photos of attendees with your private camera gear can do the job as well. The family clan dressed in cowboy hats arranged in front of the hay-barn, or on horseback will connect the memory both to the gathering, and to the special times shared on the ranch.
Sending everybody home with a bit of reunion swag such as a reunion T-shirt or ball cap and a copy of the reunion photos will preserve the successes of family for longer a duration. With the significant investment you will make in executing a great reunion, you will want to preserve the newly refreshed relationships long after the reunion ends.
7.Keep The Kids Safe. The last thing you want to happen at your reunion is to recklessly bring tragedy into the event. If you have a large network of children present at your reunion, some forethought and planning needs to be given to keeping the children secure. Large hotels, cruise ships, resorts and even public parks can have attractive nuisances that can tempt children to leave your protective watch. The elevator at the end of the hall, the cruise ship gift shop, the unattended hotel pool, and countless other potential disasters need to be examined as you choose the location for your reunion.
One significant advantage to a small venue dude ranch is that your family will be secured at a known location away from the larger public. The ranch staff and the larger ranch guest population typically assume a “village” perspective and combine resources to monitor movements and activities of youngsters on the premises. Ranches with organized “buckaroo programs” or ranch youth events will keep youngsters happily engaged and out of troublesome boredom. The capacity to safely “free range” children is also uniquely present at an isolated ranch as contrasted to a larger open venue that is accessible to the masses of humanity.
8.Make the reunion easier by delegating mundane tasks to the host ranch. The “all-inclusive” feature of guest ranches and dude ranches can remove endless headaches from your planning and allow family to focus on building relationships rather than on mundane components of food prep, housing or event organization. You don’t need to plan menus, collect funds, purchase and store large stockpiles of groceries, and then loose valuable time in meal preparation and clean-up. An all-inclusive host ranch can provide all the meals, and can usually meet any needs for specialtized diet constraints. The lodging is conveniently arranged so that your family is all in close proximity on a safe and secure location. The ranch activity schedule is known in advance and can be arranged to suit your family needs for a special family-tree slide-show, group photo shoot, or family patriarch “roast”.
9. Think Ahead! Advance planning with your host ranch will guarantee sufficient space for your family, and allow you to work out the details of your family’s unique needs. If you plan on a ranch charter, you will also need to make reservations far enough in advance to avoid loss of your premiere week due to previous bookings by competing travelers. Many dude ranches take reservations 6 months to a year in advance, so the larger family groups will demand even more advance planning to secure sufficient space for your family.
10. Bond Through Shared Meals. One of the most important aspects of a successful reunion is to guarantee quality meals that can be shared by the attending family reunion members. When the family reflects back on the reunion, the memory should be one of fine dining and not of disastrous culinary failures. Choose a hosting dude ranch with a vetted reputation in the food services industry. Every ranch is of course going to make claim to superior cuisine. Reunion organizers should exercise due diligence by starting with candid conversations with the hosting ranch and ending with an examination of independent third party review sites such as Tripadvisor. Candid comments and opinions of past ranch clients should confirm the claims of ranch administrators.
In Conclusion, the successful planning and execution of a family reunion can be greatly enhanced and organizationally simplified by partnering with a well chosen dude ranch. The concept of spending time together at a western ranch will provide exciting buy-in from the family as they anticipate a variety of new and thrilling experiences on the ranch. The remote location can provide security and privacy for your family. The infrastructure and expertise of the ranch staff will be able to manage most of the minutia of the reunion planning from meal preparation to activity planning. You will be able to spend more productive time with family building and preserving relationships for the coming generations.
Join Us at California’s Marble Mountain Ranch for a family reunion to cherish for generations.