Guest Ranch Family Reunion Planning Tips
Since the start-up of our California Guest Ranch we have hosted numerous family reunions with groups of 15-50 people and in ages ranging from 1-80 years. The family members come from various locations scattered across the continent to join for a few days of camaraderie and re-connecting with extended family. This migration to a reunion then often becomes an annual ritual closely cementing and bonding family members. Often, the original event that sparks a first family reunion is a sad moment such as the death of a loved one or some other trauma to the family. But, the feelings of closer kinship and reaffirmed affections at the family reunion should be as equally motivating as the healing of family traumas. Regular gatherings of your family will create emotional and social stability in the family and should be especially fostered during the good times.
Planning Your Family Reunion
Planning your family reunion can seem to be a formidable task when you consider all the variables and conflicting needs that demand your attention. The logistics of the planning involve bringing distant family members together, each with unique needs, budgets, time constraints, and contributions to the family dynamic. The rewards of your reunion can be felt for generations in your family, so don't let these points drive you away from planning your reunion. Here are some thoughts of ours, as seen from the perspective of family reunion facilitators, that might help you in your reunion planning.
Tips For The Perfect Family Gathering
1. First and most importantly, appoint someone in the family as chairman, benevolent dictator, or in the case of a fiscally secure sponsor, as a reunion patron to take charge and make decisions. Family reunions seldom materialize out of committee. The designated reunion leader should be someone with understanding of the family dynamics, and possess the time, patience, and tact to arrange the details. If you are fortunate enough to have a patron or even a partial sponsor, you will eliminate some of the family’s exclusion due to budget limits and simultaneously diminish the family dynamic of comparative wealth analysis between reunion attendees.
Once the wishes and constraints of family members are expressed as to date, place, activities, budget limits, and school schedules, then decide what the plan will be. Once the decisions are made, build anticipation by frequently communicating with attendees about itineraries, shared assignments, and attendance lists.
2. It will be impossible to meet everyone’s schedules and desires. Not everyone will be able to attend and those returning will likely have changed or evolved. Don’t try to duplicate the last reunion but build the current reunion as an event in the present tense that will stand on it’s own.
3. Create time and activities that enable interactions between otherwise distanced family members. This could be something as structured as group rafting trips, trail hikes, and organized team sports or as informal as a rotating assignment for meal preparations. At a minimum, a common meal time should be planned for sharing, communicating and bonding.
4. Enjoy, Enrich, and Enable. Dilute overly intense family dynamics with activities that bring laughter, light-hearted fun, cultural growth, and whole family participation. Try to avoid events that restrict cross generational participation or are overly competitive and be sure to plan awards for all the participants of competitive events. Good family activities can be cultural and informative or simply zany and silly.
5. Sibling rivalries, comparisons of achievements, and resurrected past conflicts are a few of the potential pit-falls to the reunion that can lead to disappointments and injured relationships. The reunion should be a time to strengthen and evaluate relationships. With a mind set of compassionate tolerance and a gift of generous emotional space, incendiary events will be minimized.
6. Build reunion memories that can be preserved in photographs, videos, T-shirts and other long lasting reunion memorabilia. We have seen marvelous cookbooks compiled by contributing reunion attendees. Scrap-booking nights, and recordings of family histories and genealogy also make great reunion activities. Consider assigning attendees to bring favorite family photos and ancestral images that can be incorporated into the family history.
7. Finally, remember that the reunion organizer will no more be able to fully satisfy every family member than politicians can satisfy every constituent. You are serving the interests of the family as a whole. Through your efforts, the family elders will find joy in their posterity and all will realize the blessings of a more connected extended family.