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When should we hold the reunion?
     While most people think of summer as the time to hold family reunions, don't limit yourself to one season only.  Long weekends during other seasons of the year can also be a good time for a family get-together.  For example:

  • Family milestones or special days: These types of dates might include a silver or golden anniversary, a grandparent's or elder's birthday, an ancestor's birthday, a wedding or graduation, a date of immigration, a retirement party, a birth, or an ethnic or religious holiday.
  • Holidays : In Branson, Missouri, holidays such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor day are celebrated with parades, festivals, fireworks, or other exciting activities.  You can check our events calendar for exciting events planned for those times of the year. 
  • A specific reunion date , weekend, or month: Many families set a particular reunion date they can count on from year to year, such as the "second Saturday in August."

Note: Reunion length is determined by how far the average attendee will travel.  The farther he/she travels, the longer the reunion should be.

     Now that you have some ideas for dates, choose several different reunion dates that will work for you and call Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center to check availability, this is especially important if you will be needing a conference room or catering.  Once you have the availability dates, you may want to check with significate family members who absolutely must attend (such as grandparents).  It's time to nail down some exact dates.  You may take the liberty of choosing the dates yourself, or you can send out postcards or letters asking people to mail or call you with their "vote."  If you choose to allow people to vote, make sure everyone realizes that "majority rules."
     Now you have the majority's first & second choice dates.  As soon as those votes are counted, call 1-800-942-3553 to reserve a block of rooms for your family reunion at Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center.  Use the 2nd choice date if the 1st one has sold out between the time you sent the queries out and the time you secure the rooms.  You may consider a conference room or catering at the Honeysuckle Inn.  The key aspect of choosing reunion dates is to stick to your final decision.  Changing the date will only lead to confusion between family members, overall havoc, and could generate negative emotions among family members.

How do I create the guest list? 
     One of your first tasks is to make a list of everyone to be invitied.  Do you want to invite all the descendants of great, great, great?  Or just your immediate family?  How many can you track down in an amount of time?
     The number of people on your guest list will be a factor in many ways, such as which conference room to use, how many rooms to block off, or how many dinners to order for if you are having a dinner catered.  The groups department at Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center has helped many family reunion planners decide which rooms suit their needs the best. 
     Begin by making a list of people to invite.  Contact the people you already have addresses and phone numbers for.  The best idea is to put that information in a computer program specifically designed to manage names, addresses, and phone numbers.  Microsoft Works is a good one.  You can also print labels with this program, which will save many hours or handwriting addresses.  Don't forget to collect email addresses, since email is free and super fast.
     For those family members you do not have all contact information for, ask you close family if they have the information.  For free, you can go online to Yahoo.com, and select "People Search."  You will need the name of your relative, and Yahoo will then bring up every single person in the United States with that name.  You can sift through those people until you recognize the one you are looking for.  If you know what city or state they reside in, this will narrow your search immediately.  As  last resort, you may try a "family tree search," however those do have an expense.

What can we do for activities?
     Renting a conference room is a very good idea for a family reunion.  Since the point of a reunion is to "re-unite," being able to have a common place to come together and socialize, play cards or other games, and enjoy other bonding activities is really important. 

Here are some ideas to guide your time spent socializing in a conference room:

Welcome Address (5-10 minutes, max.)

  • Welcome everyone to the reunion and thank them for coming.
  • Mention which different families (or family lines) are at the reunion.
  • Give a general outline of the reunion's festivities.
  • Name and thank the people who helped put the reunion together.

Certificates & Awards
    
Create certificates to give to people.  Use your creativity to have fun with this.  Possible recognition categories include these basics:

  • The oldest and youngest family members
  • Who traveled the least and greatest distances to attend
  • Who has attended the most consecutive reunions
  • Couple with the most children or grandchildren

Organize Games
     Games that involved more than one person at once are wonderful for family reunions!  Place some chairs in front and enjoy these classics:

  • The Not-so-Newlywed Game: As a spin-off from the Newlywed game, choose a couple most recently married, a couple married for about 25 years, and a couple married 50 years.  Be creative with your questions.  This is a game everyone will enjoy watching and participating in.
  • Family Line-up: In the game Family Line-Up, the aim is to get your team (of 8 or more) lined up according to a single distinguishing characteristic that's called out by an emcee: birth order, age, height, distance traveled to the reunion, alphabetical, state of origin, and so on.  The first team to get lined up yells out its order and wins.  Find a more challenging variation, ask the teams to figure out their order without speaking!
  • Pictionary: Simply pick up a giant blank notepad from Staples (the Branson location is on Hwy 248 right past K-Mart), a Sharpie, and your Pictionary clues.  Because there are five things to draw on each Pictionary card, it is easiest to designate one color and everyone draws that color clue.  Split the teams into "female" and "male" - and you will never have to worry about people asking which team they are on.  If their team gets the clue within the time limit, they get a point, if not, they do not.  Very easy, and fun for all ages.
  • Who is that baby?  Have everyone send in their baby picture prior to the reunion.  Number each baby picture (Post-its are good because they do not ruin the picture).  Then post all the baby pictures for everyone to see.  People will then write down as many people they think that they recognize.  The one with the most correct answers wins!

What are some ways that I can help make the reunion run smoothly?

Get Folks Signed In
     Set a table up at the entrance where everyone can sign in.  A guest book, just like used in weddings, can be used for family reunions.  If there is a place for their phone number & address, that is even better!  This is nice because you will have a record of everyone that attended.  Or, if you have a family reunion picture that was taken at the beginning of this year's reunion, or even from last year's reunion, you can blow it up, mat and frame it, then have everyone sign the matting.  This is a unique way to remember everyone.
     You may want them to fill out a registration form.  This is a form which asks for family information which can be used by future reunion committees or to create a family directory.  It works best if you have the form already filled out with the information you know about the family, so that they just have to change to add anything new.
     Give everyone nametags.  These can be computer generated ahead of time, or they can be the blank kind for people to fill out and stick on themselves.  Embarressment and awkwardness can easily be avoided with name tags.
     Give them any handouts.  These should include the festivities for the week/weekend, so that if many people are planning on going to a certain show one night, everyone will be informed so that if they want to come, they still have time to make their reservations.  Also, if they have activites they want to pursue on their own, they must be fully informed as to what the family's schedule is so they don't miss out on anything.
     Tell everyone where everything is: bathrooms, indoor & outdoor pool, breakfast area in the morning where they can get their free extended hot breakfast.

Be Prepared
     Prepare for the unexpected.  Make sure you have back-up plans.  If Saturday, the family is planning on renting a pontoon boat for Tablerock Lake to go out for the day, also think of another activity indoors in case of rain.  
     Have plenty of help.  You have the right to enjoy the reunion too, and it's hard to do that if you are constantly running.  Plan for everyone else to do things, so that you will not have to.  Of course, we know that inevitable, you will be busy no matter what, but this way you haven't obligated yourself beforehand.  It's good to be free so that you can resolve anything that comes up unexpectedly. 
     Make sure you have a clean-up crew.  Parents freely volunteer their children to help clean-up.  If you ask ahead of time, parents will know to stay a little later so their children can help with the final clean-up.  
     Don't expect everything to go as planned.  Be flexible to the inevitable changes that take place and you will find yourself enjoying the reunion that much more. 

Take Pictures!
     Most importantly, take pictures.  You can hire a professional photographer to take pictures or delegate a loved one to snap those shots.  Either way, get those spectacular 4th & 5th generation photos.  The pictures will help you when putting the newsletter together for next year's reunion and speak of a well-planned family reunion.  You will have lots of memories to scan onto your computer and email to friends, and, yes, family.  The internet savvy could post these pictures on a website like Shutterfly.com so that family members could order the prints of the images at their own expense!

What about money matters?
     Your first financial task is to create a budget for anything that is to be paid for or reimbursed by the reunion committee.  Make sure you include everything you think of - stamps are an important part of every budget.  Plus, it's always a good idea to allow a little bit of leeway in the budget for cover any unexpected expenses.
     After you have decided how much this reunion is going to cost, you must determine where you are getting said money.  Be sensitive to the financial situation of your attending family members.  You don't want to plan a reunion that hardly anyone can afford.

Here are some ideas for collecting money:

  • Charge an admission fee : This is a common way to collect money.  The money goes into the "reunion treasury."  You are able to finance things like giveaways, food, etc.  Charging an admission fee is also effective in reducing cancellations - if people have already given a deposit, they are much less likely to cancel at the last minute.  Explain in great detail what this "ticket price" does and does not include.  Have people mail their fees to you and put the money in the "reunion treasury."  Divvy up the cost of a conference room and find out how much it woudl cost per person for a catered dinner.  These are some things that really add a lot to a reunion without costing very much.  Do not include the room price in a ticket, because everyone will make his or her own reservations by calling 1-800-942-3553 and saying, "I'm with the _____ Family Reunion!"  Some people may stay longer than others may, since they get the group rate even after the reunion ends. 
  • Hold an auction : Everyone in the family will bring something to auction off, such as crafts, surprise bags, fruit baskets, toys, videos, or even used items.  A silent auction is easy to maintain with paper and clipboards in front of each product, or, if you want to eliminate the cost of the clipboards, actually have a family member play "auctioneer."  This is also a fun family activity to bring everyone together - even with the silliest of items.
  • Raffle : Have a family member or local business donate an item of value to the reunion to hold for raffle, or you ca purchase an item from the reunion treasury money.  Another idea is this: Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center gives 1 free room after 20 paid guest rooms.  So, if you have at least 21 rooms in your family reunion, you can raffle that free room - and it's free for all the reunion nights.  Tickets should cost between one and two dollars each.

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