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Family Reunion

Family Reunion During the Holidays

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Edith Wagner is editor of Reunions magazine and author of The Family Reunion Sourcebook, Reunions Workbook and www.reunionsmag.com.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HOLIDAY GATHERINGS
All holiday parties are reunions ...
That said, far more extended family reunions will happen next summer, but the holiday season is a great time for doing some important reunion organizing. If you're traveling during the holidays or hosting travelers, use a bit of your precious time together to make decisions that can really move reunion planning ahead. Most basic is whether or not you have a firm date. Have members been notified? Have you chosen a travel agent? Have you chosen your location? Approve your budget and invite members to begin contributing generously to your reunion fund. Have you set up a bank account? Delegate. Decide. Be well organized.

DON'T DO IT ALONE
Decide where to get help and start early to use all of it you can find. Contact your travel agent to ask for her suggestions and help. Remember, she can provide far more than just tickets and be an important member of your reunion planning team.

Contact the convention and visitors bureau (CVB) at your destination, even if it's the CVB in your own community. They offer many services to reunions. Ask if they offer reunion organizing workshops (as do Atlanta and DeKalb County, Georgia, Kissimmee/St. Cloud, Florida, and Flint, Michigan).

When you contact hotels, resorts, cruise ships - wherever you'll have your reunion - ask to work with their reunion specialist.

Visit www.reunionsmag.com. Read The Family Reunion Sourcebook by Edith Wagner, Reunions magazine and Reunions Workbook (all available at www.reunions.com) and many other books on the subject. Surround yourself with the very best and your reunion can't fail.

COMMIT TO COMMITTEES
Schedule committee meetings while everyone is (or many are) home or arrange a conference call when everyone can make a little time. This is a good time to establish committees to plan games for kids, banquet program, memorial service, special activities, raffles, auctions. There is no reunion task that can't use some help. Volunteers are important at all steps in the planning process and essential on reunion day.

USE WINTER TO PREPARE FOR SUMMER
Many reunion projects require lots of planning and lead-time. If your group has decided to produce a quilt or publishing project (cookbook, family history, memory book or directory), starting early is very wise. Use holiday visits and correspondence to ask family members for a decorated square for a reunion quilt, a recipe for a cookbook, stories for a family history, and anecdotes or pictures for a memory book. Relying on many people to meet a deadline requires determination and patience - important qualities of reunion organizers.

This is a great time of year to outline your expectations for next summer's reunion in a newsletter or broadcast email. If you want to suggest or even organize things like a raffle or an auction, it's not too soon to light some fires under craftspersons who will make things to donate for sale. Planning ahead carefully is the biggest single way to ensure a successful reunion. Thinking reunion year-round doesn't hurt, either.

MAKE HISTORY
If you are the family genealogist or historian, you'll need to prepare your materials for display and sharing at the reunion. The family reunion is a captive audience for someone whose passion has been to collect family history. Family trees, charts, books, spread sheets, print outs and scrapbooks are the obvious displays, but genealogists include many more ways to highlight fascinating family history. Pictures of ancestors and their homes must be collected and organized, and visits to the very places they lived have to be arranged ahead of time. Collecting artifacts and labeling them to explain what they are/were used for and assembling tapes of oral history from family elders are just a few things you can complete this winter in preparation for your summer event. Family history is the one thing everyone at the reunion has in common. Celebrate it!

CHRISTMAS IN JULY
Think ahead! If you're planning a Christmas in July (or June or August) theme or party for next year's reunion, think about the details right now. Take advantage of sales to collect decorations, ornaments, gifts and wrappings; pack those you'll want to take to the reunion next summer. Seasonal supplies will never be as accessible or as affordable in July as they are the day after Christmas! Plus an important reunion detail will be d-o-n-e.