Family Reunion

Family Reunion Planner Survival Tips

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Dr. Laurence A. Basirico, professor of sociology at Elon University, researches and teaches about family reunion relationships. He is one of seven siblings, married, has three children, and participates regularly in his family's reunions. Featured on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" and in most major newspapers in the country, he is the author of The Family Reunion Survival Guide: How To Avoid Problems With Your Family Without Avoiding Your Family ( Here are some "Relationship Boosters" from his book, especially important for destination reunions.

Identify a reunion theme that connects all family members. Shared experiences and memories are a powerful source of unity for any group. Organize your reunion around a theme that everyone in your family can relate to. Family ancestry, a milestone such as a golden anniversary, or even a sports or cultural event can serve as common thread. Be creative.

Plan activities that focus on the commonalities that family members share. Activities that reinvigorate cherished family moments strengthen bonds. A table displaying old family photographs, a night of swapping stories about colorful deceased relatives, photo albums or videos of key family events, or games that require deep knowledge of the family's past are only a few ways to blend the family together.

Elicit input from everyone who is going to attend about time, place, and activities. This gives all the family members a sense of ownership for the reunion rather than simply being an attendee. It makes the planning process an integral part of the reunion, extending it, and getting everyone to interact, well beyond the time that everyone spends together.

Consider enlisting the help of a professional reunion planner. While every family member's reunion suggestions should be heard, a non-family member such as a travel agent or cruise planner, can offer non-biased expertise about the range of experiences suitable to a family's particular interests. It makes the planning more fair and avoids the possibility of plans made in anyone's self interest at the expense of others.

Recognize that there may be some pre-reunion jitters and take steps to help curtail them. For some, uncertainty about what to expect at the reunion, about how they are remembered, about how people have changed, or about how they might fit in can create some anxiety. Plan activities that allow everyone to feel like an important part of the family and let people know beforehand about these plans.

Develop some activities that require that family members work together and to depend upon each other to complete the task. Besides shared experiences, another way to build unity is through interdependence. Regardless of peoples' differences, completing a task together, such as planning a meal, playing on the same team during a game, making a family skit, or working together on any project creates a sense of accomplishment and togetherness.

Don't underestimate the importance of planning, organization, and structure. The research clearly indicates that successful family reunions don't just happen. A survey of readers of Reunions Magazine found that the highest levels of satisfaction at the end of a reunion were reported by people who said that their reunions were the most planned, structured, and organized. Painstaking planning is proven to pay off!

With input from everyone, make important decisions, rules and boundaries prior to the reunion. All of us have lifestyles and daily living patterns that make sense in our own adult lives and families, but these might be different from other adults in the reuniting family. It's essential that rules for daily living be discussed and compromises be reached prior to the reunion rather than during the reunion.