Forgive our silence this past few weeks! We’ve been off playing with our families!!
One of our ALL-TIME FAVORITE parts of the year!!
We’ve been uplifted, strengthened, unified and refreshed by both Mike’s family and mine as we’ve gathered together. This year both reunions were more relaxed and simple, reminding us that really it’s just time together that we love so much! But I believe for both sides of our family last year’s reunions were among the very biggest & best! (though in the end that’s hard to say – it seems every year is ‘the best’ in some way!) The most important part of a family reunion is indeed just DOING it and being TOGETHER, but Mike and I have put a lot of thought into what we want for our own future family reunions now that Isaac, Emily, and Anna have graduated and no longer live at home. Collecting ideas from our experiences with two of the best family-reunion-planner parents and families ever, here’s a list of forming ideas for future family reunions! We’d love to hear some of your best ideas and family reunion advice too if you’d share!
There are at least 3 things you need to have a GREAT Family Reunion!!
1. TIME TOGETHER–
We really like the idea of at least a week together – enough time to bond, makes it worth the huge effort of packing up, gives enough time for some great activities, and provides a real rejuvenating getaway together!
With a large family that lives close together Mike’s parents and family have opted for shorter, close-to-home reunions for the most part. This allows flexibility for those that need to work or fulfill other responsibilities -they can drive back and forth. The downside is not having everyone together the whole time, but it is wonderful to see how supportive everyone is of the reunion and there is usually at least some time with everyone together.
My parents have planned a big 1-2 week vacation every other year as a family since I was 15 years old (I’m the oldest child). It’s always in a different place and there is plenty of sightseeing, adventuring, and learning as part of each trip. These have turned into the family reunions of today and still every other year every one is at them!! (We would never miss! TOO MUCH FUN!!!!) The pros of going to a new spot each reunion is that you remember the reunions distinctly, you get a new experience every time, and it’s usually far enough from home that you come and stay together having little to no distractions from home.
We’ve decided for our own future reunions with our children and grandchildren we may combine our families’ approaches and host a longer reunion every other year at a new destination and continue to hold a shorter, really relaxed reunion at a traditional, closer-to-home place on the same weekend every year for anyone that can make it. (But no less than 4 days with check-in and check-out to make all the packing up worth it! I’ve decided that after a few 2 day trips we’ve taken lately – PHEWPH! A LOT of work! But always worth it of course.;)
One idea I remember reading from the Eyre family is taking a MONTH together at a cabin by a lake! Grandma and Grandpa are there the whole time and it’s open to anyone who wants to come up as their schedule permits but ONE WEEK is REQUIRED for everyone to be there. Sounds like FUN!! For now, Mike reminds me he must work for a living ;)! mmmm….. maybe someday. 🙂
My sister-in-law’s family hosts their reunion on the very same weekend every year so EVERYBODY KNOWS to count on it!! They do it at the same traditional place but each year they choose a new theme and go all out which helps with distinctly remembering each reunion, everything from Star Wars to the Olympics- sounds GREAT! It’s going onto the 3 and 4th generation now!
I think no matter what amount of time you choose or how close or far away from home you make it, having the TRADITION of holding a family reunion helps make it a SUCCESS!
2. PREPARED by PLANNING – We’ve seen first hand how thoughtful, careful planning makes a HUGE difference in the quality of the time spent together. We’ve been very touched to see planners prepare for each family and individual – thinking ahead and about each person’s needs, everything from which condo unit a family will be assigned to which activities and teammates will be chosen goes a long way to making the event a special, happy one for everyone!!
Along with that careful, thoughtful planning have come:
* well-planned family reunion dates, checking the calendars far in advance and marking them twice for reunion-time!
*specially made reunion invitations REALLY lend themselves to the success of the event, sending a message right upfront that this is important!
*personal preparations that make each one know they are loved and important – so fun to show up to last year’s Hoffman reunion and find our names laminated on the post of our cabins, each one chosen carefully for the family it would fit. At the Cooper reunion we received a welcome bags with the reunion theme and logo on it; set in Park City, the theme was perfect, “Stand firm as the Mountains Around Us”. The bag was filled with meaning not only from the rocks and people around us at the reunion but to remind us of the firm foundation our pioneer ancestry have given us to stand strong upon! The children received T-shirts too!! (A great way to keep track of the family when you are out sight-seeing.)
*special motivation for children, from treasure hunts upon arrival to collecting beads when an adult catches them doing something kind or helpful to make a necklace or to trade at the family reunion store, we’ve experienced some really wonderful reunion time for the children!!
3. And some SUPER FUN ACTIVITIES!!!
We’ve seen so many great activities for fun, bonding, laughter, learning, and remembering our families that I could never name them all, but I can tell you every ounce of planning and preparation for family fun is worth it’s weight in gold when it come to family time!
Everything from the hit-activity of putting pre-cut vinyl names of the grandchildren on big water-bottles they could each use for the week (& not lose now), to great free-time activities like rock decorating, (that kept my 6 yr old busy making a whole rock family!) to some awesome outdoor adventures to family history fun ideas, we are SOOO GRATEFUL for recreational activities done together!!
One of my favorite activities last year was the very well-planned Hoffman hike where we set out to find or create (with teammates) H’s on camera! (It was short enough for little children but beautiful enough to satisfy the most seasoned hikers!) There were surprises and snacks planted along the trail that the children were thrilled to find as rewards. The goal of the hike was the funnest part – the team that captured the most Hs on digital WON!! (Teams were assigned in ways to let me reconnect with some of my nieces and nephews that I don’t get much time with- loved that). What a hoot! We were seeing H’s like crazy!! And making them with our beings also! The pictures from the hike are great mementos of some really wonderful memories made that day!
And of course, my children will NEVER forget the AMAZING activity Grandma C set up for us last year (to the hilt!) “The FEAR FACTOR”! We were given different samplings of foods that were not recognizable! If you dared eat it, swallowing it and all, then you were in for another round until we had the triumphant winners!! Unforgettable!! Hahaha!
Yes, there are so many great things to do to strengthen family relationships and enjoy one another. After careful consideration my husband and I have put together a guideline for the activities we want to be part of our EVERY reunion! (Tradition! Tradition!) Here’s our list! I can’t wait to see yours!!
*An awesome welcome and Intro to the week!
One of the best we’ve ever seen was when Mike’s oldest brother and his wife were up for their turn to host the reunion. They found a fantastic camp through his work and we had the place all to the Hoffmans. They gave everyone time to check-in and get settled and then we gathered around the firepit for a formal introduction to the week…. or..well…. really NOT so formal!- it was one of the funniest family presentations I’ve ever seen as the family was hidden behind the makeshift curtains of a puppet stand so what we saw was all mixed up! Earl had arms for legs – they were covered in blue jeans and hiking boots, his wife’s arms in place of his own, which was really funny when she tried to touch his ears or cover his eyes! It was a total hit and kept everyone’s attention as they outlined the reunion agenda and the camp rules! Too funny! This is something that can change every year but we want it to be fun, entertaining, and share clear expectations so everyone is on the same page when the reunion begins!
A welcome bag as my family has done is very helpful! Ours had an agenda for the week, flyers on some of places we’d be visiting, other info we needed for the week like room #s and reminder of assignments, and of course, some SWEET TREATS! It’s always exciting to receive the reunion-themed T-shirts for the children! (…to wear on outings, making it easier to find each other and harder for anyone to get lost.)
* A service project with the power of TEAMwork behind it! SOOO FUN and PRODUCTIVE that way! Our own family just filled back-packs for those that needed a little extra support getting started for school – 85 of them! SOO FUN!
* An awesome family heritage activity whether it’s some of the fun ones we have experienced like charades to guess the family history story or delightful skits or ‘name that face bingo’ or some new way we will find to do this on Pinterest later… recognizing and remembering our heritage HAS to part of the reunion!
Last year the Cooper’s were assigned a team and a family history story that they were to prepare for presentation. Each night a different team presented and wow!-it really brought us together, tears, laughter, family history and all!
The Hoffman’s gathered around the campfire with branding irons of the old Hoffman cattle brand and burned it into wood pieces to keep – the best part was spontaneously listening to Grandpa’s stories of being raised on the ranch in Randolf, UT!
* A Spiritually nourishing time together. Ideally each family reunion will include a trip to the temple together, but if it isn’t close enough to be possible we want to improvise with a sunrise devotional, a fireside service or family testimony meeting. We want to be sure to have some time gathered as a family that lets us rejoice in our Creator and the great blessings He has given us… together and to remind us of who we really are, where we came from and where we are going… TOGETHER!!!
* Water! Whether it is resting beside it or playing in it, whether it is an inflatable slip and slide, a pool, a stream, a pond, a lake, a river, or an ocean, water-play must be included in a super fun family reunion! This year we had a few fun pools where the Hoffmans stayed and then rushed over to enjoy Pineview Reservoir with the Coopers (the best part was watching Grandpa try standing up on the paddleboards for the first time, FULLY CLOTHED!! LOL!) Fun for my husband to enjoy so many memories from his youth as his family played there often!
* Various Activities for tiny ones, elementary age, teens, and parents and some for the whole family of course!
We have decided it’s best to include free-time activities that let spontaneous fun happen with cousins and beyond AS WELL AS structured activities that are aimed to make family connection happen at a family reunion!
Last year Mike’s brother and his wife had volleyball available for free-time, arts and crafts, a F.R. store, there was also hiking, a stream for the little boys to play in, and just talking by the fire for adults! My family had the fun find of an AWESOME activity room for children as part of the condos we stayed in last year- the little boys especially just couldn’t get enough of it! There was swimming and shopping and resting and then preparing our team skits if it was our night to present!
This year those of the Hoffmans that wanted to spent a fun day together doing Mountain Adventures like the Mountain Coaster, the alpine slides, the drop, the jump – ok, I don’t know what they were all called – but they were fun. We finished that fun day with EVERYONE doing to tram to the top of the world… I mean Snowbird together! FU-UN!!!
We’ve also learned from experience with our own family vacations that if we do a big day out, we like the next day to be mostly in with a lighter schedule. We did this for our last trip to Florida and it worked out GREAT (for me and the babies particularly) – a big day at Disney, a day at the vacation home, a big day at universal studios, a quieter day at the vacation home, a big day at Sea World (ohhh, I want to go back!), a day at the vacation home. This kept our spirits and energy up and the children LOOOOVED swimming in the backyard on the off days!!
We’ve also considered following a schedule of free-time from 1pm-dinnertime (great for little ones or grandpa to nap – ok mom might need this too if children were up all night – for kids to play, and for the women to go shopping! 😉
* We’d like a hike to be part of each reunion if possible. This year the Hoffman’s hit the hike to Secret Lake! GORGEOUS and SOO FUN TOGETHER!
And a few last, but very important items, to organize:
Who’s in Charge? Mike’s parents made a system about a decade ago in which the reunion was simply rotated from oldest to youngest, changing each year. It’s been really fun to experience different adventures – always great!- based on who is in charge. Because each sibling and their families have different resources available and different ideas about what they want to do it has really been enjoyable! We’ve held the reunion at a park, in a home, (each couple getting a room to themselves or driving up for the day. I couldn’t even believe how many fun activities we could do from there – four wheeling on-site, zip-lining and hiking nearby, and a movie theater on-site & other fun activities inside and in the backyard! Saved money and was just as fun!), we’ve really enjoyed Mike’s brother’s condo timeshares at Snowbird, and when it was our turn, Mike and I dragged everyone to Devil’s Gate to see and experience firsthand a little of what the pioneer hand-cart companies had to endure at the campsite and visitor’s center there. As for my family, Mom has been an AMAZING PLANNER!!! And though all of us, Dad most of all, try to support and help out in anyway we can, she really has given us the most remarkable times together through her very own enthusiastic and well-thought-out family gatherings! That’s been an incredible gift to all of us! Mike and I after much consideration decided we again, like the idea of combining these two approaches best. Mike and I like the idea right now of planning the reunions, but we also decided it may be best to eventually assign one child & family-to-be as ‘chief assistants’ in planning and preparation for the event!
Meal-planning? Meal preparation is a big deal with this many people together! I LOOOOOVVVEE FAMILY DINNER!! Or breakfast…or lunch! Time to sit down together and listen and discuss and laugh and eat together! It never lasts long enough around here (on to the next evening activity!). For me I feel we nourish both body and soul when we offer good food and sit down together to eat it. Both sides of our families have divided meal-planning and preparation between the siblings and their families. We usually are assigned a main meal to prepare and clean-up and a lighter meal (meaning breakfast or lunch) during our time together. Most often we have another family assigned with us for those 2 meals. Fun to plan and work together and a lighter load this way also.
Who foots the bill? That’s a big question when it comes to hosting and feeding a big number of people that you love! And a lot comes into play here, like how expensive is travel and reunion housing?, how long are you vacationing together?, how well could different families afford reunion costs?. Again our families differ. The reunion is paid for by our parents on one side and the cost is divided up between every member of the family on the other side. On one hand we’ve wanted to help bear the load more (even just paying for the meals we are in charge of would make us feel better), and on the other hand we’ve felt happy about being able to contribute to family reunion costs but we’ve also have gained a sense of cautiousness about the burden placed on young families finishing school or waiting and working for that dream-job, that being our situation for so many years. What does your family do?? I know both of our extended families growing up held auctions of donated, even frequently hand-made items, to earn money for the next gathering.
Again, my husband and I opt for a balance between our families approaches. We like the idea of bearing the brunt of the burden for reunions, at least while our children are young in their schooling and relationships and we can, but we also like the idea of them contributing – so perhaps an auction/bakesale/grandchildren’s jump-a-thon or some other fun fundraiser to gather green for the next get-together will become a traditional part of our regular reunion traditions as well (the challenge I see here is time too! Would have been VERY HARD for me to bring a baked or hand-made item to a reunion, especially with the travel involved! I appreciate how thoughtful BOTH of our families have been about not over-burdening us when it comes to reunion-time). I also like the idea of people anonymously donating when they can to help others when they can’t, and vice versa, to make these wonderful times happen.
And of course, last but not least, FAMILY PHOTOS ought to be a part of every family gathering. At the Hoffman family reunion this year they had arranged to have a photographer to come to us. How great is that? She was terrific and took individual family pictures, then grandchildren with Grandparents, then G&G & their children. Then she really dared to attempt capturing the whole group! I was sincerely impressed with her good cheer and stamina! (If anyone in UT needs a good photographer we will give you her name!) My family’s been blessed with awesome photographers on-sight between my sister and my brother. Here’s a family reunion pic from them.
We’ve shared with you some of what we feel you need to create a FABULOUS FAMILY REUNION!! So tell me, what does YOUR FAMILY DO??? What are your favorite memories and experiences from family reunions?? What have I missed that really ought to be part of every family reunion? I can’t wait to hear! And to get plannin’!!
Happy Family Gatherings!!!!!!!
From the Hoffmans