How to Plan a Fun (and Stress-Free!) Family Reunion
It’s time. Time to gather your whole family together for a memorable reunion filled with laughter and love. It’s been too long since you’ve gathered together as a family, and you’re starting to feel the pull to reconnect again.
But where do you even start? Gathering together any group of 20 to 50 people— or more— can seem like an impossible, monumental task. But don’t worry. The experts at Bear Lake Premier Cabins are here to help. Read on for simple tips and tricks for planning your next family reunion to make it easy, relaxing, and filled with connection and community.
1. Pick the Date
First things first— pick the date. We recommend picking a date that is at least 6 months in advance— 12 months out is even better. Most families with school-age children need a fair amount of notice before planning a trip.
Here’s the secret. You want to pick this date with a minimum amount of input as possible. Hear us out. Opening up the date to a group discussion will take an extraordinary amount of time. And everyone always has excuses for why a particular date will not work for them. So get the hardest task out of the way right away— and pick the date right now.
2. Assemble Your Committee
Spoiler alert— you can’t do everything. To have a successful family reunion, you’re going to need some ground troops. Choose a committee of 3 to 5 family members who you know are organized, enthusiastic, and easy-going.
Entertainmentthis person is responsible for booking entertainment (like live bands, DJs, and magicians, karaoke) and for organizing games and activities (arts and crafts, potato sack races, bubble stations, face painting.)
Food and Drinksthey keep track of the menu, catering budget, potluck items being brought, and supplies needed like paper plates, condiments, and serving pieces. They are also responsible for cups, drinks, ice, and alcohol. Send out an email beforehand inquiring about any important food allergies. This committee member will keep track of this information, and plan accordingly.
Social Directorpick the most extroverted of your group to keep the guest list organized, coordinate invitations and RSVPs, follow up with any “maybes,” and welcome people as they arrive. This person will also be in charge of any icebreaker activities and organizing or giving toasts— more on this in a minute.
TreasurerAnother committee member to consider is a treasurer. One of the most important factors when planning a family reunion is your budget. So get together with your committee and decide how much you want to spend on the reunion— from beginning to end. Then, decide how you’re going to pay for it all
3. Set a Budget
It sounds simple enough, right? But when left to chance, this is where most disagreements, arguments, and hurt feelings occur. So get the budget out in the open— clearly and concisely. Ask family members to contribute. You might want to open a separate bank account for the reunion budget— to keep track of how much money has come in and how it has been spent.
Just like families themselves- every family reunion is different. So although you can use a standard budget template to get started, you should also customize your budget to meet your specific reunion goals and plans.
Sit down with a pen and paper and walk yourself through the entire weekend, from beginning to end. Write down everything you see that will cost money to provide. You’ll want to budget for the big-ticket items (like lodging and catering expenses) down to the smaller items, like postage, name tags, and even ice! We suggest you add a small, miscellaneous amount, too- for those unforeseen expenses that always seem to pop up.
A sample, long-weekend, family reunion budget should include line items like:
4. Pick the Reunion Venue
Next up is choosing a family reunion location. If most of your family is spread out throughout the country— or even the world— choosing a beautiful, central, and appealing location is important. Bear Lake on the Utah-Idaho border is the ideal spot for any family reunion. It combines the natural beauty of a freshwater lake with tons of activities— in both the winter and summer— to please everyone.
For big groups, take a look at The Hidden Chateau. This gorgeous, sprawling property can accommodate up to 52 people! With 13 themed bedrooms— including a Lego bedroom and activity area that is every kid’s dream— The Hidden Chateau has enough luxurious square footage for your whole crew to spread out and relax. There’s also a game room for kids of all ages to hang out. Deal the cards for a high-stakes poker game, play video games, or hold a billiard tournament.
The huge theater room is perfect for lazy afternoons— or to wind down in the evening with a movie and some popcorn. Use the theater room to share family videos of past events with loved ones on the big screen!
An enormous dining table has seating for 16, with 10 more seats at the nearby bar. And there’s even more seating out on the deck! Your guests will also have access to two community swimming pools, basketball, tennis, and pickleball courts.
Vacation Home Over Hotel
What’s the easiest way to make your next family reunion easy, relaxing, and memorable? Ditch the generic hotel and rent a vacation cabin instead. Staying at a hotel as a group means renting multiple rooms. There’s no guarantee that they will be adjoining or even close to each other. Yikes.
But renting a vacation cabin means your whole crew is together in one spot. Renting a vacation cabin also means having 24-hour access to a large, fully-equipped kitchen. The kitchen is the unsung hero of any family trip. You’ll bond over freshly-flipped blueberry pancakes in the morning, or blended frozen drinks at happy hour. You’ll whisper over late-night snacks and giggle while the popcorn pops for movie night. The kitchen is where everyone gathers together— to laugh, to talk, and to make lasting memories.
Eagles Roost is another option for an unforgettable family reunion. With eight comfy bedrooms, this home can easily accommodate up to 28 guests. The large kitchen is perfect for family dinners— with seating at the table for 18 and 6 more at the convenient counter bar.
Play ping pong or foosball— or head out to the trails for biking, hiking, and snowmobiling. In the evenings, mix up a cocktail and head out to the large deck, to take in the breathtaking views of Logan Canyon and Beaver Mountain Ski Resort.
5. Make a Timeline
For a destination family reunion like Bear Lake, you’ll want to make a timeline for the weekend. Keep it loose and fun, with one signature event that brings everyone together. Remember, it’s a family reunion— but it’s also a vacation too!
An example of a fun, easy weekend reunion timeline would be:
Meet and greet at the vacation rental cabin with easy cocktails, games, and hors d’oeuvres
Saturday Morning and Early Afternoon
Activities on the lake— swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding
The signature reunion barbecue with dinner, dancing, and drinks into the wee hours
Pancake brunch at the cabin
Here are some nearby attractions close to The Hidden Chateau and Eagles Roost cabins.
Schedule a few of these for fun family memories:
Minnetonka Cave in Saint Charles, Idaho. One of the largest limestone caves in Idaho! They are open from Memorial Day to Labor Day— weather permitting. For groups of 15 or more, call the cave to make
7. Icebreakers & Entertainment
During the signature event, have one icebreaker activity that everyone can participate in. A fun family reunion idea is to have a blank family tree printed out in large format, with a few key members filled in. Have people find their spot on the tree and write themselves in.
Have family photos printed and displayed, or set up an easy family slide show that projects onto a wall. Provide plenty of music and dancing— hire a DJ or a local band to get the party started.
Have family reunion t-shirts printed up to wear during the weekend. Add the printing cost into your budget, and make sure to have plenty of larger sizes on hand. It’s easier to wear a shirt that’s a little too big than one that’s a little too small. So get a lot of large and extra-large sizes to accommodate everyone.
You’ll also want to take a group photo. We recommend taking this as soon as possible— it’s easy to forget to do! Take the photo about an hour after everyone has arrived and settled in at the signature event. If you have a DJ, have him give regular, fun reminders that the photo is coming up, so everyone is ready. Consider hiring a professional event photographer or videographer, too. You’ll be so happy that you did.
8. For Family Members That Can’t Attend
Set Up a Virtual Reunion Station
Hopefully, you’ll have a great turnout at your Bear Lake reunion. But there is always someone who can’t attend. To make them feel included, set up a virtual reunion station. With a simple smart television set-up, those who can’t attend can Skype or video call into the reunion to say hello.
You can also set up a live webcam that folks can access and watch the event as it unfolds. Add a “tech” committee member who is knowledgeable about technology and can be in charge of these items.
9. After the Reunion
Make sure to wrap up the signature event with a toast or other memorable act to close out the reunion. With any successful family reunion, there will be much lingering into the wee hours. But having one memorable closing toast or— even better— a song or act prepared beforehand by some of the more talented family members, will make for a nice “closing” feel.
Having a gift bag to take home is a great touch too— if you can fit it in your budget. Include items like souvenir coffee mugs, luggage tags, pens, and key chains with the family name and reunion date. They are inexpensive to buy in bulk, and always a crowd-pleaser.
Pro tip: choose the date for next year’s family reunion— establishing an annual tradition— and include it in the gift bag and announce it during the closing toast. Keep the Facebook group active, and your annual family reunion will get easier and easier to plan each year.
With proper planning, open communication, a strong committee, and a realistic budget, your next family reunion will be smooth sailing. If you need help with the planning, our expert staff at Bear Lake Premier Cabins is here to help. With our years of experience and unmatched local expertise, we can help you choose the perfect location for your reunion. And we’ll help you make memories that will last a lifetime.
Contact us today to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions
About Planning a Family Reunion
You don’t have to, we did it for you! Click here for your printable Bear Lake family reunion checklist.
Costs vary widely for family reunions. There are many factors to consider— like will the food be catered or potluck? Will you hire a DJ or a band? And if you rent a reunion cabin, like The Hidden Chateau, how many people will be staying there?
On average, a catered family reunion dinner event costs about $51 per person. If you rent a family reunion cabin from Bear Lake Premier Cabins— and have the maximum number of guests staying there— you can expect to pay between $300 and $600 per person for accommodations.
Once again, rates for reunion cabins vary widely according to how many guests and the time of year. So give us a call for more detailed info.
When writing your guest list, start out by listing your immediate family. That includes your children, your parents, your grandparents, and your in-laws. Then write in your aunts, uncles, siblings, nephews, nieces, and cousins. How many people is that? If that number is close to the limit you have in your head, you may want to think twice about allowing for “plus ones.”
However— the motto of a fun and successful family reunion has always been “the more the merrier.” So if you find your group growing in size, consider finding a bigger venue or renting a second reunion cabin to accommodate everyone.
Communication is crucial for the guest list. So make sure everyone RSVPs promptly and with the correct headcount.
A majority of the time, the cost for a family reunion is split evenly among the family members. The more successful family reunions have a detailed budget planned in advance and a “per person” amount that is included with the invitation.
Be as upfront and clear with this as possible from the very beginning to avoid conflict.
The signature event to your family reunion weekend should have a casual, “family barbeque” type feel. Nothing too fancy. Plan a family softball game, a badminton tournament, or a potato sack race for the kids. Reunion cabins like Eagles Roost even have game rooms— perfect for ping pong playoffs or some foosball.
For entertainment, you’ll want music and dancing. And for the performers in your group, karaoke can be a total blast.
Your family reunion committee should include a chairperson, an entertainment coordinator, a food and beverage manager, and a social director. You may also want to appoint a treasurer and a technology coordinator.
The ideal length for a destination family reunion is a long weekend— Thursday or Friday until Monday— with a signature event on Saturday evening. The event would start in the early evening, say around happy hour, and conclude around 10 PM. Although there may be guests that linger into the wee hours!
Check with the reunion chairperson about bringing a plus one to a family reunion. Particularly for a destination reunion, bringing a surprise guest can be tricky. Communicate clearly your “plus one” plans ahead of time.
It’s cliché but so true— the most important thing to bring to a family reunion is yourself. The whole point of a family reunion is to reconnect with family members, so your presence will often be enough.
But don’t forget to bring your patience, your sense of humor, and an open mind!