Loved ones aren’t as far away as you think…
I was excited to see a calendar invite slide into my email inbox in early January, inviting me to what would be the most meaningful family reunion of my entire life.
As the in-house virtual event producer in my family, I wish I could tell you this was entirely my idea. However, the idea stemmed from my baby-boomer father and his cousins. I’ll note that our extended family lives all over the US, in three time zones if including grandparents, kids, and grandkids (and one great-granddaughter!)
We’ve seen family cooking nights, family game nights, and even family movie nights. But as we’re reminded of how, in the blink of an eye, we can lose loved ones to viruses and other unexpected ills, sharing stories, and getting to know family on a deeper level has taken on a whole new meaning.
The following list details the methods my dad and his cousins used to create my family’s reunion and I hope that these tips inspire you and your loved ones (chosen family included!) to plan something unique and special with your people.
- Develop an agenda ahead of time! By circulating the reunion agenda ahead of time, my father and his cousins ensured all 22 of us knew what to expect, what to come prepared to discuss, and what the overall vibe of the evening would be together.
- Anoint a leader! Call him a control freak, it was no surprise that my father took on the role of emcee for our reunion. He ensured we stayed on topic, that everyone had a chance to speak, and that we ended right on time.
- Provide ample runway for family members to mark their calendars. With different time zones, work schedules, and availability, my father and his cousins provided us each with enough time to mark our calendars, avoiding scheduling conflicts where they might otherwise exist with less notice. This ensured perfect attendance.
- Encourage one-on-one virtual coffees between relatives. As I write this, I’m minutes away from joining a virtual “evening tea” with a cousin whom I haven’t spoken to in nearly a decade. We’re looking forward to catching up, since, as it turns out, we have a LOT in common and wouldn’t have realized it had it not been for our reunion.
- Don’t procrastinate, just do it. If we’ve learned anything during this pandemic, it’s that precious life can be taken away at a moment’s notice. Rather than hiding out in our little corner of the universe, disconnected from friends and family, take it upon yourself to be “that” family member who initiates planning your family reunion. What do you have to lose beside conversations with loved ones?
- Appreciate the silver linings of physical distancing. Rather than doling out thousands of dollars on airfare and hotel accommodations, your virtual family reunion will cost you NOTHING. I repeat, NOTHING. There has never been a better time to gather your family troops and connect. This goes for your given and chosen family!
For those wondering what was on our agenda (see item #1), I’ve added it below:
- 5 p.m. PST — Welcome from my dad, Bob
- 5:02 PST — Inspiration from our patriarch, “Uncle Bernie” (my dad’s uncle)
- 5:05 PST — Everyone shares (yes, all 22 of us): A). Highlight from 2020 and, B). A hope for 2021
- 5:55 PST — Closing remarks from Uncle Bernie
- 6:00 PST — End
Of course every family dynamic is different. By no means is this intended to be your exact agenda, but rather a starting point! Think about your family members, their personalities, as well as your unique family dynamic. Maybe everyone should bring their favorite story to a virtual campfire. Maybe everyone shares their fondest memories of a family member who lost their life. Maybe a game of charades is in order.
No two family reunions will be the same. Have fun, stay connected, and spread joy!