Family Reunions, Family Travel and Reunions

Planning the Time and Location of Your Virtual Family Reunion

Planning for anything in life, including a virtual family reunion, can be extremely valuable.

A few weeks ago my hubby came across a recipe he wanted to try for dinner. We share the duty of making dinners, and it was my turn to cook dinner. He told me the recipe said it only took 10 minutes to prepare. Had I taken the time to read the recipe and plan ahead, we might have eaten dinner at a normal dinner time.

My first clue should have been the pure number of vegetables he purchased for the dinner. When it came time to prepare dinner, I noticed the “Preparation Time” had assumed that you had cut up all the veges and pre-cooked the pasta to al dente and a number of other steps. Wait a minute! It took me a l…o…n…g… time just to get to the point where the 10-minute preparation began.

Fortunately for me, my hubby was understanding and even a little apologetic when he realized why dinner was so late. And me, lesson learned (again) to always read a recipe fully ahead of time to make sure you have all the ingredients and take into consideration any prep work that needs to be done.

Importance of Virtual Family Reunion Planning

It is easy to fall into the trap that thinking just because a family reunion is virtual, or online, that it won’t take much planning. And, honestly, it won’t take nearly as much planning as an in-person family reunion. But there are a few things you can do to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.

Planning a date and where to meet up online is essential for your virtual family reunion.   Planner with flowers. /

There are many reasons to hold a family reunion online. For example, maybe there is a world pandemic and no one can travel. Sometimes we just want to connect and celebrate a special occasion like an anniversary or the expected birth of a child. We may also want to just get together to enjoy an online family game night. Knowing your why can help you in your planning.

Not doing some simple planning can cause a lot of confusion. The three most important things that need to be planned are the who to invite, when the reunion will be held, and where you will hold your online family reunion.

Planning Who to Invite to Your Virtual Family Reunion

Hint for figuring out who to invite: Make your list of invitees based on the reason that you are having the reunion. Having a reason and/or a theme makes the reunion more entertaining because everyone experiences something special.

Maybe you may want to have an all-girls’ teddy bear themed baby shower. Or, just maybe, you want to play a Harry Potter-themed trivia night for fun for the Harry Potter fans in the family. For our family’s 2020 Hawaiian-themed virtual reunion, everyone was invited. When planning how many people to invite, my personal opinion is: the more the merrier.

Know the limits of the technology you will be using. On the date I am writing this post, the free Zoom account limits you to 100 participant log-ins. For most people, that may be plenty of log-ins, but if you need more you need to plan accordingly.

Planning Where to Hold Your Online Family Reunion

At a traditional family reunion you need to find a physical location…like a campground, a hotel conference center, or even someone’s back yard. But with a virtual family reunion, planning a location means finding somewhere online to hold your reunion.

Mother and child at computer joining in the virtual family reunion.

There are lots of virtual places to gather online. Some are more user-friendly than others. The following are the two our family uses most often:

Here are some additional places I have heard of people gathering. While I have tried a few of these, some offer limitations or were not really built for family use but more for business use:

Make Sure Everyone Know How to Use the Technology

Make sure everyone knows ahead of time what technology you have chosen. If possible give them some basic instructions on how to use the technology. Alternatively, you can send them the link to the site’s instructions on how to use the technology. Not everyone is comfortable using new technology, so maybe have a volunteer ready to walk them through it ahead of time.

Planning When to Hold Your Virtual Family Reunion

As mentioned before, knowing your “why” or your purpose can help you in planning a date. Celebrating grandma’s and grandpa’s 50th anniversary? It is best to hold it some time near or around the date of their anniversary not six months later.

But if you aren’t celebrating anything in particular (except your family!), the dates are a lot easier to plan for a virtual family reunion. My family’s online reunion took place for one full week during the month of July. Other than our live trivia night kick-off, all other aspects of the event took place within our family’s Facebook group. People simply logged on when it was convenient and participated in the daily activities. Each day had its own thread which helped keep things organized.

If not planning your virtual family reunion around a special date, I highly recommend adding a theme to your reunion. Themes allow each reunion to be special and different than the other ones.

Coordinating the Big Event

A traditional family reunion is a big event and often takes several people, or even several committees, to organize. While an online family reunion doesn’t take quite the same amount of planning, you may wish to ask for help. Sometimes, it’s just fun to have an extra ear or two to bounce ideas off of.

If you decide to ask for help, there is no need to meet in person. Often, you can do most of the planning through calling, texting, or emailing. Although if you need an excuse to enjoy Taco Tuesday, this just might provide you the right excuse to hang out with your fellow planners. Listen to your planning crew…especially if they have any concerns you might not have thought of.

In addition to the pre-planning phase, I asked for feedback several times throughout our family’s online event. The observations were noted, adjustments were made, and I have several ways I will be changing things up for our next event.

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    Include Something for Everyone

    I have a very unique family. (But isn’t every family unique?) One of the things I wanted to be mindful of was that there would be something for everyone. To get as much participation as possible, I needed to be sure there was a variety of activities so everyone felt there included.

    Participants enjoyed planning and creating these vegetable sculptures for our online family reunion.
    Photography & Food Carving Talent: Whales Swimming in Hawaiian Waters

    For the cooks and bakers of the family, we had a cooking activity. I gave out a list of “secret” ingredients and we got quite the variety of dishes that people came up with. In addition, people were able to submit photos or videos of various talents being showcased…all around the theme of “Hawaii.” We had videos of dogs doing the hula, a reading of “Walter the Farting Dog Banned from the Beach”. And several people showcased crafting talents like memory book pages and quilts and photography.

    Review Your Plans Before the Big Day

    When I chose to make a new dish for dinner a few weeks ago, I made a huge mistake. I failed to review the recipe (the plan) before it was actually time to make the dinner. While the dish was still tasty (I will be making it again), I failed in execution. Dinner was quite late that night. Other things we has planned to do that evening had to wait for another time.

    Review your plans before the big date to be sure you’ve got everything in place and ready to go. It can save you so much headache and make the reunion a lot more memorable for everyone.

    As always, remember: The family that plays together, stays together.

    If you or anyone you know is thinking of holding an online family reunion, please feel free to share this article.

    I would love to hear any experiences you have had with planning an online family reunion. Leave a comment below and let me know how it went.

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    1 thought on “Planning the Time and Location of Your Virtual Family Reunion”

    1. I moved away from family a year and a half ago. It’s been so hard not seeing everyone as planned.

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