Whether you are planning a small get-together for a dozen or two close family members, or you are working on a shindig for several hundred relatives, planning a family reunion on a budget can be tricky. You want to plan a memorable, meaningful and, of course, enjoyable event, but you may not have thousands of dollars lying around for the occasion.
Throwing together the perfect party when you don’t have a lot of money to spend is challenging, but there are plenty of ways to get the job done without having it look like you decided to cheap out. It does take time, effort and creativity, but your efforts will be more than worth it when you get to see your entire family spending time together, talking about old memories and making plenty of new ones. If you are trying to figure out how to plan a family reunion on a budget, keep reading for some helpful advice!
Come Up with a Plan
Before you can plan a reunion, you need to come up with a plan for planning the event. That sounds like a lot of planning, but don’t worry! This part is easier than it sounds. Start by choosing a date and location for the event. For large reunions, it’s smart to start planning at least 12 months in advance. This gives you plenty of time to work out all of the details and ensures that out of town guests will be able to make travel plans.
Reach out to your family members to get their input on when and where they would prefer the reunion to take place. Be sure to ask about any dates that absolutely do not work, too. Get feedback regarding what types of foods, activities, etc. they would like to see. Chances are, you won’t be able to accommodate everyone’s needs. But by reaching out and gathering input, you can determine what will work best for most of your family members.
Jot down a planning schedule. Figure out when you will need to book a venue, hotel rooms, entertainment and caterers. Breaking things down into individual tasks with set due dates makes everything a lot less overwhelming and easier to manage.
Consider Scheduling Your Reunion in the Offseason
The thought of hosting a reunion at a popular seaside park in June or at a ski resort in January may seem like a great idea, but booking venues during peak season can drive up your costs significantly. If you book or stay at a location during its peak season, expect to pay top dollar. This holds true for booking caterers, DJs, etc. during their busiest season.
If you want to save yourself a bundle of money, consider booking during the offseason. Many venues lower their prices by 50 percent (or even more!) during their less busy seasons. And while you may not be able to do any skiing if you stay at a ski resort in July, you’ll probably still have access to some amazing trails and other outdoor activities. The same goes for beach resorts. You probably won’t be able to go swimming if you stay during the winter, but you’ll still have access to plenty of other amenities.
Planning your reunion during the offseason may be easier on your relatives, too. The summer months are usually jam-packed with parties, graduations and other special events. And the holiday season is typically filled with numerous celebrations. Scheduling a reunion during a less busy time of year often makes it much easier for people to attend. Flights and hotel accommodations are cheaper outside of peak travel dates, too, so keep that in mind when you are trying to plan a budget-friendly event.
Recruit Helpers and Delegate Tasks
Planning a reunion is a huge undertaking. For the sake of your own sanity (and your bank account), recruit other family members who are willing to lend a hand. Even if you are the person who is “officially” in charge of the reunion, having other people who can help takes a lot of the weight off your shoulders. Just remember, though, that it will be up to you to delegate tasks, coordinate volunteers and possibly play peacekeeper if there are any disputes.
If you are only expecting a couple of dozen guests, you’ll probably be able to get the job done with just a few helpers. For larger reunions, however, you’ll need more assistance. Consider recruiting someone who will be in charge of the money and making purchases, someone who will find hotel accommodations and negotiate discounts, someone who will handle the food and beverages and someone who will handle communicating with the family. You may also want to assign the task of planning entertainment and activities to one person and find someone who will be responsible for procuring mementos and creating displays. Think carefully about what your ideal family reunion includes and delegate the tasks associated with various elements to family members who want to help.
Create a Budget
When you’re planning a family reunion on a budget, you need to know exactly how much money is in that budget. Reunions can be incredibly expensive, and the cost can be a big factor that prevents people from attending.
If you are hosting a large party, you probably won’t be able to foot the entire bill on your own. That’s totally okay! Check with your relatives to see who is willing to chip in and how much they can afford. If you are going to need everyone to pitch in, give an idea of the cost the first time you reach out to your relatives. The sooner you can let them know how much they will need to contribute financially, the more likely they are to be able to save up the funds.
You may also want to consider setting up a fundraiser. There are all sorts of fundraising ideas for family reunions. Spend some time exploring the possibilities to find the ones that are best suited to your needs. Come up with a few potential options and find out which ones your relatives like best. Once you have the fundraiser set up, you can send materials to family members who are willing to help with your efforts.
Spread the Word
When you are planning a large event, communication is key. Traditionally, this means sending out invitations, flyers, letters, etc. When you are on a tight budget, though, all of that postage can get really expensive. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can stay in touch with nearly everyone without spending a penny.
Setting up a Facebook Group for your reunion is a good place to start. Invite all of your relatives to the group, and use it as a central location for sharing updates, getting feedback from family members, etc. In addition to reducing your postage costs, this makes it easy for people to refer back to the information and reach out to you if they have any questions or concerns. Email is a good option, too, when it comes to staying in touch online. It doesn’t create a centralized location where everyone can access information, though, and it’s easy for replies to get lost in the shuffle.
Keep in mind, though, that some of your relatives may not be tech-savvy. For those people, you may need to make phone calls or send out traditional invitations. Despite this, you can still save yourself a considerable amount of money by keeping most of your communication online.
Come Up with Affordable Activities
One of the best parts of a family reunion is just being able to get together and reminisce. That doesn’t mean, though, that you’re off the hook in terms of activities. Every great reunion has an activity or two for everyone to enjoy. Activities are important for kids, too, because the last thing anyone wants is a bunch of cranky, bored kids.
The good news? Activities don’t have to be expensive. If you are hosting a multi-day gathering, have everyone make tie-dyed t-shirts on the first day. Wholesale blank t-shirts don’t cost a lot, and people of all ages love making their own custom creations. Plus, this activity allows everyone to make something they can wear during the event and take home as a souvenir afterward. No room in your budget for t-shirts? Tie-dyeing wholesale bandanas works, too!
Another fun activity that costs next to nothing is having everyone bring an old photo of a family member and then having other guests try to guess who it is. This is a great way to share family memories and get everyone talking, laughing and sharing old stories. It can be a good way to remember relatives who have passed on, too, and include them in the event when they are no longer able to do so.
When it comes to planning activities, be sure to offer something for everyone. Come up with ideas for adults as well as kids. If you have some teens who are willing to help out, ask them to organize and run events for your younger family members. And when it comes to kids’ activities, the dollar store is a great place to stock up on inexpensive craft supplies, outdoor games and more.
Save Money on Food
Food is one of the most expensive parts of a reunion. When you are trying to feed a few hundred people, the cost can quickly become astronomical–especially if you hire a catering company. Fortunately, there are a lot of budget-friendly ways to ensure full bellies for everyone.
Hosting a potluck instead of hiring a catering company is one of the easiest ways to save money. Chances are, you have some amazing cooks in your family who would be more than happy to bring a dish to share. And those who are less clever in the kitchen are often more than willing to contribute chips, soda or hot dog and hamburger buns.
You can also save a considerable amount of cash by setting up fun self-serve “bars” instead of creating lavish spreads. Set up a hot dog bar complete with all the creative fixings you can come up with. Taco, nacho and hamburger bars are great options, too. And for dessert, set up an ice cream bar where your family members can build the sundaes of their dreams. In addition to being inexpensive, these bars are easy to set up and keep stocked. Grilling hot dogs and setting out a wide range of condiments is way easier than trying to prepare a five-course dinner. Wholesale coolers will keep food fresh at a low cost—and are reusable, too!
The Bottom Line
Hosting a family reunion can be expensive, but there are plenty of ways to cut your costs without making the event seem “cheap.” From using wholesale t-shirts as part of an activity that is fun for guests of all ages to planning your party in the offseason to coming up with creative and inexpensive ways of feeding a large crowd, there are all sorts of things you can do to plan a memorable reunion without draining your entire bank account.
Figuring out how to plan a family reunion on a budget isn’t always easy, but with the tips listed above and some help from your relatives, it doesn’t have to be impossible. Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, a reunion is all about getting people together to reminisce about old memories and make plenty of new ones–not how much money you spend. Create an event that is within your financial means, gather all of your loved ones together in one place and the rest will fall into place.