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Family Reunion Party Planning Guide and Tips

Contemplating a get-together? Here are seven questions to ask before planning a brouhaha with your clan in southeast Michigan – or elsewhere.

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From karaoke nights featuring your crazy Aunt Betty to board game marathons for cousins, family reunions can create lasting memories and bonds between relatives. But how to get started? With this guide, of course! Here, we offer up straight solutions to key issues (i.e., avoid landmines in advance) that'll pave the way to your perfect family get-together.

1. Who will you invite?

A. Nearby family
B. Immediate family and close relatives
C. As many relatives as you can think of

Figuring out whether you want just immediate family to attend or whether you plan on asking relatives from around the country – or even world – will help you shape other decisions about your reunion, like the time of year and even the location. The larger your gathering, the more time you'll need to pull it together. For example, popular family reunion spots can fill up months, even years in advance – especially during busy times of the year.

2. Where do you want to have it?

A. Outdoor camping or wilderness resort
B. Your home
C. Destination location

There are so many options when it comes to choosing the place for your event. While it might be less expensive to plan the gathering at your home, with relatives bunking in with you, this can create headaches when it comes to finding a place for everyone to sleep – not to mention feeding everyone three meals a day. But if you have a small group, this might be your best bet.

Camping reunions tend to be popular because it's less expensive to rent the facilities than putting everyone up in a hotel – but even more important, they have built-in activities, such as creating fires, going on hikes and sleeping under the stars. If your family likes the outdoors, Michigan has plenty of campsite options. Renting cottages is a happy medium between hotels and campsites. After all, if you're camping, you'll need to pack equipment and gear for everyone, whereas many cottages come with all the linens and supplies on hand.

Family-friendly hotspots like Orlando's Disney World, Busch Gardens, Cedar Point, may pack a 'wow' factor for family members, but depending on the number of people attending, coordinating your event at one of these locations can get pricey since family members may need to buy airline tickets, lodging, and food once they arrive. Also keep in mind that the destination itself might become the focus of the gathering instead of spending time with family.

3. What time of year do you want to have it?

A. Summer months
B. Around a holiday
C. Whenever you can get everyone together

Summer tends to offer the most options when it comes to choosing dates for your get-together – that's an advantage and a drawback. Family members might have more time off they can devote to a reunion vacation, and kids don't have school to worry about. But both points are true for most families, meaning that popular destinations, including campsites, will fill up quickly – especially over weekends that include holidays.

Plus, during the summer, your kids might be involved in camps or other activities that may overlap reunion times. The bottom line is, there's no perfect time for a reunion that will fit in everyone's schedule without creating conflicts. The best way to ensure the most people can attend is to plan far enough in advance, so that you can reserve the destination and time you want, and family members can mark their calendars.

At Chimney Corners Resort, a popular 300-acre vintage resort on Crystal Lake in Benzie County, guests reserve cabins for family reunions as much as three years ahead of time, says long-time employee Becky Ogilvie.

"We have some families who've been coming here for more than 50 years. It's a tradition," Ogilvie says. Some make reservations for the following year when they check out for the current one. "May, June and late August, we have the most availability." But she also suggests that families consider a reunion in the fall, when the leaves are out and the resorts are less busy.

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