“Togetherness is a very important ingredient to family life” - Barbara Bush
Some families have great traditions around family reunions. Here at the Retreat at Center Hill Lake, we have hosted a number of reunions for families of all sizes and types. Each family’s dynamic is unique and their gatherings may vary greatly, but the fact that they have made a point to come together for a day or a week highlights the value placed on family and planning quality time together. For those who are looking to plan a family reunion, whether experienced or first-timers, we thought we would share with you a few things that we have learned from our guests.
Start the conversation early.
Many retreat centers book out at least a year in advance, so you want to get enough people on board to set a date and location early. This also gives people time to plan and save up for their expenses.
Allow for late arrivals and early departures
When setting your dates, choosing at least the full span of a weekend as opposed to one day is best –and a full week is even better! This increases the chances of who can come because some family members may have to arrive a little later and some may have to leave early. This also gives more time for traveling to the location for those that are coming from further away.
Consider location and lodging preferences
Choose a location that is most accessible to everyone. This is not your “vacation” per sey, it’s your family time, so making sure that the majority are able to come is the priority. When looking at lodging options, giving everyone enough personal space for their own family unit seems to make things run a lot more smoothly. Talk to your family about expectations for lodging and do your best to make sure everyone’s needs are met. Choosing a location that has a variety of lodging options is ideal. Many families have appreciated the options that we offer here at the Retreat at Center Hill Lake of cabins, suites or staying in our hotel-style lodge for their family reunions.
Have a gathering space
Once a date and general location are determined, you want to find a facility that offers accommodation options that meet your lodging needs as well as a gathering space for meals and activities. This ensures that no one feels too imposed upon in their lodging space and provides a common area for everyone to come together. The dining hall or the conference at the Retreat at Center Hill Lake are the perfect place for the whole family to come together for meals or fellowship.
Choose with purpose
If possible, choose an organization or retreat center that shares your values so that your money is going towards a cause that everyone can feel good about. Whether it’s a state parks or some sort of non-profit, such as the Retreat at Center Hill Lake, if you have the option, let your money be spent with purpose.
Plan some activities, but don’t over plan
A talent show may not be an appropriate activity for every family group, though no doubt it would be memorable! Plan a number of activities that are appropriate for all ages in your group, but don’t mandate or require everyone to participate. Games, movie night, puzzles, looking through old family albums, hike, day trips, fishing - find things that are right for your family members.
Talk about food
You don’t want to be stuck cleaning up the dishes at every meal and miss out on time with the rest of the family, but preparing your own meals is certainly more cost effective. The length of your stay and the family dynamic will determine how you handle this question, but we would recommend at least one meal that no one has to prepare or clean up. Catering is really the best option for your paid meal. It allows you to stay where you are as opposed to loading up 10 vehicles to sit in the confines of a restaurant and deal with carseats, high chairs and noise to eat an okay meal and have poor conversation - let’s face it, restaurants aren’t a great option for large groups. The Retreat at Center Hill Lake offers catering to groups of 25 or more.
Without a doubt, one person will become the primary organizer for the event, but that person does not want to be left holding the bag, no one should have to. Plan to have each family pay individually for their lodging if possible so that you aren’t collecting money from each other. This may not always be fully avoidable, but to the best of your ability, don’t get stuck awkwardly asking family members to pay you back for their portion.
Document the event
Make sure you plan to take a group photo as well as other photos throughout your time together. This is a special event for your family and you don’t know when you will be able to do it again, so get everyone on board and take the group photo. We love it when groups take photos and let us share it on our social media or tag us on your social media. It’s a great way to show off your family and the fact that you have made it a priority to get together - that’s worth sharing!
If you would like to have your next family reunion with us at the Retreat at Center Hill Lake, fill out our group information request form or give us a call at (615) 597-4298.