The COVID-19 pandemic has cramped our family reunion styles in huge ways. Day-to-day time with relatives has been hampered by the dread of spread as well as social-distancing restrictions. Until the day when we are all free to convene and meet up en masse, we have consulted with a seasoned event planner with expertise in reunions, weddings and other family-oriented events for tips to assist you through the planning of in-person and virtual events.
Plan to gather.
Anthony Rodell, co-principal of Reid Rodell Event Planners based in Washington, D.C., believes we have little reason to stop planning our family reunions. He says, “The pandemic slowed down our physical activities and planning family gatherings, but it also inspired super creativity using technology as well as a few ‘old school’ methods.”
Anthony says, “Keep the health and safety of your clan as a primary focus in your planning and gathering.” Create a list of elders and infirmed relatives to distribute to family members. The point is to make individuals aware of those relatives who should have limited contact and who should be protected. He adds, “Use the list to remain in contact with people who cannot take the risk of being around others.”
Plan creatively and with purpose.
Over the past 18 months, Anthony has suggested that clients take advantage of time and to use it as an ally in building relationships and connections that can sometimes be missed at larger family reunions and gatherings. He has advised them to use extra time to show people you care about them and want to know them better. For example, he suggests:
- Consider micro-events that can take place in the regions and cities, where family members reside. “Smaller gatherings with people who have been vaccinated and who will wear masks when necessary are best to avoid spreading the coronavirus.” You can videotape or stream the gathering for missing members and it takes place any time of year – indoors and outdoors.
- Stay in touch all year to discuss family matters and to plan for the big event when time and safety permit. Ongoing planning is a way to keep hope alive.
- Establish timetables and ‘committees’ to send birthday greetings, drop off desserts or have food (flowers) delivered to elderly relatives, perform routine tasks like cutting grass or home maintenance, and invent ways to celebrate holidays safely.
Here are a few ways to stay connected:
- Host driveway and garage gatherings for relatives new to you. Make it a potluck or catered event with buffet service and to-go plates and cups (for later).
- Utilize a small event venue to digitize photos. Turn it into a party.
- Meet at a local park to share a barbecue dinner (bring the Argia B’s MUMBO SAUCE and some line-dancing.
- While the weather is good, plan hiking and bicycling family events.
- Use a service like Streamyard.com to host a family talent show and recital.
- Schedule Facetime or Zoom sessions with the elders to share and record their recollections of the past, especially the ancestors.
“Reunions are about the people,” says Anthony. “If family members feel valued, then they can bear having to wait for larger gatherings to reconvene.”