Secrets to a Stress-Free Family Reunion

Getting those far-flung branches of the family together in one place doesn't have to be difficult. Here are some tips for making the event easy and memorable.


Move over, Madea. Cue the O’Jays. It’s family-reunion season. Every year since the 1970s TV movie Roots helped popularize the black family reunion, the event has been growing in numbers, sophistication and interest. Today family reunions can be a lucrative niche for hotels, airlines and caterers vying to attract family-reunion-goers.

For those who want to leave the planning to others, there are the long-standing reunion events hosted by the National Council of Negro Women in Washington, D.C., in the fall; the 23rd Annual Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion Celebration Aug. 19-23 in Cincinnati; and the Tom Joyner Family Reunion at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., during Labor Day weekend.

But for others, like Linda Hairston Diggs, planning is less than the warm, fuzzy kumbaya feeling she expected. In fact, Diggs says she is worried that her family reunion in Charlotte, N.C., may not come off as anticipated. A member of the huge Hairston-Dodson clan that gathers every year in Columbus, Ohio, she wants something similar for the second and third generations of cousins on her late father’s side of the family.

Diggs’ concern is not for lack of planning. The reunion committee has conducted a survey of family interests using Survey Monkey, has lined up the hotel and the caterer, and has even started to put together the program. There’s a Facebook page with family photos and a video of Charlotte attractions to juice the folks lagging in their RSVPs. She says she’s worried because fewer than 20 relatives from a family tree that stretches from Seattle to Syracuse, N.Y., have indicated that they will attend.

That’s par for the course, according to experienced family-reunion planners. Lack of advance notice from attendees is just one more factor to consider when planning a reunion. Most planners say that you should make sure you budget for family members who may show up without notice.