Sunday, July 22, 2012
Reunion Q and A
I feel a little bit like I am intruding so feel free not to answer this. But I was wondering about the logistics for your family reunions. Some in your family are single, some married with many kids. Some of the families are there for the weekend and others for weeks. Some live close by and some travel far away to get to the reunion. I know you trade off planning and take turns cooking dinner each night, and the kids take turns cleaning. But how do you deal with the financial stuff? Does the family who cooks buy everything for that meal? Is there a budget and everyone contributes x amount? Is it per person or per family? Do the closer families bring the food and supplies since travel costs are less? How do you make it all fair?
We're really blessed to have a 6-bedroom home that our parents own at Bear Lake where we can all stay for the month of July. The house is rented out during June and August and into September and the rent collected from those months covers most costs associated with maintenance on the house and also covers some of the expenses of our reunion (food expenses being the main cost). So we don't have to put money towards rent of a place for a reunion each year and quite a bit of the reunion food is covered for us.
Our reunion lasts 4 days (a weekend and a couple days before or after that weekend). Many people come before the reunion starts and many stay after it ends - it's basically "open house" for most of July when my parents don't accept any rentals of the house (this year from July 7th - 28th). Three of my brothers work for a company headquartered in Utah that has a company conference every July so we try to schedule the reunion when the three of them will already be here. Scheduling the reunion days is always a puzzle. Everyone has stuff going on in the summer. Josh has teacher meetings to gear up for the new school year. The older grandkids have various scout camps and girls' camps and sports camps. Most of us have reunions or gatherings for the other side of our family to work around. But so far, we've been able to get everyone together for at least a few days every summer (other than one summer when Shawni and Dave and family were living in China). It's super important to my parents (and to all of us) that we ALL be here for at least 4 days. And then a whole lot of us come early and stay late. We really want all our kids to know each other well and we love the chance to all be under the same roof for a while every year. Since we live all over the country (Boston, NYC, DC, San Diego, San Francisco, Phoenix area, Hawaii - my family is the only family in Utah...), being together at Bear Lake is really important to us. Some people stay for the whole "open house" time and some just make it for the 4 days of the reunion. Everyone just does what they can do. This year almost everyone came early and we still have 21 of the 23 grandkids here with most of their parents. Every year is different.
To get us all here, my parents help out with airfare as need be. Most of us get some help. As we hold a board meeting for our family charity as part of our reunion, some travel costs can be covered by the foundation. And as my parents keep Christmas and birthday gifts simple and relatively cheap, they have financial resources to help get us all to the reunion.
Why Bear Lake? You can read about the history of our family at this place HERE. Even if we didn't have a long history with this place, I think we'd have ended up holding reunions at a place somewhat like this. You can't beat a lake or the ocean when it comes to a great reunion location. Kids of all ages can enjoy different activities at the same location - boating, swimming, playing in the sand, chatting, etc - everyone doing whatever they most enjoy simultaneously.
Sorry, back to the questions asked:
During the reunion, every family is in charge of one meal (lunch and dinner - breakfast everyone just does on their own since kids wake up at different times, etc.). We all submit lists of ingredients that can be purchased at Costco that we need need for the meal we'll be doing. Then the couple who is in charge of the reunion for the year puts everyone's ingredients together into one big fat Costco shopping list. Each family is responsible for buying, bringing and paying for anything for their assigned meal that can't be purchased at Costco. My mom and others who are in the area do a big Costco run and pack everything into a car or two and bring everything up to the lake in advance of everyone else arriving.
We have a fridge downstairs in the cabin where all the food for reunion meals goes so it's separate from the food people brought themselves (which people mark with their names with sharpie pens) that they will be eating for breakfast and for meals before or after the official four days of the reunion.
Since we all drink pretty much only water at each meal and we cook from scratch, the supplies needed to feed all 42 of us for the four days of the reunion don't take up as much space or cost as much as they would if there were pre-packaged drinks and prepared foods involved.
My parents pay for the Costco food for the reunion out of rent proceeds from the cabin. We each pay for non-Costco stuff that we'll need for our meals plus for food for breakfast and snacks for our families during the official reunion and for breakfast, lunch and snacks on non-reunion days. On the days before and after the reunion, the families who are here each take responsibility for dinners so we can all eat together but each family takes care of their own breakfast and lunch ingredients and preparation. Sometimes we pool efforts. Often we get creative with what's left towards the end of the reunion. We usually have tons of rice, beans, pasta and the like around that we pool together and there are often people going back and forth to SLC or Ogden or other places so they can pick up food and help us re-stock when we get low on various things. We've all gotten pretty good at figuring out how to feed a crowd quite cheaply and easily and how to maximize non-perishable ingredients since the nearest grocery store is 40 minutes away and the nearest Costco is 2 hours away.
We try to keep things as fair as possible and we try to be considerate of each other's needs and special circumstances. Some years some people buy more food. Some years other people buy more food. Some years some people really need help with their babies and toddlers and other people (like me) have pretty self-sufficient kids so they can help out when another mom is tired or overloaded. There are usually discussions about how to keep clutter under control and what rules need to be stated or reinstated for the kids. There are many annoying but necessary discussions about how to get people to and from the airport (2.5 hours away) or how to get or do without various ingredients that we find that we need. There are always a few spats and disagreements (there are a LOT of leaders in our family and not a whole lot of followers...). But all in all, it works out pretty darn well.
There are so many great ways to do family reunions. Many families rent a place and split the cost of the rental and pool money for food. Some families have parents who pay for the whole reunion every year and feel they'd rather spend money on reunions than keep that money towards an inheritance for their kids one day. Many families do a big camp-out to keep it inexpensive. Many families just do reunions every other year or ever few years. There are so many different good ways to do things. But hopefully some of the details shared here will spur helpful thoughts as you think about, envision and plan family reunions!