A year unlike any other, 2020 has tested our patience. Everything has been put on hold, whether it be birthday celebrations, retirement parties, weddings, or family reunions. While social distancing is meant to protect us and the ones we love, it can take a great mental toll as well, especially when it's your family that isn't able to visit. That’s why people are getting creative and finding new ways to maintain their traditions and hold their family reunions, even if it’s not in person. Don’t let these dark times get in your way; you can still host a family reunion responsibly during the pandemic. All you need is a computer or smart device, and a reliable wi-fi connection. Here are some additional tips for hosting a virtual family reunion this fall.
Honestly, this will likely be the most difficult part of planning a virtual family reunion, but it has to be done. You need a software program that everyone can access, whether from a laptop, smartphone, or tablet. You’ll have to assume that everyone has internet access, or that they can use a strong data connection. Some people may be unable to attend for this reason, but don’t let that deter you. You can only do so much, and people will appreciate the effort. Nonetheless, set aside an hour or two when you can sit in your comfy men’s or women’s loungewear with a hot cup of coffee and devise a plan. Consider your budget, the number of people who will be attending, and the devices you’ll all be using. You might have to contact some close friends and family first to run the idea past them and find out whether there’s a true interest.
Once you’ve got a plan of attack, it’s time to send out an invitation. Keep in mind that some people, especially the older generation, might not be checking their emails regularly, if at all. A paper invitation could be more effective and more fun. After all, isn’t it nice to get mail that isn’t a bill or junk mail? In your invitation, list the date and time as well as the internet tool you plan to use. Give plenty of notice so invitees can clear their calendars. Don’t assume that they won’t have any plans, regardless of the pandemic. One good idea is to create your own webpage or social media account where all attendees can discuss the event and give tips on logging in. That way, you can allow other people to answer their questions instead of feeling overwhelmed running things solo.
Don’t assume everything will go as planned. In fact, it's best to assume that it won’t. The internet isn’t a reliable asset, unfortunately. There will be hiccups, and planning for what to do will help. So, ask a family member to assist you with a trial run. Plan everything just as you would the day of the reunion. That means that if you are all planning on wearing the same monogrammed men’s or women’s T-shirt, have it ready to go and put it on—just to get yourself into the spirit. Chances are everything will go as planned, but any hiccups can be addressed in advance if you notice them before the big day.
Every family is different. During your virtual family reunion, no matter which type of personalities run in your family, you’ll definitely want to have an agenda so you can keep everyone on track and give everyone a chance to talk about what they’ve been up to and what their plans are for the next year or so. Without that agenda, that fun, boisterous family might all be talking at the same time, and that quiet, reserved family might be staring at each other listening to crickets. Sending an agenda in advance, or creating a presentation that you can show during the virtual reunion, can ensure that everyone has a chance to talk and ask questions. You may have to mute everyone but the speaker to do this. Don’t make it too structured though. There should be some time in the end, or maybe in the middle as well when people can ask questions and have a bit of fun with each other.
It’s a great idea to set some time aside to honor your family history. You can also honor your family culture or mixed cultures that day by having a virtual pot-luck party. Traditionally, that would mean everyone cooks something to share. But since you can’t share, you can whip something up, show it when it’s your turn, and explain who or what inspired you to create your dish and how you made it.
Just as you’d do at a real family reunion, take pictures—screenshots, in this case—to document the event for the family and for kids growing up, so they can see what it was like to live during a pandemic. You’ll want to be well-dressed. If you’re not all wearing the same family T-shirt, try to dress your best for the occasion, in something like a nice women’s dress or men’s dress shirt. Post the pictures on your reunion website or to your social media page as well.
As you can see, with a little creativity, you can host a virtual family reunion easily with just a little bit of planning.