Large family gatherings are all about reuniting, connecting and joy. But let’s face it — they’re also about the food.
Food plays a key role in families, setting the tone for celebrations and helping create memories that center on that favorite dish or that recipe passed through the generations. So crafting the menu for a family reunion or other big gathering requires plenty of thoughtful preparation and planning.
“The family-favorite recipes … fill hearts with love and smiles,” says Melissa Johnson, vice president of Cameron Mitchell Premier Events, an Ohio-based special events caterer. Food at these events contributes to “very special moments that provide lasting memories.” To make sure the food — whether home cooked or catered — lives up to expectations, Johnson suggests creating a planning committee early in the process to think through event details, including the food. Here are some things to consider.
Potluck or catered?
Reunions and other big events can revolve around hands-on home-cooked meals, catered dishes or a mix of both, especially if the gathering is local and there is access to kitchen facilities. Deciding which arrangement guests prefer is a good place to start when it comes to planning. Take a survey of family members’ or guests’ preferences using apps and tools like SurveyMonkey to help gather feedback ahead of time.
“The question of potluck or catering really comes down to budgets,” says Oregon-based author Marie Bostwick, who has written about family reunion planning on her blog, Fiercely Marie. Her recommendation? Start organizing a big event, especially a family reunion, six months to a year in advance to allow for input.
If [a reunion] is catered, costs will be higher,” notes Johnson. “But catering lessens the workload for the attendees and ensures all foods are prepared … safely by professionals, which can be a concern at potluck-style gatherings.”