The Family Reunion Planner
5 Top Digital Tools for Organizing Events Like Family Reunions
Tech makes keeping in touch easy, but traditional methods work, too
Before Andy Sciaroni took over planning his family’s annual reunion in 2011, his mom and aunts relied on sending paper reminders through the mail. Sciaroni, 58, had a better plan: He created a Facebook group.
“I was not printing out paper,” he says. “[Facebook] makes it much easier for me to organize.”
The private group serves as the central hub for reunion information. Sciaroni posts information including the date, location and directions, as well as details about additional festivities like dinners and local attractions.
Sciaroni believes that having all of the information in a single place makes it easier for the 50 to 100 relatives who travel from out of state to attend the annual reunion in St. Louis to plan their trips — and it creates a way for family members who can’t attend to feel involved.
“There are people who can’t make it who love to see the photos that are posted in the Facebook group after the reunion,” he says.
Facebook is just one communication tool that can make it easier to organize reunions or other big gatherings and events. There are also apps, websites, online planners and document-sharing tools that can help with tasks from choosing a date and location to coordinating schedules and collecting payments. Choosing the right communication tools for your event depends on several factors, from the size of the gathering to event logistics.
Assessing the options
These are some of the more common communication tools for reunion planning:
This videoconferencing service allows organizers to meet “face to face” to discuss details and make decisions. Black encourages reunion organizers to host a Zoom chat to share information with relatives and provide a platform to ask questions. For anyone who can’t tune in live, the session can be recorded and posted on Facebook, she adds.
The social media platform might be the most popular option for organizing reunions due to its widespread use. It’s free and allows organizers to share event details and group members to post questions, information and photos. Unlike emails and texts, which can get lost or require endless scrolling to find a particular piece of information, Facebook keeps everything related to the reunion in a single place.
You can create a simple reunion site — using website builders like Wix.com or platforms like Reunacy, EventCreate or AmazingReunion — and use it to post event details, message boards and photos. Some travel agents, including Sally Black, offer to create websites for group events as part of their service.
4. Reunion apps
There are even reunion-specific apps. Family Reunion Helper, Pro Party Planner and Party & Event Planner Lite allow organizers to create guest lists and send invites, calculate costs, create to-do lists and send push notifications to attendees.
5. Apps for singular tasks
Doodle allows you to create a poll and invite your relatives to vote on specifics like the date, time or location, and online tools like Evite, Paperless Post and Punchbowl make designing and emailing digital invitations easy.
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Don’t forget about low tech
There may be a host of tech tools that streamline communication between organizers and attendees, and it’s tempting to go with the one you think best. But Black cautions against picking just one. Instead, she suggests using multiple methods of communication to ensure the information reaches everyone.
“There is never enough communication,” she explains. “The message needs to be sent several times in several different ways to make sure it gets through — and there have to be checks and balances to communicate with people who are not [online].”
As planning for her family’s 2023 reunion begins, Clayton plans to send out paper invitations because relatives have requested a return to the low-tech option. She’ll still use a Facebook group to alert invitees that the invitations have gone out and to keep members up to date on reunion logistics.
Sciaroni acknowledges that some of his relatives don’t use Facebook and it takes extra effort to make sure they receive reunion information. That’s where family steps in, helping to spread the word, telephoning older relatives who don’t use computers and sharing information at holiday gatherings. So far, it’s working.
“There is always the risk that someone will feel left out, but people also got missed when the information was sent on paper,” he says. “I think [communicating about the reunion] would be a burden without technology.”
Jodi Helmer is a contributing writer who covers gardening, health and the environment. She has also written for Scientific American, National Geographic Traveler and NPR.