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We love a classic family cookout as much as the next gal. But if we’re honest, your folks have been grilling up the same tired hams and hots at the annual barbecue since the Nixon administration. Whether you’re expecting a dozen cousins or over a hundred relatives, planning a meaningful, memorable and fun family reunion can be a serious challenge. There are dates to schedule, flights to book, reservations to make and activities to organize. And while smaller gatherings can often be held at home, for larger groups, a venue or hall may be required. Have no fear, we've got fresh ideas to keep the whole gang entertained. From a multi-generational game to DIY photo booth, these 19 family reunion ideas will make for a truly epic gathering.

RELATED: 10 Non-Tacky Family Reunion Gift Ideas

hold dance party family reunion ideas

1. Throw a dance party. 

Fact: Everyone loves dancing with abandon, and there’s no need to wait until the next family wedding to do so. Book a DJ for a family hoedown or '80s revival night.

2. Try an ancestor trivia night. 

Do a deep dive through the family records and poll everyone for fun facts to be quizzed on. When did Grandpa Joe come to America? What year did Cousin Amy get married? 

3. Print a family cookbook. 

Task everyone with bringing a favorite recipe and have them bound into a book to take home. (Long live Nana’s red bliss potato salad.)

4. Craft a DIY photo booth. 

No need to rent a real one; just get creative. Hang some frames from a tree and keep a fun prop bin on hand. Then set up a phone on a tripod and snap away. 

5. Hold a mini Olympics.

Set up games like corn hole, sack races, Jenga (giant Jenga), twister and checkers and make sure to grab awards to go with the medals for the winners.

outdoor movie night family reunion ideas
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6. Throw an outdoor movie night. 

Rent a projector and bring blankets, pillows and snacks to the lawn for a mock drive-in. Make it potluck to take it up a notch.

7. Hand out family photo books. 

Collect photos from Facebook (and ask the less-than-tech-savvy to send some in), then have them bound in a beautiful book and make copies for everyone.

8. Hold a talent show.

Who better to judge your tap-dancing skills than your own kin? No concert hall necessary.

9. Print tote bags embossed with your family tree. 

A decidedly useful, interesting and non-hideous freebie. 

family reunion deas cookout
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10. Pick a theme for your meal.

Choose a country (Greece!) or theme (Roaring '20s), then dress up for and cater the menu accordingly.

11. Organize a badminton or croquet tournament. 

Try a low-impact and non-crazy-competitive summer sport (no fights, thank you very much) that suits all ages. And if you want to make things interesting, include small prizes for the winning team.

12. Swap stuff. 

Encourage family members to bring belongings they no longer want (clothes, furniture etc.) and do a family-style round-robin. You just might end up with Aunt Cindy’s beloved tea towels…

13. Travel to a special destination.

Not all reunions need to be held at home. If your budget is a bit more flexible, host it somewhere with fun attractions you can experience together. A theme park, perhaps? Use cars, buses or even arrange a hay ride. 

14. Play reunion bingo.

Print out bingo cards with questionser, descriptions in each box (“has a tattoo” or “whose favorite food is sushi”). Players then circulate, searching out family members who fit the category and have them sign the box. The game ends once everyone gets bingo. You might just learn something new about Uncle Johnny.

family reunion ideas bonfire
Klaus Vedfelt/ Getty Images

15. Light a bonfire. 

Create the ideal setting for telling family stories (especially family ghost stories). Whether out in nature or right there in your own backyard, bonfires never get old. Turn it up by serving gourmet s’mores.

16. Host a family cookoff.

We know, Uncle Frank’s mussels are legendary. But your dad and Aunt Christine are still arguing over who makes better meatballs. Time to put them to the test. Each person brings their best meatballs (chili, casseroles, etc.) and the rest of the family votes.

17. Make an all-inclusive monogram gift. 

Embroider a family inside joke or favorite phrase on espadrilles, hoodies or towels. Everyone (no matter how old) loves a take-home goodie bag.

18. Create a nacho bar.

Sure, you can just make (or buy) a plate of nachos, but a DIY nacho bar can be way more fun. Designate a table or countertop strictly for the bar and include bowls and plates of toppings—everything from cheese to jalapeños and meats. The possibilities are endless.

19. Document the whole thing.

Take videos and pictures of your reunion activities and ask that relatives state their names and relationship to others. If you’re tech-savvy, you can create a reel and make copies to send those who attended (as well as those who couldn’t make it). Or save it to watch at the next family event.

Maybe the most important tip: Have a backup plan. Weather disturbances can get in the way, last-minute cancellations or schedule conflicts are common. But if you’re prepped, you’ll be ready for whatever gets thrown your way on reunion day. You’ve got this.

RELATED: 24 Ways to Keep Your Family Entertained When They're Staying with You Forever and a Day


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