Family reunion meal plans made easy!

Reunion meal planning is by far one of the most difficult aspects of planning family reunions. From minor requests from picky eaters, young & old, to important specific reunion meal plans for dietary restrictions there is a large range of options to consider. Of course, all the planning will be worth it after the reunion as it is almost always the meals and fellowship with family that will be remembered long into the future. To make this process easier, take it step by step and consider these options during your reunion meal planning stage:

Bring All of Your Own Food
The simplest reunion food planning option is to have individual families each bring whatever they prefer to eat and everything they will need to cook it with. This arrangement works best for camping out or if you will be staying at a resort that has full kitchen facilities available. Many state parks also provide pavilions and facilities for grilling, cooking and holding the reunion. Having each family bring their own food guarantees that everyone will have something they enjoy eating which simplifies the meal organizer’s work.

The disadvantage to this is that families tend to go off into their own little area for cooking and eating while the whole purpose of the reunion is getting to know extended family. If you choose this method you should have a common area where the family gathers to eat the foods they have cooked. This option also might not be realistic to ask of people who are traveling long distances, especially those that might be flying. Since it’s usually not possible to bring food with them it will mean a trip for grocery shopping at the reunion destination. Make sure to have a list of local grocery stores handy for families to pick up anything they may need for their meal.


One of the best ways to get the family together for a meal is to rent a banquet room at the hotel or resort where you are staying and have a pot luck meal. Every family provides one or more food items, and all the items are shared between the families. To make sure you have a balanced meal, assign each family a specific category of food so you don’t end up with all salads or all desserts. Ask each family to bring extra food to ensure that you have enough food for everyone. Since some food items cost more than others, you may want to assign some families more than one of the less expensive dishes.

Another option is for the reunion meal planner to provide the main course. This way the rest of the meal can be assigned via potluck dishes. Just remember that if Uncle Fred is grilling or doing a fish fry then he doesn’t have time to visit with relatives and this can be an unfair request.

Dinner at a local restaurant or hotel banquet room another common option. Let your hotel or resort events coordinator assist you in a selection if you are not familiar with the area. The advantages to these reunion meal plans are that no one has to worry about cooking or cleaning up afterwards, and everyone can spend all their time just enjoying each other’s company and catching up on the family gossip. The disadvantage is that you might need to make your reservations months in advance, especially if you’re looking for a private room. If possible, you will want to visit each potential restaurant for dinner to make sure that it fits with your family’s tastes. A too casual or formal atmosphere can cause friction among family members with different expectations of the reunion meal plan.

When you select the restaurant and are ready to make your reservations, request a confirmation letter or contract that spells out all the details you and the manager agreed upon verbally. You want it to be clear so that there is no room for any misunderstanding on reunion day. A little upfront meal planning can save a lot of hassle on the day of the meal.
The restaurant agreement letter should include –

  • Date and time of the reunion banquet
  • Number of guests expected-(estimate as close as possible, it is the organizers duty to keep the restaurant abreast of how many to expect!)
  • Price per person
  • Date by which the final person count is needed and what the cost is if the count is changed beyond that date
  • Cancellation terms
  • What are the additional fees–are tips included, or optional, etc.

Instead of going to a restaurant you might want the restaurant to come to you. When planning family reunion meals and hiring a caterer, make sure you account for more than just the food. You will be needing plates, napkins and silverware. As with any meal, also make sure you take into account any special dietary needs of your family members. A tasty menu makes for an unforgettable family reunion. Having your event organizer assist with selecting the menu usually works the best but should you decide to use your own caterer here are some tips:

  • Find a list of caterers. These can be gotten from event coordinators, the internet and phone books. If you attend an event in the area where the food was exceptional then find out the caterer’s name.
  • When you are ready to plan a reunion meal, call your list of caterers and check availability for date of your event.
  • Ask each potential caterer if they have an upcoming event you can visit to observe their work.
  • Ask each caterer for their qualifications and for a list of references. Call references to evaluate satisfaction with caterer’s work.
  • Select three caterers and then call each one to discuss budget and available date. You will need to provide them with a sample menu and estimated head count.
  • Ask each prospective caterer their policies on service they will provide, minimums, hour they will need for set up and cleaning, any extra costs besides food for tax, linens and beverages.
  • Ask if you can conduct a kitchen inspection. Find out whether the caterer is ServSafe® certified and if they have the latest health inspection.
  • Ask to see the caterer occupational license, certification and insurance documents.
  • Once you select a caterer set up a reunion meal planning meeting to discuss menu and beverages, banquet facility, decorations and centerpieces.
  • Determine how many wait staff you will need, what kind of uniform will wear, tips, taxes and payment.
  • Request a contract.
  • Follow-up with caterer the week before your event and then again the day before the event to review all details and avoid any problems.
  • Select a theme for your group. It makes it easier to design invitations and to come up with a program. It gives people a focus for their efforts.
  • Hold your reunion and have a great, well-planned meal with your family!

Whichever option you choose always remember that the first and foremost goal of any reunion is to spend time with the families. A key part of planning family reunions is the reunion meal planning. Whether each guest brings their own food, or it’s all provided by a 5 star restaurant the family will appreciate the hard work that was put into planning their meal.

Get more information on Branson Meetings & Reunions, call, toll-free (877) 262-0430