You've got the casseroles. Let us bring the festivities.

By Southern Living Editors
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While we acknowledge that reunions take place in every part of the country, Southerners like to claim bragging rights to doing it better than anyone else. Perhaps it's because we jump at any and every excuse to lay out a spread of casseroles, put on a pot of coffee, and gather with loved ones to catch up and tell stories. If you don't know, this ode to Southern family reunions says it all.

Impromptu reunions aren't uncommon to have year-round, but nothing compares to the Annual Family Reunion, usually held on the same day each year at the same place. The cast of characters might change from year to year, for some family members will have passed away and some new ones added, either by birth or marriage. Some reunions are large, heavily organized, and span a three-day weekend, while smaller families might meet for a quiet meal and a few well-spent hours. However, regardless of the size of the group or the length of the event, the sentiment is the same: Let's have good food and lots of laughs.

Last year, many families had to cancel their family reunions, which makes this year even more special—so why not treat it as such? Incorporate these fresh and fun family reunion ideas into your family's celebration, and you're bound to make some new memories. Time to get planning!

Venture to a new place

Reunions, frequently referred to as homecomings, are often hosted back at the original home base, back to the place that holds poignant memories from childhood, whether that's a grandparent's home or community church. However, if you and your extended family have been separated over the past year and everyone's comfortable heading on a mini weekend vacation, it might be the perfect year to try out somewhere new. For that, we can happily suggest one of our South's Best Beach Towns and South's Best Mountain Towns to get started on your planning. Rent houses or hotel rooms, and have fun!

Create a family cookbook

If you don't already have a collection of your family's signature recipes, a reunion is the perfect opportunity to get a lot of crowd-sourcing done in one day. Come prepared with an empty scrapbook or recipe box and request that any interested Southern cooks in the family arrive with a typed-up or hand-written recipe to glue down on any empty page. You can go back later and transfer all of the recipes into a fancier format online, print copies, and send to everyone for the holidays. Everyone will thank you for divulging your grandmother's secret to her best-ever deviled eggs.

Southern Family Reunion
Credit: Russell Lee

Have a catfish fry

On another food-related note—because, that's always the main event at family reunions!—you can do something different from your usual lineup of casseroles and baked ham to make the family reunion feel fresh and new. Suggest a Southern-themed meal that is a little outside your family's typical comfort zone in the kitchen, such as a Mississippi catfish fry, a Cajun crawfish boil, a Lowcountry oyster roast, or even a Texas-style smoked brisket barbecue dinner.

Get the games going

Think of this like an outdoor field day for both the adults and kids that allows any older family members to sit out and "judge," if they prefer. Tug of war, water ballon toss, and sack races are all guaranteed to bring on the good times and memories, without fostering too much competition. It's all in good fun! This is a perfect option for those who typically host the reunion on a family farm or anywhere that has some space to set up multiple games running at once—and snack stations, of course. Not into sweating? Bring a bunch of boardgames or card games and set up tables where people can rotate between to catch up while having a laugh.

Make it a themed celebration

Again, we aren't just doing the bare minimum this year. It's time to celebrate! Some ideas for a not-your-basic family reunion, theme party edition? A backyard movie night with a projector screen and hotdogs, an afternoon tea party or Kentucky Derby party with pastels only and lots of tea sandwiches, a Great British Baking Show-inspired bake-off (everyone brings their best dessert!), or a "decades" party that requires everyone to show up in their best 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s attire. Bonus points if the outfit is pulled from the attic!

Piece together a family memory book

The idea here is basically putting out a guest book for everyone to sign, but with their favorite memories of past family reunions, words of wisdom, meaningful quotes (see our Family Reunion Quotes & Sayings for inspiration), and more. This is something you can bring to every family reunion, pass down to next generations, or make copies of to send out as favors after the reunion is over.

Print a flexible schedule

This is especially important if your family reunion is going to spill over for more than just one day or if you're all traveling for the occasion. It allows people who want to socialize and catch up more to do so, without putting pressure on anyone to show up to everything. Make it cute and casual to email or hand out to everyone before the reunion begins, which will relieve any pressure.

Don't stress—enjoy!

All in all, family reunions and homecomings are about catching up with faraway loved ones and celebrating the ties that keep you together, with good food and even better company. Just keep repeating "take it easy," and you're bound to not get annoyed when someone shows up with the same casserole as you.