How to Organize an Amazing Family Gathering for Cheap

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Have you been thinking about planning a family gathering but need a way to do it without ‘breaking the bank’? If so, I’ve got you covered.

My husband and I both have large extended families, and we’re always planning family gatherings. Cause let’s face it, as you get older and the responsibilities pile up, it’s hard to find time to spend with family that you don’t live with. And because we have large families, we look for ways to have a great time and enjoy some awesome food without breaking OUR bank.

The thing that works for us over and over again, time-after-time, is sharing costs with the whole family. Here’s how we do it.

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Set Date & Time

First things first. When setting a date and time take into consideration any holidays that are coming soon, events in your area, and typical working schedules. Be understanding that this is tentative, and don’t get wrapped up in trying to please everyone. It’s nearly impossible to get eight (or five or ten) different families to match their schedules perfectly for the same day.

Tell the Family about Your Plans

Before any further planning, it’s best to know how many people can possibly attend. Reach out to the family to get an estimate. Explain your plans, and ask who can attend at the date and time you’ve selected. Those unable to attend will let you know right away, and they might have suggestions of a change in the date and time. Like I said, be open to suggestion. Things are still tentative, but this will give you a working number of guests.

Ask for Help

As the guest list is narrowed down, find at least one person that is dedicated to help with planning. Even if this person is only there to make suggestions, you’ll appreciate having someone to make the final decision of ‘burgers or potluck?’.

Select a Location

Based on the number of expected guests and the date, decide on a location that will accommodate. There will probably be suggestions for a location when you initially discuss plans with the family. (I always secretly hope someone will volunteer their house.) Here are a few suggestions that will keep costs down:

Your house – Of course this is the most obvious but not always the most logical.
Family member’s house – Make sure they’re completely on board with this and know what to expect.
Nearby park or recreation area – You can find a picnic area or rent a gazebo for little to no cost.
Community Center – Every town typically has a community center it rents out to the public, which is most always an affordable option.

Make a List

Now is the time to put together a list of things you’ll need. Don’t forget to include cutlery, decorations (completely optional), games or other entertainment, and (most importantly) food. You can’t have a family gathering without food, now can you? Be specific, and list every item no matter how big or small.


At this stage, you’ve got a date, time, and place. You can officially invite away. Facebook events is my go-to, but I still end up calling or texting the older ones of the group. Yep, they’re still not completely on board with the social media train that took off – like, umpteen years ago. Will you guys please come on already??

In the invite, include the list of food and other essentials. Explain your plans, and ask everyone to chip in by committing to bringing an item or two on the list and anything else they might want to contribute. This allows them to choose something within their budget and still feel like they’re being a part of the planning process.

Follow Up

As the date gets closer, follow up with those responsible for contributing something. Things come up and plans change. Don’t leave it up to chance. (You can’t eat soup without a bowl to put it in. Unless you eat it straight out of the pot. In which case, you can have it all.)

Enjoy Family Time

You’ve gone through the motions of planning, and the day’s finally here. What’s next? Enjoy your family and be proud of the work you’ve done. Organizing a family gathering can be a big task, but remember it doesn’t have to ‘break the bank.’


Thinking of planning a family gathering? Save this post on Pinterest to come back to later.

Organizing a family gathering is a big task, but it doesn't have to 'break the bank.' Find seven easy steps to get the family together with little out-of-pocket expense.

Until then,

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