Mister Spiffy Feeds the Masses

Food – n. A nourishing substance taken into and absorbed by an organism to sustain life and enable growth and repair of tissues.

Mister Spiffy Says: "I like food. I really, really like food. Where would we be today if it weren’t for food? Dead, that’s where."

Providing food and refreshments for your family reunion crowd can be handled in a number of different ways, none any better than the rest. It all depends somewhat on the type of reunion you are planning and quite a bit on how many pennies you plan on pinching. The big question to answer will be just who exactly is going to be providing the food. Will you do it yourself or have someone else do the cooking? Mister Spiffy can’t cook worth beans, so he doesn’t have a problem there, but you might. The answer may very well be tied to the expense since a caterer or restaurant meal usually costs a lot more than preparing the reunion meals yourself. If your reunion will take place over several days, you may find that a combination of choices could work out best. For example, each family could be responsible for finding their own breakfast, with everyone getting together for a casual potluck lunch, followed by an elegant dinner at a fancy restaurant. Don’t be afraid to mix-and-match; Mister Spiffy does it all the time. A family reunion is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Mister Spiffy has a few ideas for foods which make good "reunion" foods.

Everyone for Themselves

The simplest option for the family reunion food supply is to have each family bring and cook their own food. The individual families each bring whatever they prefer to eat and everything they will need to cook it with. Mister Spiffy wishes to bring up a tailgate party he went to back in his younger days, where they had a barbecue set up, but you brought your own meat for them to cook for you. That way is also a possibility. This arrangement works best for camping out, or if you will be staying at a resort that has kitchen facilities available.

The main (perhaps only) disadvantage to this method is that families tend to go off into their own little corner and drift off into their own little world while they eat, depriving themselves of the purpose of the reunion – getting to know other members of the extended family. If you choose this method, you should have a common area where the family gathers to eat the food they have cooked. Basically forcing them to enjoy each other’s company, whether they want to or not.

This is the least expensive alternative for the reunion planning committee (Mister Spiffy appreciates that greatly), but it may not be very practical to ask people who are traveling long distances, especially those that might be flying, to bring much food with them or shop for it at the reunion site. In fact, it’s just plain rude, in Mister Spiffy’s opinion.


One of the best ways to get the family together is through a potluck meal. Every family provides one or more food items, and all the items are shared between the families. To get a balanced meal smorgasbord, make sure you assign each family a specific category of food – main dish, vegetable, salad, dessert, drinks, et cetera, so that you don’t end up with just fifty bags of chips.

Ask each family to bring a bit more than their own family would eat, to ensure that you have enough food to feed the entire gang. Mister Spiffy knows that it’s not good to run out of food when only half the family is fed. Since some food items cost more than others, you may want to assign some families a couple of the less expensive categories.

Another option is to have the reunion committee (you, Mister Spiffy reminds) provide the main course, to be paid for by attendance fees. Then the rest of the meal can be assigned potluck style. Another option is to have each family bring their own main dish, and provide a potluck-style side dish. You see? It’s fun to mix-and-match when it comes to reunions.


Dinner at a restaurant or hotel banquet room is a very nice option, but also can be quite a bit more expensive than other choices. The advantages 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 (yes, Mister Spiffy knows about these things). The disadvantage is that you might need to make your reservations months in advance. If possible, you will want to visit each potential restaurant to personally survey the facilities in question before signing a contract. Check the décor and ambience to make sure that it fits with your family reunion theme. You don’t want it to be too fancy or too casual for your family’s tastes.

When you find the perfect site and decide to make your reservation, request a confirmation letter or contract that spells out all the details you and the sales assistant agreed to verbally. You want it in black-and-white (or perhaps red-and-blue, it doesn’t really matter), so that there is no room for any misunderstanding on reunion day.

The letter should include –

  • Date and time of the reunion banquet
  • Number of personages expected to show up
  • Price per person
  • Date by which the final person count is needed
  • Cancellation terms
  • Anything else that you think ought to be written down.

Discuss any discrepancies with your contact person right away and have them corrected in the letter before you sign anything. Also, make sure you budget for the tip or gratuity, because 15% o r more for a full family reunion is a big financial hit to take if you forgot about it.


This is just like eating at a restaurant, except the food comes to you instead of you going to it. Some catering services provide individual meals, while others can provide prepared food in bulk (at a somewhat lower cost). A number of universities have affordable catering services (since they have to provide bulk feeding for dorm students), so give your local university a call to see what they have to offer.

When hiring the services of a caterer, make sure you account for more than just the food. You will be needing plates and eating utensils. Make sure you find out if the caterer provides that, or if it is up to you. If you don't get this right, you will be able to turn your meal into a messy activity (whether you want to or not).

Mister Spiffy’s Helpful Hints – Make sure you take into account any special dietary needs of your family members. There may be some relatives that need special meals for health or religious reasons, so make sure you know about them before it's too late. You can ask about any special needs on the return response card you send with the invitation.