6 Tips for Planning your Saint John Family Reunion by Amy Stewart


Summer is a magical time in Canada.

We only get a couple of months of perfect weather to shed our many layers of clothes, go to the beach, eat ice cream outdoors and travel the blissfully snow-free roads to visit distant friends and family.

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy nature and get together with the people you love. But as you may know, planning family reunions can be a pain in the neck.

Getting multiple households on the same page and arranging an event that everyone will enjoy can feel like herding goats.

Here are some of the best tips I’ve found for planning a stress free family reunion:


1. Listen First

Before you get excited about any one plan, location, or theme take the time to have conversations with your family members and ask them what their ideal family reunion would look like.

Get opinions from everyone before you make any suggestions yourself.

You don’t need to get everyone to agree right away.

You just need to hear everyone out so that each family member has an opportunity to volunteer ideas and/or voice concerns.

Don't forget to discuss the estimated budget the event or weekend will need and what everyone is willing to spend. My family adds up the cost of food and activities and divides the cost per family. Everyone chips in a little to have a lot of fun together.

Including the entire family in the decision making process from the beginning ensures that no one will feel ignored or excluded when a plan comes together.


2. Delegate

Don’t try to do all of the planning yourself!

Not only will this give others the impression that you are a control freak, it will burn you out and take all of the fun out of something that should be really joyous.

Letting go of critical reunion planning tasks isn’t easy. If you don’t do something… there is a chance it won’t get done. But trusting your family members enough to involve them in the process is vital.

You can keep everyone up to date by creating a private Facebook group or using a group text to discuss details.


3. Find the Right Location

Location is everything and it is one area where disagreements are likely to pop up.

Who will be the host? Where is most convenient? Which destination will involve the least amount of driving for everyone?

If you are hosting, don’t be shy about asking family to come to you.

If another family member is willing to host everyone, give them lots of leeway in deciding the details.

And if you’re all going to rent an Airbnb or stay at a hotel put transportation concerns ahead of local attractions. It can be unfair to ask relatives to drive long distances for a water park or a golf course they’re not interested in.


4. Make a Date

Get it set in stone as early as possible.

People need time in advance to book off vacation time at work and make travel plans.

Consult with the whole family early on and make a list of “blackout dates” that won’t work, before suggesting a date and getting everyone to sign off on it.

5. Plan Activities


Although there is always a lot of talking and catching up to do at family reunions, the best memories are made while families are having fun together.

This is one reason Saint John is the perfect location for your family reunion. There is so much to do here!

Cooking together is always a lot of fun. Why not start out at the City Market in a scavenger hunt for fresh ingredients that will go into the family dinner?

Rockwood Park is beautiful in the summer. It is easy to access nature from within the city with a network of groomed trails for family walks and lots of places for picnics.

For a (slightly) more rugged hike, you can head out to the Irving Nature Park on the west side and watch the waves crash against the shore.

You can escape the summer heat by going tubing down the river – or just spread out on the sand at one of the many beaches in town or on the outskirts of Saint John.

If getting dusty and dirty outdoors is not exactly your family’s thing there are boutique stores, stylish cafes and quaint old shops along the Saint John waterfront.

We also have amazing restaurants in town, from spicy Asian cuisine at Thandi’s to pub fare at the Saint John Ale House and Britt's Pub (to name a few. There are so many yummy restaurants here!).

Don’t overschedule your family reunion, but make sure to plan some summer activities that everyone will enjoy.


6. Capture the Memories

The truth is, sometimes we’re just too busy making memories to record them.

In the organized chaos of a family reunion, people forget to bring out their smartphones to take a picture. Everyone assumes someone else will do it.

Even if someone gets the shot, they’re often disappointed with the quality of the photos.

If getting high quality photos is important to you, the best solution is to appoint a designated photographer who will be present to get the shot.

If there is someone in your family with a good camera and an eye for composition, ask them if they would be willing to be “on call” to take candid photos.

This is a significant responsibility. The designated photographer can’t go off and do their own thing or else there will be no photos of key events for photo albums. The other downside to having a family member photograph the event is they will not be able to be in any of the photos (see my photoshopped body in my family photo below).

The results are worth it, though. Good quality, high resolution photos of your family’s natural laughter and joy together are priceless.

If you can’t find a photographically gifted family member who is willing to do the job, you can always level up and hire me!

I’m a professionally trained photographer with fifteen years of experience in capturing happy family moments. My specialty is candid photos and I have some great equipment and editing software that will ensure that your family’s Facebook photos are the best on the block.

Make the Most of Each Moment


However your family is choosing to get together this summer, I hope you are able to squeeze every drop of joy and laughter from the time you’ve got.

It takes work to make these moments happen. Family reunions don’t just plan themselves. It can be complicated and stressful to get everyone on the same page.

But ultimately it’s worth it, because the memories we make together last even after the warm summer days are gone and we find ourselves struggling to start our cars and scraping frost from our windshields.


As a little personal side note, I come from an extremely large family and have been to multiple family reunions. Last year, we all met in the small northern New Brunswick village of Perth-Andover where the family farm still resides. It was my eldest aunt's 80th birthday. We celebrated with too much food, cold drinks, lots of laughs and stories, bonfires and fireworks. Grabbing a big family photo of everyone was important. I actually photoshopped myself in because that is the life of a photographer, lol! In the second photo here, you can see the old family reunion photo hanging in front of the cake. I am 4 years old in it. My family and I love comparing the old photos to the new ones and the added members that have been born into our group. We treasure these photos and I'm happy to share them here.

Commercial Shoot - Chavah Designs by Amy Stewart

Chavah is a beautiful friend and fashion designer that lives here in the port city. She has graduated from the same art school that I did (NBCCD) and has young children while running her own creative business and following her dreams. She also married my husbands best friend. I feel that we are kindred spirits.

I've been blessed to work along side her over the last couple years, shooting some of her wedding photos, head shots and watching her business flourish. We even cooked up an adventure giveaway that included a photoshoot styled by Chavah Designs. When she came to me with the idea to shoot her wrap dress collection for her website, we immediately started brainstorming locations and lighting options. When I found out we were able to get inside the beautiful Diamond Jubilee Cruise Terminal for the shoot, I did a little jump spin in excitement. This building is beautiful, has very bright light from all the tall windows and most importantly, is somewhere I have not shot before. I am someone that always wants to try new things. If you asked me if I prefer comfort or adventure, I'd definitely choose the latter. 

We showed up on a chilly January morning with 3 models and 20 dresses to photograph. Then the kicker, we only had a little over an hour to get it all done. The race was on! I set up my lights and equipment and got to work. We had an assembly line of models coming in and out of the bathroom while Chavah dressed them and I shot. Even though it was rushed, I am pleased with the outcome. I especially love the pops of colour that come from the industrial landscape that the Saint John Port has to offer. 

A big thanks to Chavah Designs, the models and cruise terminal for allowing yet another creative space for me to be challenged by. 

Adventure Fashion by Amy Stewart

Working with other creative business owners is something that I love to do. Below are a few of my favourite shots from a giveaway fashion photoshoot that Chavah (Chavah Designs) and I cooked up. Chavah is a fellow NB Craft College graduate and friend that makes beautiful custom fashions here in New Brunswick. The winner of the giveaway won a stylized fashion photoshoot adventure for their engagement photos. They were willing to get knee deep in freezing running water and jump over large streams and rocks. We literally climbed a rock cliff to get out of this location. I loved every second working with this team!

Fall Mini Sessions by Amy Stewart

Mini Sessions are a great way to capture that perfect family photo. I usually do two weekends of mini sessions per year, one in the spring and one in the fall. This is not my usual documentary style where I capture a lot of moments and details of lives and relationships. It is more of a "grab your favourite people so you can have a great shot for the wall and to send to grandma" kind of session. They fill up fast, so if you are interested in getting on the list for the spring or fall mini sessions, send me a message.

The location this year was in picturesque Grand Bay-Westfield, NB.


Welcome George! by Amy Stewart

The early days with a newborn are so special. I was thankful to capture a few of these love filled moments for a friend.


Since throwing care to the wind, quitting my job and attempting to go full tilt at this crazy photography career, I've been asked by a couple of clients if I do mini sessions. The idea seemed a little foreign to me since I'm not a traditional studio-with-props kind of photographer. I decided to give it some thought and put a plan into action. A little over a year ago, I took some photos when I was 9 months pregnant with my daughter who was two at the time:

These were so fun and turned out to be some of my most valued personal photographs. I decided to use this idea as inspiration and offered Momma and Me mini sessions. Here are a few of my favs:


Families that are up for an adventure always get the best photos. I was a little extra excited for this shoot when the request included family heirlooms and contrasty black and whites. I am a firm believer that doing something a little different every time pays off. I want to say a big thank you to this sweet family for being up for an adventure!