The Funeral Reception

Funeral Reception

It is customary (but not required) to hold a reception following a funeral or memorial service. This gathering offers friends and family the opportunity to meet in an informal environment. The after-funeral reception gives mourners the chance to support each other, share stories and memories, and continue to celebrate the life of someone they cared about.

We sometimes hear the after-funeral reception is referred to as a “repast.” Historically, the repast was a meal shared by close friends and family after the funeral. In modern times, the nature of the repast has evolved to include larger gatherings. For some, a close intimate meal is still the order of the day. For others, the repast will be a larger more festive event that may even include a Celebration of Life Program. Today we find the terms repast and funeral reception to be synonymous.

With the trend toward funerals becoming more unique, we find the same for the post-funeral reception. Events range from casual pot lucks at a family home to full sit down meals at a restaurant or banquet hall. Either of these are perfectly fine since there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the after-funeral reception. The reception can be as simple or as elaborate as you like.

Regardless of the type of funeral reception, the event will take some planning. Just remember to keep the purpose in mind and take your own needs into consideration. Also, consider what the person whose life you are celebrating would have wanted. Remember, your goal is to give those who cared about the deceased a chance to remember and share. You are not expected to host an extravaganza unless that is what you want to do.


  • DO ask for help.
  • DO choose a location that works for you or is special to the deceased.
  • DO feel free to keep it simple if that’s what you want.
  • DO make the reception personal by using photos and memorabilia.
  • DO remember there are no hard and fast rules. You can arrange the reception on your own terms.
  • DON’T feel obligated to create a full course meal.
  • DON’T turn down help.
  • DON’T forget non-traditional locations when looking for a venue.
  • DON’T feel obligated to serve alcohol.
  • DON’T forget to personalize the event.

Before you start to plan, slow down and take a deep breath. If you tackle the following questions you’ll be able to make quick progress.


One of the most important things you can remember when it comes to organizing a post-funeral reception is that you may be the one who is grieving. Planning an event can be overwhelming under the best of circumstances. When you add the fact that you are mourning it can become unmanageable.

The very best thing you can do is ASK FOR HELP. If you are working with a church, ask about the possibility of using their resources or volunteers to plan the reception. Turn to friends and family members who have offered to help. During times of need, your community will be relieved to have a way to support you.

Who will be in charge of organizing the funeral reception?

If you feel up to the task of planning the reception then go for it! Depending on your situation you may find it a welcome distraction. If it starts to become too much, slow down and come up with another solution. Unless you are preplanning, you won’t have a lot of time to make the arrangements. Keep this in mind when deciding whether or not to do it yourself.

If you would prefer to have someone else take care of the details there are a number of places you can turn. A reliable friend or family member may be the perfect solution. If you are having the funeral or memorial service at a church or funeral home, these venues may have a professional assigned for just this purpose. Churches often have volunteer groups who are eager to help. Consider engaging a professional celebrant or party planner who specializes in making funeral arrangements.

Where and when will the reception be held?

The most common locations for the funeral reception are at the home of a friend or relative, a church banquet hall, or the parlor of a funeral home. Many people also opt to use a local restaurant. When thinking about the venue you will need to consider how many people might attend. Don’t forget about local parks or other open-air areas that may be appropriate.

What type of food and drink should be served and where will you get it?

The type of food and drink you serve will depend on financial considerations, the amount of time you have to prepare, religious requirements, and cultural factors. It is quite common to ask close friends and family to provide a dish. If you are hosting the reception at a restaurant, consider offering a limited menu or a buffet-style meal. If using a caterer, their representatives can help you decide the appropriate amount and type of food for the number of people you expect to attend.

Learn about Funeral Food

How will you personalize the event?

As we have mentioned, the purpose of the funeral reception is to give those attending a chance to share memories and further reflect on the life of the deceased. You can help foster interaction and make the reception more personal by including touches that bring to mind your loved one. There are many popular and easy ways to do this. Creating a photo wall or memory table is the most common. If the deceased was a collector, displaying some special items from his or her personal collection is also a good alternative. Other ways you can personalize the funeral reception include:

  • Serving food that was a favorite of the deceased.
  • Playing background music that had significance to your loved one.
  • Arranging a group activity such as a candle lighting ceremony.
  • Offering an open microphone so that guests can share a story or memory.
  • Creating a tribute video to display during the reception.
  • Providing a keepsake for visitors to take with them.

These are just a few of the ways you can make the funeral reception unique. You can find many more inspiring ideas on popular social media such as Pinterest. (See our Pinterest board for Funeral Reception Ideas.)

Should you decorate the venue?

Whether or not you decorate the venue will depend on where the reception is held, the amount of time you have, and your access to resources. Many people find that using flowers that are sent to the home will brighten up even the darkest room. Decorations can also be useful in adding personalization. For example, if your loved one appreciated being outdoors, bouquets of wildflowers may add the perfect touch. Placing photos on tables along with candles can create warmth.

While you may want to dress the room to create a particular atmosphere, it is not necessary to plan as if you were holding a wedding. Remember, you may be grieving too. If you keep your loved one in mind and do the best you can, the room will be just fine. The guests are there to honor your loved one and to share each other’s company, not to judge your decorating skills.


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