Losing a loved one is a difficult and stressful time. Part of planning the funeral is arranging a post-funeral reception. The reception brings everyone together after the funeral to support one another. While still somber, it’s less formal than the funeral services. Friends and family can share stories, lend support, and celebrate the life of your departed loved one. Food is often a central part of the reception. While you don’t have to provide a full meal, it’s customary to provide at least a light food option for guests. Because you often don’t have much notice, you’ll need to piece together the details of the reception quickly to organize it. Keep reading to learn our best tips on how to plan for the post-funeral reception.
Check on Regulations
Before you decide on the reception location, check on state laws. While most states now allow food in funeral homes, the regulations can vary. In the past, states banned food in funeral homes because of the concern of having food so close to embalmed bodies. Most states have eased up on the laws, which many consider outdated.
If your state doesn’t allow food in the funeral home, you’ll need to find a different location for the reception. The funeral director is the perfect person to ask about food regulations. Even if your state allows it, the funeral home may have restrictions on what it allows. The funeral director will likely have suggestions for locations if you want a separate venue. The director can help you with all aspects of the planning process, not just the funeral services.
Pick a Post Funeral Reception Location
Now that you know the regulations in your area, you can choose the reception location. Having it at the funeral home if allowed is an easy option if everyone is already there. You don’t have to drive to a separate location if you’re holding all of the services at the funeral home.
Another popular option if it’s just a small reception is to have it at your house. It’s available on short notice, and you don’t have to worry about abiding by contracts that are often required for rented facilities. It’s also the cheapest option, but it may not work if you’re expecting a lot of people. Many services take place at a church or other worship center. Those facilities usually have reception halls where you can host people.
You can also reserve space at other reception or social venues. Examples include private rooms at restaurants or banquet halls. Consider the number of people you’ll have at the reception when choosing a location. You want enough space for everyone to fit comfortably plus have room for the food setup.
Choose the Time
Most receptions happen right after the funeral. It’s a chance for everyone to catch up after the formal funeral part of the day. It’s also convenient for people who came from out of town or already took time off of work to attend. You can wait until later in the day or even the next day if that time works better for you. Consider the timing of the funeral services and the location of the reception. The funeral may include burial services at the cemetery, so take that into account.
Estimate the driving time from the final part of the funeral to the reception site to calculate when you should schedule the reception. Having the timing right is important for food preparation.
Plan the Menu
The timing of the reception can help decide what type of food to do. Decide if you want to do a full meal, finger foods, or desserts only. Timing is often a factor. If it’s mid-afternoon or late in the evening, you don’t need to do a full meal. Your budget is also a factor. Preparing or catering an entire meal, especially if you’ll have a lot of people, gets expensive. Offering light refreshments is a common option and more affordable. Once you decide what type of food you want to provide, create a specific menu. Deli meat sandwiches are easy to do if you’re serving a meal. Pasta is another common option.
Decide Who’ll Make the Food
You’ll also need to line up someone to make the food. You can make the food yourself, but it adds stress to an already difficult time. It can also be a large undertaking if you’re hosting a large reception. This option works best for a small reception or if you’re only doing light refreshments.
Some churches or other community groups come together to organize meals for funeral receptions. The church might ask people to make desserts for the reception, or they may plan a larger meal.
Hiring a caterer for a funeral is another option. You’ll pay more for the service, but it takes all of the work out of your hands.
Caterers are experienced and can ensure everything gets taken care of in such a short amount of time. The caterer can help decide what to prepare. It’s a lower-stress option if you’re the one in charge of the funeral reception.
Get a Head Count
Knowing about how many people will be there helps you plan the reception. You don’t need people to RSVP, and you shouldn’t expect them to on such a short timeline. But having a general idea helps with the planning process. If you hire a caterer, you’ll need to have a rough head count for planning purposes. If you’re only inviting a small number of people, getting the head count is easier. If you’re inviting everyone who comes to the funeral, you’ll have to do a more general estimate.
Plan the Reception
A post-funeral reception is a common tradition, and it gives you a chance to reminisce with other mourners. Planning a reception that fits your budget and finding a suitable reception location is important.
If you’re in the midst of planning a funeral, explore our arrangement options. We’re committed to the details of funeral planning, and we’re always set on exceeding expectations.