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How to Plan a Funeral Reception

Post-funeral receptions offer families and friends a great chance to remember the life of a loved one who passed away. 

As many funerals and memorial services are more sombre and formal affairs, a post-service gathering provides a more casual atmosphere for your friends and family to connect. 

After losing a loved one, many families decide to host a funeral reception for friends and family.

It is customary, although not required, to hold a post-funeral reception. 

At this gathering, family members and friends can have the opportunity to see each other in a less formal environment. 

The funeral reception gives mourners the chance to share more intimate stories and memories, support each other, and continue celebrating life.

Close family members and friends might consider throwing a reception after the funeral of a loved one, allowing those that attended the funeral a more casual, relaxed place to share stories and companionship after such a difficult time. 

If you do choose to host a reception after the funeral, you'll allow all the people in your loved one's life an opportunity to get together to share stories and friendship. 

It gives family and friends a chance to lighten the mood and enjoy each other's company outside of the funeral home. Let Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals help you select the type of funeral service that best fits your needs.

This article is designed to help you effectively plan a post-funeral reception efficiently while saving money and time in the process.

Funeral Reception Planning Guide

If you have been tasked with hosting or planning the funeral reception, you probably have many questions.

  • How exactly do I plan a funeral reception? What's the first step?
  • What are some excellent funeral reception ideas? How can I implement them?
  • Do I need to serve food at the reception? What are some appropriate menu options?
  • Where can I plan to have the reception? What are my options?

Today we're going to be answering these questions and more. 

Our goal is to help you create a memorable event and fit into the memory of your loved ones and who they were in life.

To begin, let's take a look at some reception planning basics.

What Is a Funeral Reception?

After a funeral or memorial service, some families plan a reception. 

The funeral reception often takes place in a different setting, and it serves as a smaller and more intimate gathering to invite close friends. 

The post-service reception is usually more casual and not tied to strict schedules, making it the perfect setting for family members and friends from outside the city.

Many customs have food at a funeral reception. It is common for them to take place at restaurants or the home of a close family member, typically catered. 

Some prefer a more personal approach with immediate family only and a cooked meal. Ultimately, the decision comes down to your and your family's wishes and what you are most comfortable with.

Who Is in Charge of Planning a Funeral Reception?

Usually, the immediate family members – spouse, children, or parents – are tasked to plan a funeral reception. 

However, it can be overwhelming to plan the reception while also taking care of the funeral arrangements, burial, and everything else involved in the death of a loved one. 

If you would rather someone else organise the reception, you can reach out to a reliable family member or contact your funeral home for assistance.

Additionally, there are catering services and restaurants that have experience planning funeral receptions. 

If you do not feel comfortable planning the reception yourself, which is understandable in a time of mourning, you can reach out to a venue or caterer to ask for their guidance. 

Many will be familiar with the process of planning a funeral reception and be able to provide you with the help you need, making it as easy as possible for your entire family.

Planning a Funeral Reception Step-By-Step

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When planning a funeral reception, it can help have a "to-do" list on which you can quickly check off each task you've completed.

To make things a little simpler for you, we've gone ahead and made it for you. 

We've tried to keep a balance between general guidance and exhaustive detail, so feel free to adjust each point as needed.

Step 1: Choose the Date and Time of the Reception

More often than not, the reception is held immediately following the funeral or memorial service. 

But this is by no means a rule. There are plenty of situations that may call for a later or even delayed reception (for example, not everyone would attend who wants to).

Step 2: Consider Your Budget

Are you willing/able to host and feed a large group of people? Can you afford to rent an event hall or a private room in a restaurant? Will you have a fully catered meal, hors d'oeuvres, dessert, or a simple potluck?

These choices will affect your budget, and conversely, your budget will limit your options.

Step 3: Choose Your Location

These days, many funeral homes offer to host a reception after a funeral as part of a package and even have unique rooms for such large gatherings.

But if you are planning the reception, you can choose to have it anywhere; there are no set rules for the location.

You can host it at an event hall, a church, a park, or even your house.

Or make it unique and choose a location significant to the deceased or their family, such as a favourite restaurant.

Be sure to arrange for tables and chairs. Another essential element is the decor; for instance, tablecloths, centrepieces, and perhaps a memorial table.

Step 4: Decide What Food to Serve at the Reception

Following the funeral, it's a good idea to provide some refreshments to reception attendees. 

After all, they (and you) will have just had an emotional experience at the funeral, and that can be draining. 

Plus, sharing a meal or even just appetisers is a traditional and very human way to connect.

Depending on the time of day, you may choose to serve an entire lunch course, sandwiches, coffee and cookies, or hors d'oeuvres.

Step 5: Send Out Invitations

…or announce the reception following the funeral. 

You want to decide how you will let people know about the reception.

Some people hosting a funeral reception choose to mail out invites, send a group text, email blast, or social media post before the funeral occurs. 

These options can work well if you want to host only a particular group of people, such as immediate family.

On the other hand, if everyone is welcome to the reception, it's easy to include the details with the funeral service invitations. 

It's also wonderful to take the mic and let everyone know where to meet once the service is over.

If you'd rather not have to speak in front of everyone, ask the funeral director or officiant to announce you. They will be more than happy to do so!

Step 6: Plan a Thank-You Speech

During the reception, be sure to welcome everyone and thank them for coming. 

You can thank everyone at once (think of a short speech) or go around the room and greet everyone. This is the only formal duty you'll need to fulfil.

It's also a nice gesture to thank the various people involved in the funeral and reception. 

Sometimes, this is done during the funeral service, but the reception is an excellent place to do it. 

Be sure to thank the funeral director and staff, the pastor or clergy member who officiated, and any family and friends who volunteered their assistance.

Step 7: Assemble a Take-Down Crew

Get a group of people who are willing to stay afterwards and help clean up. 

Some venues are truly full-service, but even then, you'll have things to wrap up, like flowers, photos and memorabilia from a memorial table, decorations, and so on. 

Other venues will expect you to leave the room or hall precisely as you found it.

Here are a few things to plan for:

  • Clear off tables and food trays
  • Clean up the kitchen or food prep area
  • Wash and return tablecloths
  • Centrepieces and another decor
  • Put back or replace tables and chairs
  • Containers for leftover food
  • Dispose of trash
  • Vacuum/sweep

Step 8: Plan to Rest

Once it's all over, take a breather. You did it! 

But make sure you plan for your own needs ahead of time, or you could find yourself pushed right back into more "final arrangement" details, support for the grieving family, or a busy work week.

Amid your grief over the loss of your loved one, you have put so much work into planning such a lovely funeral reception to honour their memory. 

You've taken care of everyone else; now it's time to relax and take care of yourself.

Personalising a Funeral Reception

Nowadays, it is widespread to hear families looking for ways to personalise a funeral, including post-service receptions. 

Through personalisation, families and friends can make sure the funeral or memorial services speak to their loved ones and share their stories. 

Personalising a funeral reception is a great way to celebrate your loved one's life. It keeps memories alive, provides the opportunity to reflect on positive times, and can bring a smile to the face of loved ones during such a difficult time.

A personalised funeral reception is a way to honour your loved one in a way that truly reflects them as an individual, as well as incorporate your family traditions. Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals will always find creative ways to pull costs in line with your budget.

Funeral Reception Décor

The easiest way to personalise a funeral reception is by adding accents to the décor. While funeral flowers are custom and somewhat expected, you could also add:

  • Funeral guest signing books
  • Photo walls
  • Memory tables
  • Sports memorabilia
  • Displays of your loved one's favourite items
  • Décor related to your loved one's interests

Ask people to bring one item that reminds them of your loved one to the funeral reception.

Things to Remember About Planning a Funeral Reception

The funeral home will help you plan the funeral, but here are some suggestions for planning a funeral reception.

For many, this may be the first time you have ever had to plan a funeral reception, and the experience may be overwhelming. 

If you're not sure where to start, follow these tips as a basic guideline.

Where Should You Hold the Funeral Reception?

It depends on your family's preferences. However, most families choose to host the funeral reception at their home or a close relative's house. 

Also, families can choose to plan a post-funeral reception at the funeral home if they have a banquet hall. 

Restaurants are another common place for funeral receptions, and families sometimes choose to rent out a private room for the reception to allow loved ones and friends privacy while they are still in mourning.

The funeral reception is often scheduled immediately after the funeral ends. 

This gives an additional opportunity for those who could not attend the funeral to support the family member and pay their respects.

How Many People Should You Expect?

It is difficult to predict how many people to expect at a funeral reception, considering you don't know how many workmates, old friends, and colleagues might come to pay their respects. 

It's good practice to invite all those that attend the funeral, and often, you don't know exactly who will show up to a service. 

Be sure to consider the clubs, teams, and associations they might have been involved in and always plan for more than you expect.

Sometimes, families choose a more intimate approach to hosting a funeral reception. 

It may be an "invite-only," where the location and details of the event are only disclosed to close family members and friends.

If this is how you're the most comfortable, it is entirely okay, especially if the funeral reception is at your home. 

Additionally, if you are carefully considering the costs associated with a funeral reception, a private reception may be the best route to take.

What Food & Drink Should You Provide?

Getting the event catering can be expensive–and challenging considering the short time you have to plan. 

But, you might be surprised at the affordability of getting your local deli or supermarket to cater a funeral reception. 

You can also check with a local restaurant, opting for one that was a favourite of the deceased. 

In many cases, family and friends will also bring something. Consider that as well before placing a large order.

Many restaurants, delis, and catering services are familiar with the immediate need when planning a funeral reception and can accommodate the short notice. 

It can be a nice touch to plan the reception at a restaurant that your loved one was particularly fond of. 

It doesn't have to be fancy or upscale as long as it is a place you feel comfortable. It can be a great way to commemorate your loved one.

The type and amount of food you get for a funeral reception will depend on financial considerations, the number of people, and the event's location. 

Ideally, you want to keep food and drink options simple. If you choose to prepare food, our funeral specialists always recommend following a buffet-style menu setting that includes:

  • Garden salad
  • Baked ziti
  • Dinner rolls
  • Fruit tray
  • Brownie tray
  • Coffee
  • Iced tea

It will also depend on what time of day you plan for the funeral reception to take place. 

If you plan a funeral reception for the early afternoon after morning service, serve lighter options than planning a dinner reception after a late afternoon or early evening service.

How Can Others Help Make Things Easier?

what to say at a funeral

After the death of a loved one, people usually say, "Please tell me if there's anything I can do to help!" 

Take them up on this offer. Ask them to bring a covered dish or drinks or help you with any of the other dozen tasks you'll have to deal with. 

It will not only lift the burden on you but allow your friends and family to feel that they are helping in a time of need.

During times of mourning, it can be easy to forget simple details. Allow others to help you with these. 

Something as simple as bringing paper plates, plastic cups, serving utensils, ice or extra napkins to a funeral reception can go a long way.

It may also be a good idea to ask a few people if they can stay behind after the funeral reception to help you clean up if the event is taking place in your home. 

It is often after everyone leaves that heavy emotions begin to set in, and having support around you can make it easier.

Can You Set up Something Special?

Remember that this event is to help honour your lost loved one. People may come from all over the country to share their sympathies. 

Set up a table at the entrance to the funeral reception with photographs and memorabilia that remind everyone of their lost friend. 

Let people know that they can bring some pieces to add to the table. 

These pictures will be a great conversation starter and allow people to begin sharing their stories about the person you all loved.

Sometimes, when the deceased has been cremated, the funeral reception might hold some ceremonies. 

Ceremonies can be anything the family chooses to honour their loved ones. Some of the most common funeral reception ceremonies to think about include:

  • Scattering of the ashes ceremony
  • Open-mic speeches
  • I was playing a tribute video.
  • Candle lighting ceremony

Funeral Reception Planning, Your Loved One, and You

As you continue the funeral reception planning for your loved one, you can expect to be very busy. (Oh, and be sure to bookmark this page if you need to for future reference!)

Even so – or instead, especially so – remember to be kind to yourself during this time.

You are in mourning just like everyone else is, yet at the same time, you're doing something unique.

You're planning their funeral reception, and you know it is all a part of your effort to honour the memory of your loved one. So it will help to remember a few quick points:

  • Ask for help. Don't hesitate to involve others. Planning an event is stressful, much more so when you're bereaved. So don't think twice about seeking some assistance from a friend or relative if you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with it all. Plus, everyone wants to help; it's a way to do something in honour of the decedent. So let others help out!
  • Don't go overboard with anything if it makes you feel stressed. It's lovely to keep things simple.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get everything done that you want to accomplish. Just as with the funeral itself, there is most likely less than a week to plan and organise the reception.
  • Avoid perfectionism. Remember to breathe. Keep in mind that what you're doing is not about you; during the reception, all attention will still be on your loved ones and the life they lived. No one is going to notice that tiny detail that you missed (or, more likely, that you're just worried that you'll forget). Visit Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals to know more about our prepaid funeral service and find the best funeral option for your unique situation.

Thank you for reading! We hope that through this guide, we could provide you with some valuable information that you can use to your advantage as you plan for your loved one's funeral reception.

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