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Stress-Free Funeral Reception Planning

Gabrielle Applebury
Man toasting at funeral reception

Planning a funeral reception or memorial reception may seem overwhelming when you've just experienced a loss. While you don't need to have a funeral reception, if you choose to do so, you may find it is not only easier than you thought to plan, but can be a great place for loved ones to remember the individual who passed away and provide each other with support.

Planning a Funeral Reception

You may choose to host a post funeral reception to offer guests a chance to connect with each other in a supportive environment and to celebrate the individual who passed away. When planning, note that funeral receptions last for about two hours, but may go on for longer, especially if you are serving large meals.

How to Inform Guests of Funeral Reception

Deciding how you want to inform the guests of the funeral reception is a personal choice. Whether you are having large or small reception afterwards, be sure to include the date, time, and address of the reception. If guests are asked to bring anything or dress in a certain way, it's best to give them this information before the funeral service, instead of at the service, so they have time to prepare. If you are planning on hosting everyone, you have a couple options.

  • You can have the reception details announced at the end of the funeral service.
  • You can hand out small cards with the funeral reception information listed on it as people are exiting the funeral service.
  • You can mail cards or email reception details out prior to the funeral service.

If you are only inviting a small group of individuals to the reception you can:

  • Email or text details and make sure to let them know it is a small, private event.
  • Discretely hand out invitations to the invited guests at the funeral service.
Bouquet of white and yellow flowers with a card

Where to Host the Funeral Reception

Depending on the budget you have in mind, the venue may be one of the biggest costs you incur when planning a funeral reception. When deciding what type of venue is the best fit for your event, note how many people you think may attend. You can consider:

  • Hosting the event at your home, a family member's home, or a friend's home. If you opt for this option, keep in mind how big the space is, if there is outdoor space, and if the home is physically accessible for everyone.
  • Hosting the event at a place of worship or the funeral home. Typically places of worship and funeral homes have event rooms available for various group sizes. They may also include tables, chairs, and tableware in the cost.
  • Hosting the event at a restaurant, park, or event space. Similar to places of worship, it's important to ask what's included in the price.

Food and Drink Options for Funeral Receptions

Food and drink can cost a lot depending on how many people you are planning on hosting. Whether you decide to serve alcohol is completely up to you, but it is not necessary if you don't want to do so. With food and drink you can consider:

  • Getting the event catered. Depending on the company, you may be able to have the food delivered at the time of your event, or pick up the food right before the event.
  • Picking up family style dishes from a restaurant.
  • Hosting a potluck and asking a few close friends and family members if they'd be able to bring some dishes.
  • Serving small bites and an assortment of drinks.
  • Serving a few desserts with an assortment of drinks.

Serving the deceased individual's favorite snack, meal, drink, or dessert can also make for a special touch if you choose to do so.

Coffee and fresh sandwiches at funeral reception

Funeral Reception Ideas

It is totally up to you to decide if you'd like the funeral reception to be themed or simple. You may also want to think about whether you'd like to play music during the reception. Whatever you decide to do, know that however you choose to honor your loved one will be special.

How to Decorate for a Funeral Reception

You can decorate a funeral reception as much or as little as you'd like. Simple receptions are just as beautiful and meaningful as those that are highly decorated, it all just depends on your taste and what you feel up to doing. When it comes to decor, you can consider:

  • Setting up a memory table with pictures and memorabilia that honor your loved one.
  • Playing a slideshow on your t.v. that shares favorite pictures of the deceased individual.
  • Create a quote board or quote banner of your loved ones favorite quotes and sayings to display for guests. You can also allow guests to add sweet quotes or thoughts to a board that the family can take home as a keepsake.
  • Set up items that were special to the individual who passed away- this can include games, books, movies, and favorite personal possessions.
  • Set out the deceased individual's favorite flowers and candles. If possible, you can use the deceased individual's vases for an added special touch.
  • Offer the guests keepsakes if you'd like which may include a small plant or seeds, a memorial pamphlet, or personalized items that honor the person who passed away (key chains, candles, bookmarks).
Flower in memorial event

How to Cut Funeral Reception Costs

Keep in mind that funeral receptions are by no means mandatory and should not place undue stress on you or the family of the deceased. If however you'd like to have a reception, but need to keep the costs down, there are a few ways you can go about this.

  • Host the reception at someone's home. This keeps the venue cost down as halls, places of worship, and restaurants will charge a fee for hosting an event.
  • Decorate with items that you and loved ones already have on hand. You can do so by trimming flowers from your garden and making simple floral arrangements, using photos of the deceased that you already have and clearing a table to set them out, and creating a soothing playlist to play through a portable speaker or television (most likely there will be a guest who has a way to portably play music if the host is unable to).
  • Use items that were special to the deceased individual to set out and use as decor. This can add a special touch to the reception and truly makes it unique to the individual who passed away.
  • Ask close family and friends to bring food for a potluck meal. This will drastically reduce the cost of food and drink.
    Funeral director holding hand of elderly lady

Use a Funeral Reception Planning Checklist

Make sure you've got everything covered by using a funeral planning checklist to keep up with the reception duties. Download and print it using Adobe.

Funeral Planning Checklist

Honor Your Loved One Without Stress

Planning a funeral reception doesn't have to be stressful. Keep in mind that you do not need to plan this alone and can ask friends, family members, or an event planner for help if this feels too overwhelming. Funeral receptions can be a wonderful way to honor your loved one if you choose to have one.

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Stress-Free Funeral Reception Planning