Foolproof Tips for Hosting a Funeral Reception
Funeral receptions (sometimes called a wake or end-of-life celebration) are some of the most difficult events to plan—and not just because sudden grief makes it difficult to attend to small details. Because most funeral timelines take place in less than a week, you rarely have time to do things like call caterers, find locations that are available, cook enough food for a hundred people, and take care of all the other necessary tasks.
This means that most funeral receptions are pulled together at the last minute—a sort of mismatch of what is available and what you can accomplish within such a short amount of time. This also means that the most important tip for hosting a funeral reception is to lean into this inevitability. There is not going to be enough time to make everything perfect, so it’s a good idea to manage your expectations right from the start.
- Keep it Simple: You do not have to go all-out with a four-piece orchestra and a full catered buffet, or even splurge on a venue with hi-fi audio equipment and a capacity for three hundred people. In fact, some of the best funeral receptions are held in the home of the deceased or in the funeral home’s adjoining facilities. By letting go of the idea that everything needs to be elaborate and perfect, you’ll have a much easier task ahead of you.
- Ask for Help: When a loved one dies, almost everyone offers condolences along the lines of, “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do.” This is not just lip service—most people genuinely want to be helpful to you during this difficult time. That is why you should take them up on the offer. Ask them to bring a dish for a potluck-style funeral reception. Tap into their skills for the things you need at the event (one person can make a playlist of the deceased’s favorite music, another can put together a photo slideshow, someone else can coordinate all the food being brought, still another might have a great backyard to host the event). Don’t be afraid to lean on others and what they have to offer.
- Opt for Personal Instead of Splashy: Instead of worrying about making sure everything is elegant and perfect, opt instead for personal touches. The deceased’s favorite flowers are the perfect decoration. A park they loved is the ideal venue. Party games that they always enjoyed playing make for a fun-filled distraction. And photos and memorabilia are always a great way to set the tone. Make it meaningful.
- Serve Alcohol (or Don’t): Don’t feel obligated to host a full bar or buy wine by the crate. Or, if the deceased would have wanted a party, go ahead and crack a keg or open that special bottle of fifty-year old scotch. There are no rules about what you have to serve (or not) at a funeral reception, so the final decision is entirely your own.
The final piece of advice for a perfect funeral reception is to go ahead and delay if you need to. If the idea of pulling everything together within a week following your loss is too much, you can simply state that you will hold a memorial or celebration at a future date. This will give you time to confront your loss and put together an event when you are better able to focus your energies and attention.