Funeral Planning: The Funeral Luncheon
One of the customs many people look forward to during funeral planning is the funeral luncheon, or the reception following the memorial service. Although this is obviously not a traditional family gathering, since the recent death will necessarily cast a gloom over the proceedings, the funeral luncheon can be a time of great celebration.
This is an ideal time to share happy memories and funny stories of the deceased, and to play music he or she loved. If you have had a chance to funeral pre-plan because of a terminal illness, you might even be able to incorporate the direct wishes of the deceased, who might have helped to select the venue or events.
How to Plan a Funeral Luncheon
No one is expecting a five-course, sit-down meal, and there is no wrong way to host a funeral luncheon. That being said, planning the service can be a bit of a strain on someone who is already grieving. If you are a friend or family member, it is a good idea to offer to help in any way you can.
Find a venue. Most people choose either their home, the home of the deceased, or a third-party venue for the funeral luncheon. Many funeral homes will provide either a room or can direct you to local companies willing to meet short-term needs for a venue and catering services. If lowering funeral costs is your goal, having the luncheon at home is perfectly acceptable (and often preferred for a more intimate gathering).
Cater the luncheon. You can hire a caterer, ask family and friends to contribute potluck- style, or cook the food yourself. When it comes to funeral plans, few people care about the actual food. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that it is usually appreciated if there are leftovers on hand. These can be sent home with the family to ensure that they don’t have to worry about cooking for a few days. Make more food than you will probably need, and include lots of plastic containers for storing things at home.
It’s also a good idea to select personal favorites of the deceased when it comes to the menu. A casserole recipe he or she invented, a dessert that could always be found in his or her cupboards—these types of foods can foster great memories. It’s good to stay away from certain types of things, as well. For example, alcoholic beverages might not be a good idea if the deceased was a victim of a drunk driving accident. Stick to family traditions and always ask before you bring something that might cause emotional pain.
Plan for entertainment, but don’t plan too hard. It’s always a good idea to have a sound system on hand in case people want to listen to the music the deceased liked, or to have a microphone set up if people want to share their memories in a large room. At the same time, don’t force these types of activities. In a funeral setting, most of the best situations occur organically, and people should be encouraged to act as the spirit moves them.
Food and Funerals
No matter what culture you’re part of, it’s almost guaranteed that food and funerals go hand-in-hand. Whether you supply the deceased’s family with freezable casseroles for the first few rough days or lend a helping hand for the funeral luncheon, food is one of those gifts that is always appreciated.
Don’t be shy to offer other types of help, as well. Clean up after the funeral luncheon, help find and secure the venue, pay some of the luncheon costs—all of these activities will help ease the burden of the funeral planning and will help you to move forward through your grief, as well.