How to have a good funeral reception

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Mourners may want to gather together socially, away from the formality (or not!) of your funeral ceremony. It's an opportunity to share stories about you in a more relaxed atmosphere and to commemorate your life and what you meant to them.  


We'll give you some pointers and food for thought to practically guarantee a good funeral reception. 

Who is this article for? 

  • Anyone who wants to leave wishes for their funeral reception for family and friends
  • Anyone who wants to bring comfort to those they leave behind – in their own special way 
  • Anyone who wants to attend their own reception. Yes, it can be done.

Reading time:

 5 mins


What would you like to happen after the funeral ceremony? 

Have you ever thought about what you'd like people to do once your funeral ceremony has ended?
The bad news: you won't be there.

The good news: you don't have to leave it to chance, and you can leave wishes for the event in such a way that people will almost feel your presence.

The really good news: actually, there is a way you can be there – by holding a living wake. It’s part of a living funeral (aka a ‘fake funeral’), which is a celebration of your life while you are still around to enjoy it.

It gives you the opportunity to read your own eulogy and hear the lovely things (hopefully!) others have to say about you. It also gives you and your loved ones the chance to reminisce and for everyone to say their goodbyes in the here and now.

Where to meet? 

Living funeral or not, let's talk about the venue. Do you have a preference for holding the reception indoors or outside?

Location choices might include your home; a favourite café; or an outdoor space that was special to you, such as a canal boat or your favourite beach.  (The beach could double up as a place where your ashes can be scattered if you are planning on being cremated). 

Alternatively, you might want to choose somewhere specifically for its accessibility, size, or catering facilities, especially if you expect a large number of people to turn up. A much- frequented pub or restaurant might fit the bill, or perhaps a local community hall?

We thought of National Trust properties or other stately homes, but you might have wilder ideas! If you are/were a member of a friendly society or the armed forces, you may find they have venues available for hire at a reduced cost or no cost at all.

The funeral reception guest list 

Speaking of people, is there anyone you would particularly like to be there? You can make it an open invitation, but equally, there may be some individuals that you'd prefer were not at the feast.

Having some sense of the number of attendees will also help you plan ahead when it comes to food, drink and a budget. You can set aside the funds in a savings account specifically for this, which loved ones can access immediately. One option is to open a joint account, hold on to all the cards, and keep them with your Will.

Eat, drink and be merry - or mournful 

There's nothing wrong with tea and sandwiches at home, or an open bar at your local. But why not choose refreshments that reflect your own tastes? After all, it's your party – albeit that it may be held in your absence. You could even surprise people with some unexpected cuisine – chips with teriyaki sauce, something you saw on MasterChef and never got the chance to try. The culinary world's your oyster (you could have those too if your budget will run to it). If you want to get really creative, how about using different foods to illustrate your life's story or the things that made you smile?

Alternatively, you might like to leave wishes asking for people to bring their own dishes – that remind them of you. You could also invite them to add an explanatory note next to their plates.

Personalising the venue 

If the plan is to celebrate your life after the fact by hiring a venue, a religious place, or directing people to your favourite local pub or hotel for instance, think about how the experience can be personalised.

Choose some of your favourite photographs over the years to be displayed on a board; accessorise the venue in your favourite team's colours; or really go to town with a whole set design. And while you're about it, why not suggest a dress code in advance, e.g. black, bright colours, fancy hats – or fancy dress – so that everyone knows what to wear.

Mementoes mori 

Some people like to thank their guests for coming to their funeral reception by leaving them little gifts. That could be in the shape of a commemorative bookmarks, packets of forget-me-not seeds, lottery tickets, or perhaps small bags of your favourite sweets for the journey back (and a miniature tipple bottle for when they get home).

Musical shares

What songs or classical pieces would you like played at your reception? How might your friends feel about the choices? Those tunes could be the music that people remember you by! You could leave a note to explain why those choices mattered and who you in had in mind when you made each choice.

What sort of funeral reception would you like? 

As you can see, there is a lot you can do when it comes to planning your funeral reception or living funeral.  You could start with the venue, or the guest list, or the budget.  But whichever is uppermost in your thoughts, do make a start, or simply let someone know that you are leaving the detail in their capable hands when the time comes. 

About the Author

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Sophie can usually be found reading a book. Writing a novel has always been on her bucket list. When not absorbed in the latest page-turner, Sophie likes to explore and gain a deeper understanding of peoples' attitudes towards end-of-life planning and how it impacts their lives. She hopes that in some small way her writing around these topics can make a positive difference to her readers.


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