How You Can Help at a Post-Service Reception

Many funerals are followed by receptions or gatherings, or religious events such as a shiva. Check in with the primary coordinator to get a sense of what the plans are and what you can do to help. The most important thing you can do is attend any post-service events.

Coordinate a reception

Many people will have a reception after the funeral or memorial service. A reception offers mourners a chance to spend time together, remember the person who died, and relax after the service. If many people came in from out of town, a reception can be a good chance for people to reconnect.

The reception can be held in any number of places, such as a church or synagogue social hall, the family home, or another venue. Generally, post-service receptions will last a few hours. Food and beverages are provided, either by the family of the person who died or by the community.

If there is no coordinator for the post-service reception, consider offering to be the coordinator. This task includes securing the space for the reception, preparing the space (coordinating, renting, or setting up tables and seating), coordinating food and beverages, and other tasks that might come up.

To set up a meal registry, use our resource Guide: Meal Registries.

Provide/purchase/coordinate food and beverages

In general, food and beverages are provided at a post-service reception. These can be provided by the family or by the community. Food can be brought in from a caterer, restaurant, or deli, or can be homemade. If multiple people will be bringing food and beverages, it’s important to keep track of who is bringing what items so that there is enough of everything and a good balance of foods. Be aware of any allergies that family members might have, and be sure that people bringing food are sensitive to those needs.

To coordinate food and beverages, use our resource Guide: Meal Registries.

Provide/purchase/coordinate plates, napkins, utensils, cups, etc.

In an effort to make clean up as easy as possible, using disposable plates, cups, and utensils has become common at post-service receptions. These can be purchased from most grocery stores or drugstores. If you are interested in using “real” plates and silverware, you might have to rent those, depending on how many people you are expecting. You might offer to coordinate or purchase any plates, cups, etc. that will be needed for the reception.

Set up the house

If the reception will be held in the family home, the house will need to be prepared. You might offer to clean or straighten up the house, make sure the house is stocked with toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags, etc., making sure there’s enough room/seating for guests, rent chairs, tables if necessary. If the family would like to display photographs of the person who died around the house, you could set those up.

Clean the house after the reception

After the reception, the family will need help getting the house cleaned up. You can offer to return any rentals (tables, dishes, etc.), wash or vacuum the floors, or re-stock the house with anything the family might need (food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.).

For advice on how to help beyond the funeral and its surrounding events, How to Show Your Support Beyond the Funeral.

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