Funeral Luncheon Ideas and Planning Tips

Published September 7, 2020
people at funeral luncheon

After a funeral, most families host a light luncheon for mourners who attended. Funeral luncheons are usually held at the church, religious venue, funeral home, or other appropriate location.

Funeral Luncheon Menu Ideas

The menu you serve at a luncheon depends on your overall budget, formality of the funeral, and number of people you expect. The church or funeral home may provide options for the meal at an added cost in their funeral planning services, so if you do not want to make and arrange the meal yourself, it is worth looking into the options they provide. A larger budget means you can afford to host the luncheon at a restaurant or have it catered using outside services.

Simple and Affordable Menu Suggestion

This affordable menu works well for any size crowd and can be customized to match local and seasonal sales if you're making the food and hosting the reception yourself.

  • Lettuce salad - A chopped lettuce salad with carrots and tomatoes with a choice of dressings is goes with any main dish.
  • Pasta salad - Cold pasta salad can be made in bulk and utilize seasonal vegetables.
  • DIY deli sandwiches - Pick up white and wheat buns with a couple deli meats, like ham and turkey. Put out sliced tomatoes, onions, and lettuce, plus condiments like dijon mustard and mayonnaise.
  • Hot side dish - Baked beans or corn with butter are easy to make in the quantity needed.
  • Sliced cakes and bars - Make white and chocolate sheet cakes with frosting, along with a couple fruit bar recipes. Pre-slice them for easier serving.

Catered or Professional Menu Suggestion

If you have a more formal reception at a restaurant or are bringing in caterers, you will want to select a menu that works well for a crowd. Consider:

  • Salads - Have a couple nice salads dressed for mourners. Classic Caesar salad is often a crowd-pleaser. Waldorf salads are traditional and excellent choice as well.
  • Side rolls - Dinner rolls or croissants with butter are bread choices.
  • Main dish - Even though this is a catered, professional menu, you still want to pick something that will feed lots of people easily. Lasagna is a great hot dish option in the fall and winter, while in the summer, hamballs or baked chicken with a sauce would be lovely.
  • Potatoes - Mashed potatoes with gravy or roasted potatoes both make great options for feeding a crowd at a funeral reception.
  • Dessert - Cheesecake or tiramisu make delicious options that work well as an after-lunch dessert.

Table Decorations for Funeral Luncheons

When putting together the funeral luncheon, you'll want to take care that your tables look appropriate for the occasion.

Table Linens

Regardless of the location, you'll want to pick up tablecloths. White, neutrals, or the deceased loved one's favorite color are good selections. However, even if the deceased loved one was obsessed with bright neon colors, it's probably best to stick with slightly more muted tones for a funeral luncheon. If you want to incorporate vivid, bright colors, consider adding them into the centerpieces as an accent or find napkins in that color.


Each table should have some sort of centerpiece. They show be low enough people can talk over them. A few options include:

  • Traditional dinner party centerpieces that utilize flowers and greenery
  • Candle centerpieces on top of a table runner
  • Small floral wreaths that match family memorial ones displayed at the wake/visitation and funeral
  • Religious figurines, such as crosses or statues of saints, or other appropriate religious icons
  • Antiques, such as vintage books or sewing memorabilia, artfully displayed
  • Photos of the deceased individual at various stages of his/her life on individual vases

In general, it's best to avoid confetti, ribbons, and streamers which have more of a festive party tone and are not appropriate for a funeral luncheon.

mourning frame for sympathy card

Funeral Luncheon Invitation Wording

The kind of invitation issued will depend on who is invited.

Invitation for Mourners Who Attend Services

When a funeral luncheon is open to anyone who attends the service, the invitation is often written in the funeral program or announced by the service leader. A few examples include:

  • The family of Deceased Individual invites you to a luncheon following the services. Please proceed to the Luncheon Room Name, where the family will join you after the burial.
  • Please join the Deceased Individual's family in a meal following the service and burial. It will be held at Location Name and Address. Please tell the host you are there for the Last Name Funeral Luncheon.
  • We invite you to reminisce about Deceased Individual with friends and family after the funeral services. Please join friends and family in Luncheon Location to share a meal and memories with one another.

Formal Invitations for Invited Guests

However, if you are planning a small luncheon for select family and friends, you'll want to be considerate and let those people know in advance with a formal invitation. This invitation should include the deceased's name, location and date of the luncheon, and the host's RSVP information. Example wording:

The family of Deceased Individual
invites you to celebrate his/her life and mourn his/her death
after funeral services on Date of Funeral.
Please join us at Location at Time for a luncheon in his/her honor.
RSVP to Host Name and Phone/Email by Date.

For a private luncheon, it is best to host it at a location other than the service location so there is no confusion. Make sure it is hosted with enough time following the service so any mourners who wish to speak to the family have time to do so before the private luncheon begins.

Funeral Luncheon Etiquette

Luncheons are generally less formal than visitations or services, but you still should follow some basic post-funeral etiquette tips:

  • If you are emotional from the service, it's perfectly fine to excuse yourself to the bathroom and compose yourself before joining other mourners for the luncheon.
  • Wait patiently for your time to be served or to reach the buffet line. Do not complain about the crowd or length of time it takes.
  • Take reasonable portions to ensure everyone gets a chance to eat. You can always eat a small snack before or after the service and luncheon.
  • When alcohol is served, do not overindulge.
  • Use basic table manners and converse with those sitting next to you.
  • Avoid inappropriate jokes, disparaging comments about the service or those who attended, or criticism of the deceased.
  • Clean up after yourself, disposing of napkins and food waste as indicated.
  • Before leaving the luncheon, find a member of the immediate family to offer condolences to and say your goodbyes.

Funeral Luncheon Cost and Payment

The cost of the funeral luncheon depends greatly on the number of people attending and the food you serve. When calculating food costs, consider the price per person or plate, rather than overall cost. When you are making the luncheon food yourself, you can put together your own menu and control the final cost per person. Catered meals can vary significantly. To find out how much the luncheon will cost, you should discuss options with the funeral home, church or service location, and outside caterers to get estimates. Examples include:

  • $4 to $7 per person for small bites like bars and breads
  • $7 to $12 per person for basic catered lunch (hot or cold) with a couple sides
  • Over $12 per person for multiple options, expensive dishes or in areas with higher costs of living
  • Additional fees for alcoholic beverages and servers
  • Gratuity added at a rate of 15 to 20% or more at a catered event
  • Set-up and clean-up fees may or may not be included and can range anywhere from $50-100 at a church or club where the deceased was a member to upwards of several hundreds of dollars.

The family of the deceased is responsible for paying for the funeral luncheon along with the other funeral costs. If the deceased pre-paid for a funeral package that included food options, then whatever was included will not have an additional charge.

Hosting a Funeral Luncheon

Hosting a funeral luncheon after services is not a requirement when planning a funeral. However, many families and mourners find the repast a chance to share memories and grief over a meal with loved ones.

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Funeral Luncheon Ideas and Planning Tips