In simple terms, your choice of venue for a funeral reception is between holding it at home (the deceased’s home or that of a close relative) or in an external venue (a hired hall or hotel,
restaurant, club or pub). Sometimes it is not an easy choice but often the choice has already been decided, through the deceased’s requests or ‘because that is what he/she would have wanted’. This can help relieve a great deal of decision-making. But for those that still have to make the choice or would just like to know what each option holds, below I have detailed the issues to consider with each.
• Transport to and from the house: Where is the house located? Is it on a quiet street without much parking or with ‘pay and display’ parking? Is it down a very tight country lane where accidents are common? Does it have a large driveway that will accommodate some cars? How far from the church or funeral service is it? Is it easy to find? Perhaps a few designated directors
can guide people to the house from the service;
• Need to put certain areas ‘off limit’: This is someone’s home, maybe the deceased’s, or their family home. Either way, you need people to be respectful and to facilitate that you need to set some boundaries. If possible, lock bedroom doors or any ‘off limit’ areas. Put any and all valuables or precious items into these locked rooms;
• Provide maps: Even with all the technology around today, it never hurts to supply people with a physical and easy-to-read map with directions to the house, to make sure you don’t lose anyone en route;
• Immediate family only or all invited: This is a personal decision to make but also one to think about
logisitically. How popular was the deceased? Will everyone who was at the service attend the reception? Will people who could not make the service come to the reception? How many can the house and the food / drink cater for? Would a more quiet, ‘family only’ affair be more respectful and more tasteful?
• No peace and quiet: A common issue with having a reception in your own home is that there is no escape. You cannot retire to bed or relax on your couch and collect your thoughts, cry, laugh, reminisce or scream if you have invited people into your home. Everywhere you go in the house, you will find people who will want to sympathize with you;
• Marquee option: Having a reception in your home is a lovely idea but, if you expect numbers to exceed space you have available to cater for them, consider the option of hiring a marquee and placing it in the back or front garden. It will still have that homely feel but will ease the impact on your home;
Another critical aspect of having a reception in a home is catering for everyone. Typically, people are hungry after a funeral service – thirsty, too. Can you afford / do you have the space to cater for them all? Do you have the kitchen facilities to do it? Will it be finger food, buffet or a three-course meal? Can friends, family and neighbors bring a dish or some sandwiches and help out? It will certainly ease stress if a caterer can come and have all the food and drink (including cups of tea and coffee – a favorite at events such as funerals) prepared for you when you arrive home from the service and will clear up when you are finished. They also can supply the extra cutlery and glassware that would otherwise have to be rented or borrowed.
• Transport to and from: Often a central venue in the local town or city center can be the best choice when it comes to transport. Typically, there is ample parking, directions to the venue are known, and roads and paths are well-lit and secure.
• Local or long distance: Did the deceased drink in a particular bar or visit a particular hotel or restaurant regularly? This could be ideal for the reception. Another option is to think of a venue where perhaps the deceased always wanted to visit. Choosing venues can be dependent on whether you wish to ask people to travel long distances. Elderly people may not be able to commit to the travel;
• Book accommodation: Depending on how far people must travel for the funeral service, you may have to provide them with accommodation information such as local bed and breakfasts or hotels. If you are holding the reception in a hotel, you might be able to negotiate a discount on rooms booked;
• House-sitters: If you choose to have the reception in a local hotel, it is sad, but often burglars are aware of this fact. The deceased’s details have been printed in the newspaper and this house is now empty, with potentially dozens of others on the same road or in the same estate as the deceased. All of these home-owners will be at the hotel at the reception. Safeguard yourself and your home against these opportunists and have a house-sitter mind your home, leave a radio or a TV on, make sure an alarm has been fitted to your home and leave some lights on. Give the impression someone is
• Opportunity to get away if needed: A bonus to having a reception in a hotel, club, bar or local restaurant is that it is easy to slip away for some peace and quiet if you need to. Funerals can be very tiring and emotional experiences and while some people will wish to celebrate the deceased life long into the night, others will feel tired very fast and require some sleep or just a few moments alone;
• Music and entertainment: Having an external venue look after the reception also means that you can hire professionals to provide entertainment for your guests – maybe the deceased’s favorite band or trad singer or pianist?
Again, choosing a venue takes care of the catering issue. Professionals will cater to everyone’s taste and price. You can choose to pay for everything, or allow everyone to order for themselves or you can order some smaller items and if people wish to have more they can pay for it.
Regardless of which option you choose, home or external venue, there are still more decisions to make. Food and drink options will be similar whether the reception is held in the home or in a public house:
• Will you have a special toast for the deceased?
• Is there a special menu you would like to supply in honour of the deceased?
• Will you supply a buffet, finger food or sit down menu? What time will it be served at?
• Will you supply a free bar/limited bar or have people pay for/bring their own?
Another option could be to have a family sit-down dinner immediately after the service and meet up with everyone else in a broader reception afterward. Always keep some food aside; this might seem like a waste but it will not be. This food is for the immediate family who may or may not eat during the reception as they will be chatting with everyone and accepting sympathies. This food will be greatly appreciated after the reception when everyone has gone home.