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Funeral Reception Etiquette: What to Expect, Say, and Do

Funeral Reception Etiquette Guide

Wondering about proper funeral reception etiquette? The answer is probably “yes” if you’ve just attended the service of a loved one, and now you’re on your way to the reception.

Perhaps you’re at a loss for words following the emotion of the day, and you’re not sure what to expect at the reception. You think it’s going to be a bit more laid back than the funeral, and you’re probably right.

But you still might have some questions about what to say and do at the reception. And of course you need the answers fast. We’re here to help with our funeral reception etiquette guide.

Below, we quickly yet thoroughly explain just what you can expect at the funeral reception, as well as what you should say and do once you get there.

Quick Funeral Reception Etiquette Guide

  • What should I expect at the reception?
  • What should I say?
  • What should I avoid saying?
  • What should I do?

What Should I Expect?

People Visiting & Socializing

Generally speaking, right when you walk in, you can expect for everyone who is already there to be standing around or sitting at tables, simply visiting with one another.

Food & Beverages

Receptions are defined by two things: 1) people gathering together, and 2) food. So you’ll probably see a table or two with food and drinks.

It may be a potluck (that would be mentioned on the invitation or social media post invite), or the family may have arranged simple appetizers, dessert, or a full meal with a catering service. So plan on coming ready to eat, but don’t always expect a full meal. Check your invitation for specifics.

Less Solemn Atmosphere

The air of solemnity that was so heavy at the funeral will most likely be somewhat dissipated by now. People are beginning to talk, tell stories and jokes, get reacquainted with old friends and family members, and enjoy food and drinks.

There may be a group of people standing close and offering comfort to the deceased’s next of kin and other family members.

No Casket

The decedent’s casket won’t be there. Following the funeral service, the body is typically buried or transferred to the cremation facility.

If cremation already took place prior to the funeral, the cremation urn may be in the reception area, perhaps on a decorated memorial table.

Common Funeral Reception Events

Besides the aforementioned, and depending on the funeral reception’s location, the following events may also occur at some point:

  • Sharing. Attendees may be invited to share any warm memories they have of the deceased. Don’t worry, you don’t have to speak in front of everyone if you don’t want to.
  • Photos. A photographer may take family photos. If you’re part of the immediate family, you’ll probably need to be in the photos. Otherwise you can decline any invitations to be photographed.
  • Special Mini-Events. Many receptions have a slideshow playing on a screen; occasionally they will dim the lights and conversation pauses to watch the slides or video. A family member or officiant may say a few words. There may be an activity such as filling out “My special memory of you” cards. If the reception is being held at an outdoor venue, a dove, butterfly, or balloon release may be scheduled.
  • Prayers. A minister or family member may say a prayer, or there may be a brief time for prayer and reflection. If you are not of the same faith tradition, you won’t be required to participate. However it is always respectful to stop talking, pay attention, and perhaps bow your head when prayers are occurring.

What Should I Say?

Now that we’ve gone over what you can expect, we can focus on your personal funeral reception etiquette.

Soon after you arrive at the venue, it’s a good idea to offer your condolences to the deceased’s family. This is especially important if you didn’t get a chance to at the funeral or visitation.

Along the way or afterward, you can also make conversation with anyone else you happen to know who’s also there. If you see someone you don’t know (and you’re a social butterfly), it’s perfectly appropriate to introduce yourself and ask them how they knew the deceased or the family.

If you’re not a natural social butterfly, don’t worry if speaking with others there feels awkward at first. Everyone feels a little strange at funeral events, including the ones who are in mourning.

It’s natural to worry over what to say to those who are grieving. Just make sure that you are sincere and your words come from a sympathetic place. In other words, be authentic.

If you need help figuring out exactly what to say at the reception, here are some ideas:

  • “I’m so very sorry for your loss.” (A hug may be appropriate here.)
  • “Is there anything I can do for you today or in the coming days?”
  • “I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now, but I’m here for you.”
  • “If you need anything at all, I’m just a phone call away.”

Keep in mind that in some instances, there are no words that you could say to ease the pain. Sometimes a long hug and cry together is what someone who’s grieving really needs. Read more tips on what to say to someone who is grieving here.

What Should I Avoid Saying?

On the other hand, there are just a few things that you’ll want to avoid saying to the family at the reception:

  • “I know exactly how you feel.” This sentiment may come from a good place, but not everyone will understand or appreciate it. No one but the bereaved know exactly how they are feeling.
  • “He/she is in a better place now.” Again, this may seem like a common thing to say at a funeral or reception. But it only serves to remind the bereaved that their loved one is no longer with them, so you should avoid saying it.
  • “You’re managing everything so well, I don’t know how you’re doing it.” While they may appear strong on the surface, the person you are talking to may just be trying to keep it all together until they’re alone and can truly begin to grieve.

Find out more about what not to say in What Grieving People Wish You Knew.

What Should I Do?

We’ve hopefully already answered this question with the information above, but let’s just break it all down for you here:

  • Be present. Simply showing up to the funeral reception shows respect for the deceased and their family.
  • Offer your condolences. Let the family know that you’re sorry for their loss, and that you’re here for them if they need anything at all.
  • Introduce yourself to those you don’t know, and share together your memories of the deceased.
  • Remember what to say and what not to say (see above).
  • Be yourself. Does it goes against your nature to make small talk with everyone in the room, or to display great emotion when talking with anyone? You certainly do not have to. Do you like to make people smile? By all means, be friendly and even tell jokes – but keep with the spirit of the occasion and don’t go overboard.

You were searching for “funeral reception etiquette” when you stumbled across this article… But maybe what you were really searching for was the confidence that comes with knowing what to expect, say and do once you arrive at the reception venue. We hope that this article has provided you with it.

Have you ever been to a funeral reception that was really unique, or that had different events than those outlined above? We would love to know the details, so be sure to share them with us in a comment below.

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Funeral Reception Planning Guide (w/ Checklist)

Funeral Reception Planning

Welcome to our funeral reception planning guide, where we will walk with you step-by-step as you plan (and totally pull off!) a beautiful reception.

If you have been tasked with hosting or planning the funeral reception, you probably have a lot of questions.

  1. How exactly do I plan a funeral reception? What’s the first step?
  2. What are some great funeral reception ideas? How can I implement them?
  3. Do I need to serve food at the reception? What are some appropriate menu options?
  4. Where can I plan to have the reception? What are my options?

Today we’re going to be answering these questions and more. Our goal is to help you create an event that is both memorable and fitting to the memory of your loved one and who they were in life.

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10 Meaningful Sympathy Gifts for Loss of Father

Father Loss Sympathy Gift Ideas

Finding the perfect sympathy gifts for loss of father can be difficult. If your loved one was very close to their father, this loss will be hitting them pretty hard. Even if they weren’t that close to their dad, there’s no doubt they’ve still lost a monumental figure in their life.

When you know someone who is grieving over the loss of their dad, you want to give them a gift with real meaning. You don’t want to just give some random material item. No, you want something meaningful that will bring them comfort and peace at a time when they need it most.

If you feel like there’s nothing you can say right now to ease their sorrow, a thoughtful sympathy gift can do a great job at getting the message across: “I’m thinking about you during this difficult time.”

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10 Beautiful Sympathy Gifts for Loss of Mother

Loss of Mother Sympathy Gift Ideas

Today we’re talking about sympathy gifts for loss of mother.

When someone loses their mother, they have quite literally lost their first love. The one who gave them life. The first voice they ever heard. Maybe even the one who gave them a second chance at life. To lose a parent is one of the greatest losses a person will ever face, and all of us have to face this realization at some point in our life.

If you know someone who has recently had to say good-bye to their mom, you’re probably looking for a sympathy gift that is beautiful and will also bring this person a sense of peace and comfort.

Below, we’ve gathered a list featuring 10 sympathy gifts, each possessing both of those qualities.

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10 Best Sympathy Gifts for Men

Best Sympathy Gifts for Men

Men are, according to the stereotype, difficult to shop for. Throw in the unpredictably raw emotions of grief, and you may discover that sympathy gifts for men are really difficult to find.

But it shouldn’t be that way.

If you have a friend or family member who is grieving the loss of a loved one, and maybe even going through a pretty rough patch with it, giving him a sympathy gift is one of the best ways to show him that you care. And you shouldn’t have to spend too much time (or an arm and a leg) finding the perfect one.

In this list we’ve gathered the 10 best sympathy gifts for men. No matter their personality type, from a memorial tumbler for the more practical type of guy to a remembrance journal for the more sentimental, we have a little something for everyone.

Let’s take a look together.

10 Best Sympathy Gifts for Men

Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something you see on our site we may receive a commission at no cost to you. See our full disclosure here for more details.

1. Personalized Memorial Tumbler

It can be therapeutic for someone in mourning to receive a sympathy gift that also serves as a practical item that they can use every day.

Take this memorial tumbler, for instance. This high-quality Polar Camel tumbler (comparable to the popular YETI brand) is made of stainless steel, comes double-walled and is also vacuum-sealed for optimum performance.

Best yet, at Northwest Gifts you can get it personalized with a name, dates, and any other text you’d like to add. Choose from seven different colors and multiple sizes, customized in any way you like.

2. Personalized Bottle Opener Sympathy Gift

For a wonderful sympathy gift that is also practical, choose this personalized bottle opener from Urns Northwest.

With the name of his loved one laser-etched into the wood, every time your friend uses it to pop the top on a cold one, he can “raise a glass” in their memory.

This bottle opener is hand crafted in Oregon using beautiful walnut and maple wood. The opener itself is durable cast iron. Your order will include a screw for easy wall-mounting.

3. Custom Engraved Memorial Bird Feeder

Does he like to spend time in the great outdoors? Whether he’s an avid bird watcher or simply likes to relax on the back porch after a long day, a personalized cedar wood bird feeder will show him that you’re thinking of him during this difficult time.

This memorial bird feeder comes personalized with the name of his loved one on the front acrylic panel, as well as any other text you’d like to add. It measures 10 1/2″ tall and you have the option of including a sympathy note.

4. Personalized Wood Memorial Photo

This memorial photo gift is unique in that the shop prints it on a slab of rustic wood. Using a special “no rub” technique, PNWMemories will print your photo and any text in either color or sepia ink.

Simply upload the photo you want on the wood, specify the name and any other text you’d like featured, and the shop will take care of the rest.

No matter where he chooses to place their memorial photo, your loved one is sure to treasure this unique sympathy gift forever.

5. Restorative Memorial Tree Planted in Their Name

Planting a tree is a very popular (and environmentally-friendly) way to memorialize a loved one. If your loved one is caught up in their grief right now, and you want to remind him that life goes on, this may be just the thing he needs.

With your gift, Trees for a Change will plant a tree (or a grove of trees) in a National Forest area in need of restoration. They’ll send the recipient a card or certificate and include information about how to find the tree online. On their website, the recipient will find maps, photos of the trees being planted, information about the forest area, and more.

All this in honor of his loved one. It’s a truly thoughtful and meaningful sympathy gift for him.

6. Personalized Remembrance Journal

When you’re feeling down, writing about your feelings is beneficial because it helps to get sad or negative thoughts out of your heart and onto paper.

So if your grieving friend or loved one likes to write, consider giving him this personalized faux leather remembrance journal. The faux leather “In Loving Memory” journal includes customization of his loved one’s name, along with dates of birth and death. Choose from several different colors.

7. Men’s Sympathy Gift Basket

When choosing sympathy gifts for men, it can help to think outside the box. Think gift baskets, for instance. Because even the most resilient of men can use a little pick-me-up when grieving over the loss of a loved one.

This Men’s Strength Sympathy Basket will show him that you’re thinking of him while also offering a bit of manly self-care. This gift basket includes a self-help book on grieving, an unscented botanical moisturizer, a pair of super-soft socks, caramel bites, and more.

8. Memorial Garden Stone

Here’s a great sympathy gift idea for the guy that enjoys being outside. Every time he heads out to do some work in the garden, he’ll see this memorial garden stone shining in the sunlight and will remember sweet memories he has of his loved one.

The 10″ garden stone is made of quality resin and features the saying, “When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.”

It includes an optional keyhole for easy fence or wall mounting.

9. Floral Heart Personalized Memorial Plaque

“If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.” That’s the beautiful quote featured on this stunning memorial plaque sympathy gift from Northwest Gifts.

Made in Oregon, the plaque is handcrafted of stained alder wood and birch ply. It also comes personalized with his loved one’s name and years of birth and death, carefully laser-etched inside a pretty floral heart. Choose between two different plaque sizes. You can customize or change the quote upon request.

10. Morse Code Memorial Bracelet

Bracelets can serve as subtle yet meaningful sympathy gifts. Especially when they carry a “hidden” message in Morse code!

This beaded wrap bracelet reads “Until We Meet Again” in Morse code. It’s made of black seed beads and comes with a lobster-style clasp. Included with your gift is an informational card explaining the meaning, so your loved one will know exactly just how special and unique this gift from you is.

More Meaningful Sympathy Gift Ideas for Men

Helen Keller once said, “The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or even touched, but felt in the heart.”

Sometimes the very best sympathy gifts can’t even be bought. If you’re looking for a sympathy gift for men that is just as thoughtful as those presented above, but not necessarily one that you have to purchase, take a look at some of these great ideas:

  • Cook. Make him a delicious and nutritious meal. When grieving, eating can be hard to do and even easier to forget about. Cook or bake his favorite dish to help him out, or go the extra mile and create him an entire meal.
  • Meals. Start a meal train on his behalf. Get friends and family in on it…everyone picks a day of the week or month to provide him a meal.
  • DIY. Into sewing or crafting? Create for him something that he could really use and that would provide him some comfort at the same time. Think blankets, socks, PJ’s, beanies, a house robe. Maybe even a teddy bear or memory bear like this one.
  • Donations. Make a charity donation in his name or in memory of his departed loved one.
  • Memory book. Create a photo album or scrapbook featuring pictures of all the good times with his loved one.
  • Portrait. Paint him a picture of his loved one. (Or have one commissioned from a professional artist like Mary Ann.)
  • Curated gift basket. Create your own gift basket for him filled with things you know he’d love.
  • Music. Create a playlist of encouraging songs to uplift him when he needs it the most.

It’s the thought that counts, after all!

Finding the Perfect Sympathy Gift

This brings us to the end of our list of the 10 best sympathy gifts for men. If you found the perfect gift to give him off our list, we’re glad – that was the goal!

But in the case that your gift search continues, check out all the other great gift ideas available over at Northwest Gifts. We have many items tailored especially to men, and most of them are 100% customizable.

Do you have any other great sympathy gift ideas for guys? Share them with us in a comment below.

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The Cremation Process: How Does Cremation Work?

The Cremation Process

So, how does cremation work? What’s the cremation process like?

Whether you are researching for end-of-life planning, preparing for a career in the funeral industry, or are simply curious, you want to learn about the cremation process.

Today we’ll answer these questions and more.

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17 Best Funeral Songs for Child Loss (Infants, Children, and Teens)

Funeral Songs for Child Loss

Today we’re going to be sharing with you 17 funeral songs for child loss. This is part of our series on the best and most popular funeral songs. You can read the master list here.

Once when I was small, an extended family member had passed away. It got me thinking, for the first time in my young life, about the fragility of life. I remember asking my mom what she would do if something like that ever happened to me.

Her response: “I would cry and cry and never stop for as long as I lived.”

If you have suffered the loss of a child, you understand this statement better than anyone. And when you now have to plan for your child’s funeral, including thinking of the right songs to play at the service, it can make the grieving process that much more difficult.

Parent to parent, we hope that with this list featuring the best funeral songs for child loss – including songs for infants, children and teens – we can take away that burden just a little bit.

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How to Deliver a Eulogy Without Crying

Eulogy without Crying

In this article I’m going to cover the best advice on how to deliver a eulogy without crying.

So you have been asked to speak the eulogy at the funeral service of your loved one. What an honor it is…but it will be no easy task. You are probably thinking about the writing process, what needs to be included in your eulogy, and how long it has to be. You are also wondering how in the world you’ll be able to read it without crying on the day of the funeral.

How can it be done? How do you deliver your eulogy without crying?

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21 Most Uplifting Funeral Songs

21 Most Uplifting Funeral Songs

The 21 Most Uplifting Funeral Songs is part of our series on the best songs for funerals. Read the main article here. In that article you will find a list of the top 100 funeral songs, music sorted by genre, and much more.

When you lose someone you love very much, your heart is broken. It seems as if there is nothing in this world that could possibly lift your spirits when you are grieving. But music has a way of doing just that! Sometimes all it takes is finding the right songs.

Are you looking for an uplifting song to play at the funeral of your loved one? If you and your family would be blessed to hear a happy, upbeat song rather than a sorrowful one, then check out the list below.

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What is a Mausoleum? 9 Things You Need to Know About Mausoleums

9 Things You Need to Know About Mausoleums

What is a mausoleum? What do you need to know about a mausoleum to get a grasp of its history and purpose?

Today we’re answering these questions and more from an objective point of view. We’ll take an in-depth look at the different types of mausoleums (yes, there’s more than one), the meaning and function of a mausoleum crypt, and much more.

So whether you’re new to funeral service, thinking about future planning, or simply curious, you’ve come to the right place to learn more.

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