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Who pays for lunch after funeral?

Deciding who pays for lunch after a funeral can be a sensitive issue for grieving families. There are no hard and fast rules, but there are some common practices that provide guidance. Ultimately, the decision comes down to the preferences and financial situation of the deceased’s family. In this article, we will explore some of the key factors to consider when determining who pays for the funeral luncheon.

Why Have a Funeral Luncheon?

Before looking at who pays, it helps to understand why a funeral luncheon is typically held in the first place. Here are some of the main reasons:

  • Provide nourishment – Funeral guests may have traveled long distances and not had a proper meal all day. A luncheon offers them needed sustenance.
  • Fellowship – The luncheon provides a time for family and friends to be together, share memories, and support each other in grief.
  • Express appreciation – It allows the family to thank those who have come to pay their respects.
  • Honor the deceased – Sharing a meal helps continue the celebrating of the loved one’s life.
  • Transition time – Eating together gives mourners a gentle transition back to normal activities after the emotional intensity of the funeral service.

With those purposes in mind, let’s look at who typically pays for the funeral luncheon.

The Deceased’s Family

In most cases, the costs of the post-funeral luncheon are covered by the immediate family of the deceased. Typically, this responsibility falls to one or more of the following:

  • The surviving spouse
  • The adult children
  • Other family members closely involved in funeral planning

These individuals may use personal funds or money from the estate of the deceased to pay catering costs, restaurant bills, supplies, and other expenses.

Why is the bereaved family usually expected to pick up the lunch tab? A few reasons:

  • The luncheon is hosted by the grieving family as a gesture of thanks to those paying respects.
  • Funeral guests are rarely asked to contribute or pay for their meals.
  • The family wants control over the menu, location, and timing that works best for them.

Of course, this practice only works if the deceased’s family has the financial means to manage the extra costs. For lower-income families, alternatives may need to be considered.

The Church or Place of Worship

In some faith or cultural traditions, it is customary for the church, temple, mosque, or other house of worship to take care of providing a funeral meal. Their congregation may volunteer time and food donations to put on the spread.

Some reasons why places of worship commonly assist with bereavement meals:

  • Part of their ministry to comfort those in mourning
  • Have large halls or fellowship spaces suited to host groups
  • Members often voluntarily contribute food, beverages, and service
  • Recognize grieving families may be overwhelmed and need support

For families affiliated with a caring, generous congregation, they may willingly accept an offer from the church to provide the post-funeral lunch. This can be one less burden for them during an exhausting time.

Family and Friends

Close family members and friends sometimes volunteer to pay for and prepare the luncheon for a grieving family after the funeral service. Those who step up might include:

  • Siblings of the deceased
  • Extended family members like cousins or aunts/uncles
  • Close neighbors or friends
  • Fellow members of civic groups or fraternal organizations

This informal network of support provides comfort food and looks after the luncheon details so the immediate family doesn’t have to. Their kind assistance is especially valued when the surviving spouse and children are in emotional shock or overwhelmed.

Crowdfunding Efforts

For families without an obvious support network or sufficient financial resources, crowdfunding is emerging as a potential solution. Trusted friends may set up an online fundraiser through sites like GoFundMe to collect donations towards funeral expenses, including the luncheon. Or a meal calendar tool could be used for people to sign up to bring prepared dishes. With thoughtful coordination, crowd-sourced help can relieve the family’s stress.

Who Traditionally Pays in Different Cultures?

Cultural traditions and religious customs impact who pays for the post-funeral reception. Here are some examples:

Culture/Religion Common Practice
Christian Church provides or family pays
Jewish Family pays; mourners often bring food
Buddhist Monastery or temple may provide
Hindu Family pays for gathered mourners
Muslim Mosque or family sponsors meal
Maori Communal effort by extended family

These are general guidelines only – practices vary depending on the circumstances and background of each family. The values of community support and honouring the deceased remain constant across cultures.

Who Pays for Restaurant Venues?

For larger funerals, a restaurant, hotel, or event venue may be booked instead of holding the luncheon at the place of worship or a home. Who covers the costs for these outside venues?

Typically it is paid for by one or more of the following:

  • The family using the deceased’s funds or their own money
  • Donations collected from funeral guests as a gift to the family
  • The religious institution affiliated with the funeral
  • A company, union, or fraternal organization the deceased was part of

If the family chooses the restaurant option, they are generally expected to pay, either out-of-pocket or using the estate of the deceased. However, some families in financial need discreetly mention the luncheon venue on the funeral notice, hoping friends will contribute to the cost.

Hosting at a Residence

When the post-funeral gathering is hosted at a private home, typically no venue fees apply. But the family is still responsible for food, beverage, seating, and other costs. Relatives often bring dishes while close friends supply things like plates, utensils and cups.

Some families prefer the intimacy of having the luncheon at the home of the deceased or a close family member. It feels more personal than a public venue. Any assistance offered by guests is usually appreciated.

How Much Does a Funeral Luncheon Cost?

The cost of a funeral lunch can vary widely depending on these factors:

  • Number of guests – More attendees means higher catering costs.
  • Venue choice – At home is less expensive than a restaurant.
  • Food and beverages – More lavish menus equal bigger bills.
  • Alcohol – Serving wine, beer or spirits increases costs.
  • Hired staff – Caterers, servers and bartenders add fees.
  • Length of event – Providing snacks means a longer event.

As a rough guideline, costs often range between $10-$30 per person for a simple post-funeral buffet. But elaborate catered affairs at upscale venues can easily exceed $100 per guest.

Keeping the menu simple and encouraging potluck contributions are ways families can reduce luncheon expenses, if needed. The important thing is gathering together, not the extravagance of the meal.

Funeral Lunch Etiquette

If you attend a funeral and are wondering what is appropriate regarding the luncheon, here are some general tips:

  • Unless you receive a personal invitation with a fee, assume presence at the meal is a courtesy.
  • Be prepared to bring a dish like dessert if you know the family well.
  • Ask what you can contribute if you want to help but don’t know the family’s wishes.
  • Don’t announce donations or gifts publicly, pass them discreetly.
  • Express thanks to the hosts before departing.
  • Send a thoughtful thank-you card afterwards.

With sensitivity, you can easily determine and comply with the family’s preferences.

Funeral Luncheon Ideas

If you are tasked with organizing the funeral luncheon, keep it simple but meaningful. Some ideas:

Menu Suggestions

Choose comfort foods and easy-to-eat finger foods like:

  • Sandwiches and wraps
  • Salads and vegetables
  • Fruit, cheese and bread platters
  • Casseroles or soups
  • Baked goods like cookies, muffins and bars

Provide beverage options like coffee, tea, soft drinks and lemonade. Offer wine or beer only if it suits the circumstances.

Personal Touches

Add special touches that highlight the deceased’s personality:

  • Serve their signature dishes or favorite foods
  • Use their china or serving pieces if possible
  • Display photos and memorabilia around the room
  • Play music or a video tribute during the gathering
  • Share a toast, blessings or fond memories

Make things meaningful but also comfortable and casual.

Potluck Assistance

If hosting at home and doing potluck-style, use an online tool like to coordinate contributions. Or have guests sign up to bring specific items as they RSVP. Provide clear instructions on dishes and delivery times.

Kids’ Needs

Consider a separate kids’ room with simple food, beverages and activities if many children will be attending. This allows them to relax separately from the adults.

Thank You Notes

Be sure to send thank-you notes afterwards to anyone who helped with food, donations, or planning. This is an important gesture of appreciation.


Deciding who pays for the funeral lunch is just one of many difficult tasks facing a grieving family. There are no universal rules, only courtesies and customs. With open communication, willingness to accept help, and simple gestures of gratitude, families can receive needed comfort during the funeral meal without awkwardness over who pays the tab. The true gift is sharing time and memories with those wishing to pay respects to the deceased.