When planning a memorable reception, the question to keep in mind is what kind of party would the deceased have liked? When I think of my Dad, as long as pigs in a blanket and lots of good bread was served, he wouldn’t care if china or paper plates were used. Mom on the other hand would probably like to see fruits, veggies, and other healthy stuff served on the good china.
Southern funerals are renowned for their at-home receptions that use the best silver and china, with tomato aspic, fried chicken, stuffed eggs, and other food provided by the neighbors. In Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral, authors Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hayes say that in the Mississippi Delta, “polishing silver is the southern lady’s form of grief therapy.”
If you’re not a regular entertainer and flummoxed by the niceties, it’s okay to go with the convenience of paper and plastic. A full list of equipment for successful entertaining follows. This is helpful for both wedding and funeral planning.
If cost is not a limiting factor, going with a caterer can make for a wonderful reception, with all the cooking and cleaning up after the party handled for you. Some funeral homes offer reception catering as part of their services, sub-contracting out that work but still overseeing the implementation for you. It’s another way funeral directors are like wedding planners for the last step in the life cycle.
Party Planning Checklist
For almost any type of entertaining, consider having the following items on hand in sufficient quantities for the expected number of guests. Depending on the formality of the event, plates, cups, glasses, utensils and tablecloths can range from fine china, crystal, silver and linen to paper and plastic goods. Depending on the menu, you may not need all items.
Party Item Checklist
- Plates – formal dining includes salad and bread plates
- Dessert plates
- Cups and saucers or mugs for coffee or tea
- Bowls – if serving soup, chili, stews, or other liquid-based dishes
- Wine glasses – specific to the type of wine being served, such as red, white, or champagne
- Beer glasses – mugs, pub, or Pilsner glasses
- Water glasses
- Eating utensils – forks for salad, the main course and dessert, soup spoons, tea spoons, knives, specialty utensils as dictated by the menu
- Serving utensils – large spoons, forks, salad tongs, gravy spoon, cutting and serving pieces for desserts
- Serving china – platters, bowls, gravy boat, items determined by the menu
- Tablecloth(s) or placemats
- Napkins – sized for beverages as well as luncheon or dinner settings
- Coffee urn and/or hot water for tea – consider offering both regular and decaffeinated options
- Coffee service items – sugar and/or low-calorie sweeteners, milk and/or non-dairy creamer, honey, lemon for tea, stirrers
- Condiments – salt and pepper, others as appropriate for the menu, such as mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, salad dressings, soy sauce, etc.
- Chairs – enough seating capacity for the number of guests expected
- Tables – unless it’s a cocktail party where people are eating standing up or sitting around the living room, make sure the dining table is big enough for the expected guests, or that additional tables are available.
- Buffet warming trays or chafing dishes
- Extension cords or power strips for electric appliances
- Table decorations – candles, flowers, thematic decorative items
- Matches or lighters for lighting candles
- Place card markers for assigned seating