Who Pays for the Funeral Reception, Wake, or Repast?

After losing a loved one, grievers may wish to have a space where they can support one another and remember the departed more informally. For these reasons, it’s customary for a funeral reception to take place after the funeral. However, this can be a costly event, so it’s important to know who is financially responsible for this event before planning on having a reception.

The closest family members or whoever organized the funeral are usually responsible for paying for a funeral reception. However, they may choose to ask other family or friends to help. Guests can also choose to contribute financially to the event.

In the rest of this article, I’ll explain who typically pays for a funeral reception, how guests can help, and how to cut costs if you’re on a tight budget. Planning a funeral reception is already overwhelming without the financial burden, so if you have questions about covering the costs of this event, keep reading.

Who Traditionally Pays for a Funeral Reception?

After the funeral, the deceased’s closest family usually hosts a funeral reception, also known as a wake or a repast.

Whoever organized and paid for the funeral will also typically plan and pay for the reception, although they may turn to a trusted friend or family member if they choose to do so.

Funeral receptions are also known as repasts. Traditionally, a repast was a meal shared by family and close friends after a funeral service. You may choose to have a repast, or more of a smaller gathering, instead of hosting a larger reception.

Some funeral homes offer a reception as part of a funeral package. In this situation, the reception will be held at the funeral home, which is convenient for funeral attendees who also wish to attend the reception. For more information about selecting a funeral home and the possible services they may provide, check out my article on how to choose the right funeral home.

A funeral reception is an informal gathering after the funeral that gives mourners a chance to remember the departed and support one another in a more intimate way than the funeral. Typically, dinner or some sort of food is served at this event, although this isn’t mandatory. The dinner would also have to be paid for by whoever organized the reception.

Pink funeral flowers arrangement in the snow at the cemetery

How Guests Can Contribute to a Funeral Reception

Even though the family of the departed usually pays for a funeral reception, guests can contribute financially to the funeral reception to honor the departed and help relieve the family of the financial burden.

Here are some ideas for how guests can help cover the cost of the reception:

  • Use a crowdfunding website. Crowdfunding websites, such as GoFundMe.com, are effective ways to gather funds. Using a crowdfunding site, a family can gather the funds necessary to host a reception into a collective and collaborative effort, which can help guests feel more involved. This is especially useful for people who perhaps cannot attend the reception but still wish to contribute.
  • Set up a donation box at the reception. Another option is to have some sort of collection box or basket at the reception to help reimburse the family for the costs. Attendees can then opt to donate what they can as they commemorate and remember the loved one.
  • Give money to the family as a sympathy gift. It’s common for people to give friends, neighbors, coworkers, church members, and more some sort of sympathy gift when they’ve lost a loved one. A great idea for a gift is to give them some money to cover the funeral reception costs. You can read my 50 appropriate sympathy gift ideas article for more tips.
  • Offer to pay for catering. One of the most expensive parts of hosting a funeral reception is the food. Therefore, if a guest is particularly generous, they can offer to pay to cater the event.

The funeral reception costs will ultimately fall on whoever planned the event, which is usually the closest family of the departed. However, there are ways that guests can get involved and contribute to the costs as a way of honoring the departed and supporting those in mourning.

How To Save Money on the Funeral Reception, Wake, or Repast

Funeral receptions are more informal than funerals, so you have many options for celebrating your loved one in a way that makes sense to you, their memory, and your budget. There are many ways you can cut back on reception costs. Here are some ideas:

  • Host the reception at your home or the home of a friend. Renting a space to hold the reception can be expensive, sometimes up to $6,000 or more! However, if you choose to have the event at your home, you won’t need to worry about rental costs. For ideas on where to host a funeral reception, you can read my article on suitable locations.
  • Have a potluck. Catering is also a budget-eater, with a formal plated meal costing as much as $150 per person. If you host a potluck, however, you won’t need to pay for a caterer, and you can allow guests to show their love for the departed in the form of delicious food to share.
  • Don’t serve alcohol. Most receptions have some sort of refreshment, but there’s no law saying you have to serve alcohol. Alcohol is even forbidden at funerals in some religions. Attendees will likely be happy with water, lemonade, coffee, or other less expensive beverages.
  • Send email invitations. Personalized paper invitations can cost as much as $500 to design, print, and send. You can cut costs by sending a simple email invitation instead. As long as everyone gets the information, they probably won’t care how it was received.

The funeral reception can be as extravagant and expensive or as simple and affordable as you want. Check out my five examples of funeral receptions and their costs for more ideas.


A funeral reception is a great way for mourners to remember the departed and support one another, but it can also be overwhelming and costly to plan and host. Usually, the financial responsibility of a funeral reception belongs to the closest family of the departed or whoever organized and paid for the funeral. However, there are ways guests can contribute. For more information, check out my article on ten steps to plan a memorable funeral reception.

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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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