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Catering for an event is often a time for excitement and creativity, but when that event is a funeral, a different kind of tone is required.

This type of catering requires specialist knowledge that is able to provide food everyone will enjoy whilst remaining appropriate at all times, fulfilling any wishes that might have been left and creating a minimum of fuss.

Here, we take a look at the things you need to think about when catering for a funeral or wake and the best ways to make it successful for all concerned.


It is traditional to serve food at a wake, funeral or memorial, and it tends to be a shared meal after the formal services have been completed. This often takes the form of a buffet, as not everyone in attendance will be in the mood to eat, but everything that is produced will need to be done sensitively, bearing the occasion in mind.

Typically, the funeral takes the form of a burial or cremation, whereas the wake can be less formal, and could take place after the funeral. It might be held in the home of a family member or in a public place, depending on the number of people that are invited.

The mourners from the funeral will usually be invited to attend, and other people may also arrive to pay their respects, so it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly how many people to cater for.


When handling the catering for a funeral, it is important to deal with the organiser with sensitivity. It is most likely to be their loved one that is being mourned, and they will have a lot of other aspects of the funeral to think about, in addition to the catering.

Organising a funeral can be an incredibly emotional and stressful affair, so it is important not to bombard the organiser with too many questions or put too much pressure on them for things.

Last wishes

When putting together the catering for a funeral, you may have any last wishes of the deceased to consider, and these should be respected no matter how strange they might seem. You may also be asked to include something that used to be a particular favourite or avoid something that they used to hate.

Dietary requirements

It is important to establish whether there are any specific dietary requirements that you need to be aware of, although the organisers may not always know the answers to this.

You therefore need to think about everyone and try to ensure that there is something on the menu that is suitable for anyone vegan, and also look to produce some gluten or dairy free options as well. To avoid any confusion, all dishes should be clearly labelled.

Food types

Many funerals tend to offer simple finger food. The people in attendance are there to pay their respects to someone and not for the food, so it does not always need to be extravagant. Simple ideas such as an afternoon tea which may consist of, sandwiches, cheese, crisps, salads and dips always tend to be welcome. You could also include some hot buffet food like pasta, potato dishes, pies, vegetables and pizza.

Some sweet treats always tend to be welcome on a buffet, and these could take the form of biscuits, cakes or even sweets and chocolates.

Timing the food can be a tricky business. The organiser will usually be able to tell you what time the funeral will take place and how long it is likely to last, but you will also need to take into account that people will usually mingle after the service and will need to travel to wherever the wake is being held, and this can make things a little bit more unpredictable.


Funerals can be expensive, so it is important to set a budget for the catering. This can sometimes be difficult when you do not know how many people it is intended to feed, so it can be necessary to get a little bit creative and maximise every penny by buying in bulk and asking friends and family to contribute dishes.

Many people decide that they do not want the hassle of organising the food themselves, as they will already have enough to think about on the day, and so they turn to outside caterers for help. This makes it much easier to set a budget that they can work within.


It is important to think about where the venue will be held, as this can sometimes dictate what food you serve. Some public places will not be able to give you access to a kitchen, so you will need to stick to serving cold food or rely on outside caterers who are able to bring cooking and warming equipment with them.

If the wake is taking place in somebody’s home, then space might be limited, both for the preparation and the laying out of a buffet, and so it is important to think about the best ways that this can work.

Outside catering

Outside caterers such as Workplace Refreshments can take away a lot of the stress of funeral catering.

They are able to work to all kinds of budgets and can create an array of food that will suit all sorts of people and their individual needs. They are able to fly under the radar and ensure all of the guests remain happy, allowing it to be a time where they can show love and exchange memories without needing to worry about what food is being served.

When catering for a funeral, it is important to remember that the food is not the most important factor of the day, and so many people who are involved might not want to put much thought into it.

To make it something appropriate, try to think about what the deceased person would have wanted, and you can help to make it a more personal celebration of their life that will be remembered for all of the right reasons.