Menu ideas for a funeral & wake

Updated February 21, 2017

A gathering of friends and family traditionally follows a funeral and wake, and food is served while they mingle. Since the attendees are generally a mixture of ages and backgrounds, the menu should be simple and have wide appeal. Selections should also hold well at room temperature for several hours, be amenable to self-service and be easy to eat from a hand-held plate.


Large trays of fruits and vegetables cut into bite-size pieces are easy to prepare and refill. Simple dipping sauces are good accompaniments. Cold pasta salads, slaws and potato salads made without dairy products add diversity to the selection without risking spoilage. Tossed green or gelatin-based salads are appropriate if they can be frequently replenished by the host throughout the event.

Main Dishes

Roasted and pre-sliced whole hams, turkey breasts or roast beef are usually well received and can be eaten alone or used to make sandwiches on hamburger or sandwich rolls. Baked pasta casseroles like ziti or lasagne are easily portioned and appeal to a wide range of people. Creamy mixtures of rice, vegetables and poultry are filling and comforting. Pizza with a variety of toppings from a local restaurant is generally well-received. Six-foot-long subs pre-cut into serving sizes are good for casual post-funeral gatherings.

Side Dishes

Although potato and pasta side dishes are classic side dishes, mix in a few green and orange vegetables for colour, flavour and nutrition. Steamed or roasted green beans, carrots, broccoli and squash complement most main dishes. Offer a wide selection of breads and rolls with butter and a variety of jams and jellies. Bowls of chips, nuts and other salty snacks are welcome sides.

Desserts and Sweets

Since grieving people often find their appetites diminished and find comfort in sweets, provide a wide assortment of cookies, candies, pies and cakes. Cut the latter two sweets into serving pieces and place them on plates for easy access. Keep the offerings simple and stable to avoid spills and accidents. A mixture of homemade and store-bought sweets is acceptable.


Keep a fresh pot or urn of coffee on hand, along with hot water to make tea and instant hot chocolate. Juices and soft drinks appeal to a wide range of tastes. A large punch bowl of a fruit-based beverage efficiently and economically serves large groups of various ages. If serving alcohol, appoint a person to control its flow and make sure only adults consume it.

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About the Author

Cassie Damewood has been a writer and editor since 1985. She writes about food and cooking for various websites, including My Great Recipes, and serves as the copy editor for "Food Loves Beer" magazine. Damewood completed a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in creative writing at Miami University.