What is a Funeral Repast | The Art Of Condolence (2023)

Table of Contents

  • Benefit of a Funeral Repast
  • Purpose of a Funeral Repast
  • Repast Invitation
  • Which is Correct Repast or Repass?
  • How Much Does a Funeral Repast Cost?
  • Who Pays for the Repast Dinner
  • Funeral Repast Origin
  • Where to Host a Funeral Repast – 5 Suggestions
  • Planning a Repast Meal
  • Recommend Foods for a Repast Meal

When we experience the loss of a loved one, a funeral ceremony fills several vital needs. Most importantly a funeral gives a support system for friends and family members. The after-funeral repast is a critical element of the grieving process.

What is a funeral repast?A repast is a gathering after a funeral where mourners collectively share their sorrow. The post-funeral reception offers an opportunity for friends and family to celebrate the deceased life. The general definition of repast is not limited to funerals and is defined as “the taking of food, as a meal.”

The repast reception allows friends and family to gather together, offering condolences with food as comfort. Sharing a meal and fond memories will help people begin to heal and work through their grief. Generally, a Repast meal takes upwards of two hours.

You are able to share fond memories which may assist immediate family and friends in the grieving process.

Gail Trauco. R.N., BSN-OCN- Grief Mediator

A repast, or a reception, is sometimes the most important part of a funeral service. It’s a relaxed opportunity to give support and bond with friends and family. Suffering from the loss of a loved one is challenging. A repast after a funeral is a way to show support as a family.

A funeral repast is also known as:Repass, Funeral Meal, Mercy Luncheon, Meal of Condolence, The First Meal, Dignity Meal, Pominki (поминки), Kokubetsu-Shiki (告別式), Solemn Feast, Stypa

Benefit of a Funeral Repast

1) Comfort loved ones and offer support

Part of the grieving process and the healing process is to talk and share feelings. This is sometimes hard to do and harder if one is alone. By attending a Repast, people have an informal opportunity to chat and reminisce about the deceased. People who are shy and not used to public speaking can simply listen and feel that they are involved in the process. Grieving together goes a long way toward helping the healing process and a Repast offers the opportunity for all to get involved.

2) Allow family members to bond

At a Repast gathering, family members who have not seen each other for long periods can bond, offer, and gain emotional support. This is especially true if family members live far away and have traveled long distances to attend the funeral. The Repast provides a safe place to gather, reflect and share thoughts over a meal.

3) Offer personal condolences to the family

Funerals are never planned and one is often caught unawares. In moments of grief and shock, it is sometimes difficult and not always possible to offer personalcondolencesto the family and loved ones. At the Repast, the setting is more casual and informal. Mourners will feel at ease approaching the family and offering condolences on a one-to-one basis.

4) Celebrate the life of the deceased

Death comes to remind us that life is important – that it is fleeting and can be snatched away at a moment’s notice. Spending time with friends and loved ones is a wonderful way to celebrate the life of the deceased. At a Repast, the process is informal and from the heart. Unlike speeches made at the funeral ceremony, gathering at a Repast allows people to speak more freely and with no pressure. Many will want to talk about happy episodes that they shared with the deceased. Many will recall special moments that they will treasure for years to come. Family can catch up and celebrate the Life that goes on after one of us has left this Earth.

5) Bring closure to the funeral process

The word Repast means ‘a meal’ and the symbolic process of Breaking Bread is part of many religious ceremonies. By sharing a meal with loved ones and friends, you begin to bring closure to the grieving process. People know that they are loved and cared about and that there are others struggling with the same feelings of grief. After a funeral, people tend to want to talk and not simply climb into their cars and return home to everyday life. The Repast offers an informal and loving setting that closes off the day, no matter how hard it has been.

Purpose of a Funeral Repast

When a funeral service is over, people are often left feeling alone, bereft and not sure what to do or where to go. Many tend to stand around and look for some sort of support or guidance, not wanting to just ‘pack up and leave’.

Planning an after-funeral meal or Repast is an essential part of the funeral and grieving process. It gives mourners a place to go to and allows friends and family to talk, bond and share their feelings and stories about the deceased.

A Repast meal can be a formal affair at a large venue with multiple courses. Alternatively, it can be a small gathering at a family or friend’s home where finger food is served.

A family spokesperson will usually announce the venue for the Repast after the funeral service. If one needs to travel, directions will be given. If nothing is said, you can assume that the Repast is by invite only, and the relevant people have previously been informed.

Repast Invitation

Many people wonder if they are invited to the repast meal. The after-funeral reception (Repast) is either private or open to everyone attending the funeral service.

Am I invited to the repast? If the dinner is open to all, the funeral director will announce that the family wishes to invite everyone to the repast gathering. When the funeral repast meal is private, invitations are typically sent via email or a printed letter.

Sample Repast Invitation:

What is a Funeral Repast | The Art Of Condolence (1)

Which is Correct Repast or Repass?

Generally speaking, when referring to the reception after a funeral repast and repass can be used interchangeably.

According to Webster, the definition of repass is “to pass through, over, or by again” and the definition of repast is “something taken as food”. However, the Urban dictionary defines repass as “the gathering with food, occurs directly after the burial or burial ceremony” and the definition of repast as “family meal or gathering directly following a funeral.”

How Much Does a Funeral Repast Cost?

The first point to note is that there are no rules regarding funeral repasts.Taking everything into consideration, your repast can cost anywhere from under $100 at home to over $2000 at a venue with full catering.

Costs will be affected by the venue you choose. If you are renting a hall, you will have to carry the cost of the venue, the cost of the food, and possibly the cost of hired staff.

A repast held in the home of the deceased or the home of a relative is usually the most cost-effective option. You won’t have to pay for the venue. The main cost will be for the food and drinks. If money is an issue, you can choose to go with low-cost finger food. If money is not an issue, you can cater a larger, more formal sit-down meal. Alcoholic drinks always add many dollars to the cost of any meal. Again, there are no rules. You can decide whether to serve alcohol or not. Leaving it out will certainly reduce the cost of the repast.

While an outdoor venue may be free, you will incur costs of transporting tables, seating, food, and other requirements to the venue. Depending on the number of people, friends and relatives could help with private cars. If you have a large event, you may need to rent transport for the day.

Other costs also come into play when planning a repast. Some people want to decorate the venue and spend a lot of money on flowers and table settings. Some families may want professional photographers to be on stand-by. You may want to purchase a fancy guest book, Thank You cards, and table seating cards.

Depending on the number of people invited, it is best to try and calculate a price per person. This will depend on the venue and the type of meal planned.

Who Pays for the Repast Dinner

Typically, family members of the deceased will sponsor the meal. When financial issues are present, the family may request a donation from the attendees.

Agreeing on who pays for the repast meal is essential. The post-funeral luncheon can easily exceed $2,000.

Note: FEMA may approve COVID-19 Funeral Assistance for expenses related to the funeral ceremony.

Funeral Repast Origin

Looking at the etymology of the term repast, the origin was started in the late 14 century in Old French as “a meal, food” and this was derived from the Latin word repastus meaning “meal.”

Many people question if the term repast is only used in the United States. It was surprising that repast is used throughout the world and France is 20th on the list. Using Google Trends the top five countries based on popularity are:

  1. Jamaica
  2. Trinidad & Tobago
  3. United States
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Australia

Where to Host a Funeral Repast – 5 Suggestions

After the funeral, people will gather for the repast. This may be a private event or an open event for all mourners depending on the family.

The venue for your repast will have to be decided on before the funeral and communicated to the guests.

Depending on the time of the day that the funeral is held, you may be serving lunch, dinner, or a mid-day finger meal.

You can hold the repast reception:

At the funeral home– This is probably the most convenient venue, as the mourners are already there and won’t need to travel. Many funeral homes have parlors that can hold a large number of people. They also often have staff who will set tables, serve and clean up after the event. The costs of this will have to be arranged beforehand.

At your church– Many people will be familiar with the church or place of worship that the deceased attended. The funeral will often start in the church before moving to the burial place. Guests can return to the church hall after the service to take part in the repast. Many churches have volunteers who will be willing to help set up tables, serve and clean up after the event.

In the home of the deceased– Having your repast at the home of the deceased does bring a very personal note to the event. This is the place that the person lived and will hold many memories. If the family is not up to the task of setting up the repast meal, a relative or close friend may step in to take charge.

At a local restaurant– Choosing the favorite restaurant of the deceased is an option for a repast meal. Arrangements will have to be made with the restaurant to ensure that the tone and mood of the venue are suited for the occasion. The details of the food to be served will also have to be arranged, as well as the number of people that the restaurant can accommodate.

In a place of nature– Choosing a place of nature that was special to the deceased can create a beautiful feeling of comfort for the mourners. It can be a park, river setting, mountain venue, or even a garden. Outdoor venues can be tricky if the weather decides to turn bad, so this will have to be kept in mind. You will also have to arrange to transport seating, food, and drinks and to get help to set up and clean up after the event is over.

Planning a Repast Meal

1) Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. You may be grieving or in shock. If you need help from family members or friends to plan the Repast, do not feel bad asking for it. People are always willing to help in situations like this.

2) The choice of venue is up to you. Many Churches and places of worship have community centers, halls or reception areas where you can hold your Repast. Ask your Priest or Pastor for information. You can hold your Repast at your home or at the home of the deceased. If you are planning a large affair, a restaurant or hall may be booked. You can even plan a Repast in an outdoor park or at the beach. You should consider what would best suit the personality of the deceased.

3) There are no food rules for a Repast meal. It can range from a sit-down multi-course meal to a simple stand-up buffet. Food can be prepared by a caterer or by the family. You can even ask some close friends to each bring along a plate of snacks. Remember that some people may be vegan or have allergies, so plan on having a few special dishes for them. Make sure you have tea, coffee, juices and water available.

4) The Repast meal is usually for friends and family. You can however decide whether to open it to all who have attended the funeral or to offer personal invites to selected people. If it is an open invitation, the venue can be announced at the end of the funeral ceremony. If not, be sure that the correct people have received invites before the time.

5) Your Repast will cost money and you are under no obligation to spend more than you can afford. You can choose to have a small gathering or a lavish affair – it is entirely up to you. At no stage should the grieving family be put under financial strain.

6) A Repast will essentially be filled with sad and grieving people. But, it does provide an opportunity to relax, talk and open up. People will want to share stories about their times with the deceased. The best Repast settings are usually informal and casual. You do not need to go overboard with décor or entertainment. Set out your food, some chairs and tables and allow people to mingle, chat and comfort one another.

Note: Please reference the NFDA guidePlanning A Funeral During The COVID-19 Pandemicwhen planning a repast meal.

Recommend Foods for a Repast Meal

The choice of food served at a repast meal is entirely up to you. It can be a lavish sit-down meal or a few platters of sandwiches.

The most important thing to remember is that people at the repast will be mourning. They want to chat, meet the family, offer condolences and talk about the deceased. The food is not the main focus. You want to serve up comforting, easy-to-eat food that is wholesome and suitable for all types of tastes.

Common comfort foods that are popular for a repast meal:

1) Sandwich Platters– Platters work very well. Put them out on a table and allow guests to choose what they enjoy. Sandwiches can cater to vegetarians and those with allergies. You can offer a selection for non-meat eaters that includes cheese, tomatoes, and egg mayonnaise. For non-vegetarians offer ham, roast beef, bacon, chicken, and turkey. If you want to add something fancy, go for smoked salmon and caviar.

2 Pasta Dishes– Pasta is a wonderful comforting food. It can be baked before the time and frozen. Prepare vegetarian pasta and meat pasta to cater to all diet types.

3) Chicken– Chicken is another great comfort food. Chicken can be served hot or cold. It can be eaten as finger food, on sandwiches, or as part of a sit-down meal. A roast chicken with sides of veggies is a great wholesome meal. Children love chicken nuggets. They are easy to eat and don’t make a mess that needs to be cleaned up. Cold chicken on fresh rolls is also a good option when served with a garden salad.

4) Soup– Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of steaming soup with fresh bread. People will appreciate the thought, especially in cold weather. You can make carrot, vegetable, tomato, mushroom, chicken, or onion soup. A few choices will cater for all tastes.

5) The Deceased Favorite Dish– If you have the time to create a meaningful experience, preparing the favorite dish of the deceased will be a very emotional thought. This is most probably better suited to smaller repast affairs where only the closest family members and friends are present. You will have to ensure that you have an alternative if guests cannot eat the dish you provide.

Desserts – Some people may find desserts to be frivolous at a repast. Others may find comfort in a home-cooked pudding. There are no rules, you decide what you feel is best for your occasion.

Bob Shirilla


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