Everything you need to know about a funeral wake

funeral wake

When you plan and attend a funeral wake it can be an emotional experience. When you know  what to expect, it can remove some of the stress. In this article we explain the history and standard features of the ritual known as a funeral wake.


What is the difference between a funeral, wake and memorial service?

When a loved one passes away, the family and friends of the deceased person will want to come together to pay their tributes and express their grief. Gatherings to honor a person who has passed away may have different names — a funeral, wake, or memorial service. While the overall intent is the same for each, there are slight differences between these events.


What is a funeral wake?

The term wake is generally used to describe people that gather  to mourn a person who has passed away. A wake is commonly held at the home of a close relative or friend of the deceased person typically a day or two before a funeral service. The casket that contains  the body of the deceased is often present, however it is usually at the discretion of the family whether the casket is open. . Wakes are often also held at the funeral home where a funeral service will occur.


Funeral wake meaning

A wake has been historically described as a prayer vigil which mourners would watch over a deceased person until they were buried. You would traditionally sit with the body overnight. Traditional wakes would include prayers, shared stories about the person and the opportunity to say a final farewell.


What happens at a wake?

A wake enables people to say a final goodbye to a deceased person prior to the formalities of a funeral service. There is often the opportunity to view or visit the person, which enables each person a time of quiet, individual reflection or prayer. If the casket is held in a particular room, individuals or small groups of people will spend some time with the deceased person. Often the other guests will share a drink or a quiet chat while they wait to view the casket. Flowers, photographs and memorabilia may be set up on display.


Who attends a wake?

Generally, the friends and family members who have organized the funeral will also make arrangements for the wake. This includes an invite to attend the wake. When a wake is held in a funeral home, it may be considered a public or open event. Let the funeral home know if you wish the wake to be private.


Wake versus a funeral

One key difference between these two events is that a funeral is often quite a formal ceremony that is led by a funeral celebrant or church leader. A funeral may include religious elements, rites and prayers. A wake is often less structured wherepeople can talk and pray together or reminisce as a group about the life of the person.


Can you have a wake after a funeral?

It is completely appropriate to hold a wake after a funeral. In fact, in countries like England and Australia a wake is almost always held after the funeral service. It is acceptable to gather after the funeral has occurred so that guests can share memories with each other. They may find it easier to relax once the formalities are over.


Planning a wake

If you are responsible for awake there are several factors to consider. When you organize the make sure you have thought about:

  • Venue — a wake can occur at a funeral home, church or private residences. Some wakes are also held in the local hall or club rooms.

  • Guests — make a list of who you think should be invited and work out how best to contact them with the details.

  • Transport — if the wake is being held at a person’s home, you may need to arrange for the transportation of the body to the church or funeral home.

  • Refreshments —it is common to share food and drink at a wake. You may find some guests want to bring a plate with them or you could arrange a caterer to save time and effort. 


Funeral wake ideas

Because a wake does not have to follow a set program or service, you can incorporate elements that are symbolic and meaningful for you. Things that and will help you pay tribute to the person who has passed away. Some of our favorite ideas for a wake are to:

  • share a special meal or drink

  • plant a tree as a tribute

  • sing a song together

  • ask people to write down messages which can be read or referred to at the funeral

  • ask everyone to share their favorite memory of the person

  • view a timeline of photos or videos of the person


How to share memories at a wake

It can be a great moment of reflection when you view favorite photographs and videos at a wake— they bring back dear memories and give real insight into the personality and characteristics of the person who has passed away. Having a photo to reflect on often makes it easier for guests to share moments and recount special shared memories.

With a program like Memories, you can collect treasured images from friends and family around the world and then use these images to create a slideshow to be shown at the wake.


The benefits of using an online memorial for a wake

Memories is a secure and professional online memorial platform that enables friends and family members to contribute images to an online memorial for the person you have lost. Your personalised Memories site is secure, and you can have total control over who can access the page. Memories makes it easy for you to uploaded treasured images, photographs and videos. Mourners can also comment on photographs and share their condolences.

To convert these photos into a slideshow to be viewed at the wake is quick and easy to do. Memories takes the hassle out, and easily helps you prepare and upload  photos for a PowerPoint slide show. The collected images can also be kept online as a permanent tribute for future generations to enjoy.