A funeral wake is a gathering held before the funeral to allow friends and family members an opportunity to honor and recognize the deceased, and fellowship with surviving loved ones. Wakes, also called visitations or viewings, are typically held at a funeral home, chapel, or even at the family's home. The body can be present or absent (generally, the body is present). If the body is present, the casket can be open or closed. Wakes are usually held during the afternoon or early evening and lasts for several hours. Close family members and close friends should be present at the wake to receive guests, however, the decision to have a wake is at the family's discretion.
Funeral Wake details can be provided in the newspaper obituary or death notice. You may also want to call or email friends and family members with wake or visition date, time and location. If the wake is private, ensure that you state that in your obituary or funeral announcement. Also, coordinate with your funeral home or funeral director to make sure that the body is ready and facilities are staffed and available.
Wakes can be traditional, or can be very unique and highly personalized (See our article on memorial service ideas). Wakes can be held at traditional locations (funeral home, chapels) or non-traditional locations, such as pubs, restaurants and community centers. There is usually a guest book or registry present so that visitors can leave their name and address. You can also set up a small table and decorate with photos or favorite items of the deceased. Non-traditional wakes may show video photo slideshows, and have memory cards so that loved ones can write and share stories of the deceased with family memories. Depending on the location, food and sometimes alcohol may be served.
Memorial Programs and Cards for Wakes
You can hand out memorial programs, cards and keepsakes at your wake or viewing. These programs can give some brief information about the deceased.