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What is a Funeral Wake and What is the Etiquette?

Published: July 18, 2023

Losing a loved one is an incredibly difficult experience. As you and your loved ones navigate the grieving process, you may come across various funeral-related terms, including a funeral wake. Here, the team at Evans Funeral Chapel & Cremation Services discusses what a funeral wake is, its distinction from a funeral, and the etiquette to keep in mind during this solemn occasion.

Are a Wake and a Funeral Different?

Before we delve into the details, let's clarify the difference between a wake and a funeral. A funeral is a formal ceremony to honor and remember the deceased, often accompanied by religious or cultural rituals. It typically involves a funeral service, where attendees gather to pay their respects, offer condolences, and share in the grieving process.

Meanwhile, a funeral wake, sometimes simply referred to as a wake, is an informal gathering held before or after the funeral service. While funerals tend to be more structured and solemn, wakes provide an opportunity for family, friends, and acquaintances to come together in a more relaxed and supportive environment.

What is the Purpose of a Funeral Wake?

The purpose of a funeral wake is to offer comfort, support, and companionship to those who have lost a loved one. It serves as a time to share memories, stories, and emotions, creating a sense of unity and allowing attendees to express their condolences directly to the grieving family.

Wakes can be held either before or after the funeral service, depending on cultural and personal preferences. Pre-funeral wakes are often conducted to provide a chance for individuals to view the deceased and pay their respects privately. Post-funeral wakes, on the other hand, allow for a more informal gathering where attendees can engage in conversations, share experiences, and offer condolences without the formalities associated with a funeral service.

What to Expect at a Funeral Wake

Funeral wakes can take place in various locations, such as the family's home, a funeral home, a community center, or even a religious institution. They can be tailored to reflect the preferences and traditions of the deceased and their loved ones.

Typically, you can expect the atmosphere at a wake to be more relaxed and less sad than at a funeral. Conversations may flow more freely, and laughter, as well as tears, are common as attendees reminisce about the life of the person who has passed away. Sometimes, there might be photographs or mementos displayed, creating a visual tribute to the departed. Refreshments, such as light snacks or beverages, may be offered to provide sustenance and comfort to those in attendance.

Etiquette to Keep in Mind

When attending a funeral wake, it's essential to remember the significance of the occasion and act with empathy and compassion toward the grieving family. Here are a few etiquette guidelines to help navigate the event:

Dress appropriately: While the atmosphere might be less formal than at a funeral, it's still important to dress respectfully. Opt for clothing that is conservative, modest, and respectful of the occasion.

Offer condolences: Take the time to express your sympathy directly to the bereaved family. Offer kind words, share memories, or simply let them know that you are there to support them during this challenging time.

Listen and share: Wakes often involve sharing stories and memories of the deceased. Be a good listener and, if you feel comfortable, share your own anecdotes that highlight the positive impact the person had on your life.

Respect cultural and religious practices: Be mindful of any specific customs or practices associated with the wake. Different cultures and religions may have unique traditions and rituals that should be honored and respected.

Be present and attentive: Give your undivided attention to those who are grieving. Avoid distractions such as excessive phone use or engaging in unrelated conversations.

A funeral wake provides an opportunity to come together, offer support, and celebrate the life of a loved one who has passed away. It serves as a space for sharing memories, consoling one another, and finding solace in the company of those who understand your pain.

Contact Evans Funeral Chapel to Learn More About Planning a Funeral Wake

The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to planning a funeral wake but the team at Evans Funeral Chapel & Cremation Services is here to help you navigate the options. Funeral wakes can be a great opportunity for family members to say goodbye in a more relaxed setting. To learn more about how to make your loved one’s funeral wake memorable, contact a member of our team today.

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