A wake is a social gathering associated with a death and can be held before or after a funeral. According to Wikipedia, the term "wake" originally referred to a prayer vigil, often an annual event held on the feast day of the saint to whom a parish church was dedicated. Over time, the association with prayer has become less important, although not completely lost. In many countries, a wake is now mostly associated with the social interactions that accompany a funeral.
While the modern usage of the verb "wake" means to become or stay alert, the term "wake" for the dead harks back to the vigil, watch, or guard of earlier times. Traditionally, a wake is held a day or two before the actual funeral or memorial service and may also be referred to as a viewing or visitation. During this time, an urn or casket is usually present, and it may be opened or closed. People pay their respects and offer condolences to the loved ones of the departed. It is an opportunity to speak with friends and family of the deceased and perhaps share a fond memory or story.
Wakes are typically held at a funeral home chapel or even at the family's home. They can last a few hours, and attendees can choose to stay for a shorter time or for the entire duration. The decision to have a funeral wake is optional and at the family's discretion. Funeral wake details can be provided in the newspaper obituary or death notice. Additionally, you may want to personally notify friends and family of the wake or visitation date, time, and location via phone or email. If the wake is private, it is important to state that in the obituary or funeral announcement. You may also want to coordinate with your funeral home or funeral director to determine when the body will be ready and when the facilities will be staffed and available.
A funeral is a more formal event than a wake and is typically led by a funeral program celebrant or religious figure. On the other hand, a wake is a more casual gathering that focuses on mourners coming together to remember the life of the person who has passed away. It is not mandatory to attend both the wake and the funeral service, but it is considered respectful to do so. At the wake, family and friends may share memories of the deceased and celebrate the life they lived. Based on religious and personal preferences, some bereaved families may choose to organize additional events for mourners to participate in, such as planting a memorial tree, wearing a particular color in loving memory, writing entries in a memory book, or hosting a slideshow with pictures and videos.
In some cases, wakes can be as simple as paying your last respects to the deceased. Mourners who are unable to attend the funeral service may still attend the wake, including young children. It is common for food and drink to be served during the wake. Additionally, you may choose to distribute prayer cards at the wake, visitation, or viewing. These prayer cards serve as small keepsakes that honor the loved one, featuring their photo and a short prayer on the back. They can be handed out during the wake or at the funeral service itself.
We hope that this video has provided you with some insight into what a funeral programs wake is and what to expect if you choose to attend one. Please be sure to check out our online superstore for more great resources and funeral programs ideas, available exclusively at The Funeral Program Site.