How to organise a wake

What is a wake?

There are several set ways and traditions that society has developed to allow many people to grieve and say goodbye to a person who has died.

From the announcement of death to the service to the burial with a funeral wake held before or after the funeral itself. When you arrange a funeral you may wish to set aside a time and a location for a wake that you can invite people to attend.


Wakes have become synonymous with funerals in Europe for centuries. 


They offer family and friends a place to meet each other and discuss the person they loved and liked and admired in an informal atmosphere. While the Church is for the service of remembrance, the viewing if arranged – a solemn moment for a last goodbye, a wake is a kind of anti-party. 


People will be offered the opportunity to meet before or after a funeral to see other family members and meet the person’s friends. Psychologically it is a group release of emotions that helps everyone understand what has recently occurred. People share memories, fond stories and the occasional scandal and commiserate as well as laugh about the person that was dear to them.


Who Should Be Invited To A Funeral Wake?


I have lost a family member and the last thing I wanted to do was have a wake with lots of people. You may be different and wish there to be a large gathering. Any wake can be arranged on personal terms. 


Have one wake for family, another for friends and work colleagues, or simply just invite family back to your home and others can congregate at the Church after, meeting family and relatives as they leave.


It is not obligatory for all to attend the wake, it either may seem too distressing or over the top and people should not feel it is compulsory to attend. 


Equally a person may wish to attend the Wake instead of the Funeral. It is however an opportunity for family to meet each other. Meet the nieces and nephews and Children to meet their cousins. The size, who attends and how large or small the get together is entirely up to you.


How To Plan A Wake For A Funeral


This need not be a complicated affair. Alternatively it can be flamboyant. In some families it is traditional to go back to the person’s home or a nearby family home to have the wake. 


Whatever the location you should notify people of your wishes to hold a wake before or after the funeral so people can make plans and don’t feel left out should they find out one occurred and they missed it.


You will need to figure out who might be attending, there is little point hiring a sports hall if there is only several. On the other hand if inviting friends, the person’s work colleagues and all the family, a living room in a two bed house may not be sufficient. Settle on a time and a place and inform people, this can be done vie email or an announcement in the local media.


Venues that are suggested by a Funeral Director will range form Sports Halls to the church itself, a Hotel function room or a pub and social club that has a separate room. 


There are other ideas to consider that are related to the deceased’s past times. It could be held at the local football club, or a concert hall or any number of places related to their lifestyle that will encourage more to understand and or to attend.


Ensure any place you consider is booked as soon as possible. That members of the public and family members travelling in from outside the area know how to get there. Should you wish for there to be family photos or some sort of decoration, this may need additional care, thought and permission beforehand. 


Like playing a video on a screen or showing personal items or belongings.


If the gathering is small, it could be comforting to provide the food yourself for the Wake and guests. Catering however can be arranged professional. Caterers have special menus for this very event and they will assist in planning everything from the food to the function itself with staff on hand to help on the day. 


If the Wake is being held at a Pub, they may be able to provide nibbles and evidently drinks without charge, having put money behind the bar beforehand. There maybe issues at some venues with serving your own food but most should be accommodating.


Both followers of religion and those with Humanist intentions have found different ways of celebrating a person’s life, both during a funeral service and at a wake. It may seem strange to lay on entertainment for a wake but there have been instances where this has been arranged. A singer wouldn’t be out of place but most centre around personal memories. 


You may wish to have a projector so slide shows can be run throughout, but please note this could be too distressing for some, for others very welcome.


The person’s favourite music could be played, their football team’s best ever match and if it is a themed funeral this could be followed through to the wake itself. You need to be aware that this is still a funeral and a wake, however if the person who has died has expressed certain wishes, it would be a good idea to follow them up to a certain point if not fulfilled entirely.


The cost of a wake need not be exorbitant. In a lot of situations the funeral itself has already taken a great slice of any available funds. 


Consider the food, any venue hire and the cost of putting together a slideshow memorial. you would not be out of place asking nearby family to arrive early and help make sandwiches or ask guests to drop off food before the funeral. 


This after all, is family and friends and they will do almost anything to help. If you do choose to hire a venue, compare prices and cost of services, it would not be wrong to do so and do likewise with catering firms and other supplies.


Is A Wake Important To Have?


You can decide whether a wake is suitable once you get an idea of the amount of people who will attend the funeral and any clear response to being invited to a wake. A room at the Church for half an hour afterwards might suffice and not need a whole new location and food at all.