Understanding the difference between a Wake and a Funeral

When a loved one passes, you may decide to arrange more than one event for guests to pay their last respects. It is common for people to host a ceremony called a “Wake” or “viewing” that occurs before the formal funeral service. 

Knowing the differences between a wake and a funeral service can help you understand what is expected and prepare you for what to do. A Wake will traditionally occur before the funeral service and is a less formal occasion – rather it is a gathering of close friends and family to offer support for one another. 

The word “wake” originates from the term “watch” or “guard”. A Wake is a time to view the deceased for a final time and say your goodbyes before the casket is shut for the funeral service the following day. 

Depending on cultural traditions and religions, the Wake process will differ and may include prayers or rituals. 

What happens during a Wake?

 Typically, the family of the deceased will stand by the casket where people will line up to exchange words to the family and view the body before it is closed. If the deceased chose not to be buried, an urn may be displayed instead, and the same process will take place before the ashes are taken away to be spread or kept elsewhere. 

Unlike a funeral service, a Wake can be less formal and unstructured. The Wake can be considered as a visitation period and despite it being more of a social gathering, there are still important considerations and etiquette to follow.

If you are uncomfortable viewing the body, you do not need to however you can still pass on your condolences to the family. 

Good Wake etiquette is to ensure you keep your words or time at the casket brief as others are waiting after you. A Wake tends to be much shorter than a funeral service, so don’t feel obliged to stay for an extended period – just enough to connect with the family and say your last goodbye. 

The funeral service

A funeral is a more structured and formal event where the deceased is honoured. Some traditions even call the funeral a “celebration of life”. If you need a better understanding of what is a funeral or good funeral etiquette, read our previous blogs on these topics. Overall, a funeral service will run for longer and follow a timed schedule. 

Though there are several differences between the two events, both will require conservative clothing and a fairly reserved attitude. A Wake and funeral both exist to commemorate the death of a loved one and pay respects to their family. 

If you need help planning your Wake or funeral, Silver Dove Funerals are experts in funeral planning that will make this process a seamless transition for your family.