A wake or a time in which family and friends can come together either before or after a funeral, is a chance for many people to draw or offer support as needed. Sometimes a wake is called a viewing and is conducted at a funeral home before the funeral, but will then continue on in a private home after the graveside service. When this gathering occurs immediately after a funeral it may also be called a reception, regardless of whether or not it is a formal event.
Hosting the Wake before a Funeral
A wake or viewing that is conducted before a funeral is a chance for others to gather and pay their last respects with the deceased s body present. Traditionally such wakes were held in the home, where the body would be laid out in a place of honour, but today most wakes take place in a funeral home where the body is kept in preparation for the funeral. Wakes that are held at funeral homes are very often easier for family members as there is not as much preparation involved. Funeral cards, tissues and donated flowers should be on display in the room where the body is resting, and family members should try to station themselves near the coffin as well as around the funeral home so that they can help direct guests through the viewing line. A guestbook is also a good idea as it allows guests a place to express their thoughts and also acts as a natural starting point for the viewing line. The guestbook will also be beneficial after the funeral as it will allow family members to easily send out thank you cards to those who attended and/or sent donations.
Hosting the Wake after a Funeral
If the wake is to continue after a funeral there should be a designated location for the gathering and this information should be communicated either generally to all who are in attendance, such as through an announcement after the service or at the graveside, or discreetly to only those family and friends who would benefit from the event. If this is the case, a more general announcement that there will not be an open reception may be appropriate. Simply thanking everyone for attending and advising them that the family will need to be alone should be fine.
Depending on the anticipated size of the wake, the location is important. Make sure that there is enough room for everyone to circulate freely and enough seats for those who will need them. Food and drink are usually served at wakes, though by no means does it need to be fancy. A few platters from a local supermarket or even a buffet with contributions from several family members should be fine. Any pictures or mementos that were displayed at the funeral home or during the funeral can be displayed during this time as well.
Emotions often run high at wakes, so limiting the amount of alcohol served may be advisable. Several family members should also be on guard to watch out for particularly emotional guests or what may be the beginning of an argument. People do things while they are grieving that they might never do otherwise, so do not be shocked if something out of the ordinary does occur.
Hosting the wake will never be a fun task, but it can be made bearable if the funeral home and family pitch in. Wakes should be tailored to honour the deceased, so anything that (s)he would have approved of – and that is allowed in public buildings or private homes – may be included.