A wake is a reception that is usually held after a funeral ceremony. It is a less formal occasion that allows for family, friends, and acquaintances of the deceased to come together to honour and reminisce about their departed loved one.
It provides an opportunity to share stories and memories about the deceased in a more casual atmosphere. Since it takes place after the funeral, burial or cremation, it also makes for a less distressing event for children to be a part of.
When should a wake be held?
A wake is usually held after the funeral service. Closer family members and friends will usually proceed to the burial site or escort the coffin to the crematory. This means that the wake will often be held a few hours after the funeral service, giving enough time for the burial or cremation to be held and for everyone to assemble again.
In some cases, the wake may start soon after the funeral service with those that attend the burial or cremation later joining the rest. However, there are no fixed rules on this. You can even choose to have the wake on a different date from that of the funeral. It may be best to consider a time and date that is most convenient for the family and friends of the deceased.
You can also choose to make the wake as formal or casual an event as you deem fit. Some people prefer to keep it small and intimate, often hosting it at home or will hire a social hall that will fit a much larger gathering that is open to all. However, if you want to set it up, try to share the arrangements with those that would want to participate as early as possible.
How much does a wake cost?
The cost of a wake can vary widely. Factors such as the location of the venue, number of guests, and variety of food and drink will all influence how much you may end up spending.
If you have a tight budget, you can opt for options that allow you to spend less. Asking friends and family for help can greatly impact costs. For instance, using a family member’s home for the venue will usually be cheaper than hiring a hall.
Choosing a venue
The choice of venue is normally dictated by the number of attendees and convenience. The options can vary and include:
- A private home
- Social or church hall
- Bar or restaurant
- Sports club
- An outdoor area
You need to estimate the number of people you expect to attend and choose a venue that can comfortably accommodate them. Availability of parking and access to public transport may also matter. The distance from the funeral and burial site or crematory should also not be too far from the wake.
Notifying mourners there will be a wake
There are several ways you can go about informing people that there will be a wake. You can include this information in the obituary or funeral notice. You can also use social media to announce the details of the wake, including timing and location.
Platforms like Facebook do allow the creation of an online event where you can share the same details. This can be a good way to update people if there is a change in plans or when you want to share other details like asking guests to bring food or dress a certain way for the funeral.
How many attendees should you expect?
It can be difficult to gauge how many people will attend a wake. This can then make it difficult to determine what size of the venue would be suitable for the wake you are planning. A good way to resolve this would be to send out invitations and request that attendees RSVP.
Where possible, ask them to indicate if they will be attending the wake. It is not uncommon for people to opt just to attend the funeral or the wake.
You may also find that about the same number that attends the funeral will then turn up for the wake. Once you have an estimate, you can then plan on how much food and drink to organise.
Arranging for catering
Whenever you have such a gathering, it is ideal to offer attendees something in the way of food and drink. Given the stressful situation and all the planning that goes into the funeral arrangements, it is not advisable to organise the food and drink yourself.
Talk to the funeral director who can recommend caterers for such occasions. If money is tight, you may also opt to request some of your family and friends bring in finger food platters you can offer the guests. Also, if you are hiring a venue, ensure that they do allow food from outside to be brought in, otherwise, you may need to have them provide catering.
Planning activities for the wake
As said, you can make the wake a very casual affair where attendees just gather together to eat, drink and discuss their memories of the dearly departed. You can also organise it so there are speeches made and video montages of the deceased person’s life are played.
The décor is often kept subdued, with lit candles and photographs of the deceased on display. While some people prefer to keep the occasion sombre with just quiet discussion, others may choose to make it a celebration life, playing the deceased’s favourite music in the background. Some may even go as far as arranging for karaoke or singalongs of the songs that the deceased loved, especially if music was a focal point of their life.