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Golden Charter > News & Advice > What is a wake? 5 ideas for your final send-off

What is a wake? 5 ideas for your final send-off

10 Oct 2023 | 2 min read time

A wake is a social gathering held in memory of someone who has died. Historically, wakes were held before the funeral service. Friends and family sat with the body to pray and watch over it until the funeral service was held. Today, most wakes are held after the funeral.

What is a wake?

Unlike a funeral, where a celebrant usually leads the proceedings and one person speaks at a time, a wake is an opportunity for mourners to chat, and remember.

Some people who opt for direct cremations see the wake as a substitute for a funeral service, switching the formalities for a simple get-together.

Why do we have wakes?

A wake lets people come together to remember the deceased, and to offer their condolences to family and friends. Often less formal than the funeral service, people can share stories of the person who’s died over food and drink.

Things to consider when planning a wake

If you’re organising a wake, you may want to consider the following:

Guests – A wake can be public or invitation only. Usually, the people who came to the funeral service will also be invited to the wake- but they may not always attend.

Venue - A wake can be held in any location where people can gather together. Holding the wake close to the funeral service makes it more convenient for mourners to attend. Your funeral director will be able to suggest suitable venues.

Catering - Some venues, particularly pubs and social clubs, will organise food and drinks for a wake. Buffet-style food - sandwiches, pastries, and cakes - are common at wakes. Your funeral director will be able to suggest caterers, and help you estimate the number of guests.

As more funerals come to be seen as a celebration of life, wakes are similarly treated as a part of the celebration. Here are five things you can do to add a personal touch to your loved one’s final send-off.

Music - Create a playlist of the music that your loved one liked to listen to, and of songs that remind you of them.

Photographs – Display a selection of your favourite photographs, to give friends and family a ‘snapshot’ of your loved one’s life.

Videos - If the venue has a television and you have your favourite photos saved on a hard drive, you can play them on a loop. This slideshow will repeat throughout the wake. If you don’t have access to a television you could considering using your own devices, like an iPad, laptop, or digital frame.

Memorial book - Place a hardback notebook on a table in the wake venue, and encourage guests to write their memories and messages of support for the bereaved.

Keepsakes - Giving guests a keepsake is a nice way to help them remember their loved ones. Candles, or plant seeds in packets printed with the name of the deceased, are common keepsakes.

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