All you need to know about how to organise a wake.
If you are planning a funeral for a loved one you may be unsure about how to organise a wake. We have answered some of the most common questions in our guide on how to plan a wake.
What is a wake?
A wake is an after-funeral event where family and friends of the deceased person gather to share memories and celebrate their life.
Traditionally, a wake referred to the period before the funeral in which mourners viewed the deceased.
But in modern times, it is the reception that happens after a funeral service. A funeral or memorial service is generally formal and will follow an order of service.
The wake is less formal and is a coming together of all those that knew the person who died.
Is a wake compulsory?
A wake is a popular custom when someone dies, but it is not compulsory.
Mourners would understand if you did not want to hold a reception after the funeral service.
Yet it is an opportunity for people to offer their condolences and share memories of the person who has died. It can be a comforting way to say goodbye to your loved one.
Who attends a wake
Usually, those who attended the funeral service get an invite to the wake.
It allows children who did not attend the funeral service to take part in celebrating the life of their loved ones.
Families often release details of the wake as part of the obituary placed in a local newspaper or on a funeral operator’s website.
If you would prefer the wake to be a private affair, you can give out a personal invite to those you would like to attend.
What happens at a wake?
People gather at a wake to share stories and memories of the person that dies, often accompanied by refreshments.
Every wake is different and what happens at each wake will depend on the wishes of the person who has died. It will also involve the preferences of the family and friends organising the wake.
Some people arrange for a special ceremony, such as planting a tree or writing in a memory book. Others prefer an informal chat about the person who has died.
Here are the main aspects of organising a wake that you may want to consider:
When should a wake take place?
A wake usually takes place after the funeral service has finished—for some this may be after a religious ceremony and/or the committal.
As some funerals request only close family members attend the burial or cremation: some mourners may arrive at the wake early.
If you are holding a wake in a public space such as a hotel or social club, you can let them know the approximate time guests will be arriving.
If you plan on holding a wake at home then give a specific time to allow you time to get back from the committal.
Where should a wake take place?
When it comes to the venue for a wake, there are lots of options including:
- Social clubs
- Community halls
- Church halls
- Private homes
You may choose to book a venue that is close to the funeral service or hold the wake in a favourite place the person who died liked to visit.
By choosing a pub, restaurant or hotel you can reduce the amount of work that you need to carry out yourself. When booking a hotel, for example, staff will welcome guests, serve refreshments, cook food and clear away plates, etc.
Whether you are at home or at a venue, you can decorate rooms with flowers and photographs of your loved ones.
Catering for a wake
Most wakes will provide some sort of refreshment for mourners—usually a warm drink on arrival and a choice of soft drinks and alcohol.
Depending on your budget, you may want to hire a caterer to take care of the food, whether that be at home or at a chosen venue.
If you are holding your wake at home you will need to provide all food and drink, if this is what you want.
Friends and family can help you prepare and serve on the day. If you have booked a hotel, pub or any other venue, then you can ask for a full service and mourners can use the bar to arrange their drinks.
Hotels and other event spaces will have set catering menus dependent on your budget.
One of the most difficult aspects of catering for a wake is knowing how many people to cater for.
If you have a large family and the person who died was popular, you will want to consider a larger catering budget. Once you have arranged the date of the funeral and begin to see guests paying their condolences, you will get an idea of how busy the wake may be.
If you are expecting a large wake you will need to check with the venue to make sure it holds enough people.
Can I have entertainment at a wake?
A wake can be a very solemn event, but it is also a celebration of the life that has passed.
Entertainment is something many people organise at a wake, whether it be music, poetry readings, or live performances.
You may want a less formal memorial service in which mourners can take turns performing a eulogy or a reading. You may even want to book a favourite singer of the deceased.
There are no hard and fast rules about what should happen at a wake.
If the thought of having entertainment at a wake does not feel right, that is ok. Your chosen venue will adhere to your needs and you can request that no music is played.
Unique Ideas for a wake
To make a wake more personal, you can think of an activity that celebrates the life of the person who has died in a unique way.
There are lots of ideas to consider, including:
- Planting a tree in their name and holding a ceremony
- Asking mourners to bring an item to add to a memory box
- Completing a book of condolences
- Hand out flower seeds for each mourner to grow in memory of the person who has died
- Organise a firework display
- Ask mourners to clothe in the favourite colour of the person who died
- Create a playlist of the person’s favourite songs
- Collate a slideshow or record a video showing highlights of the person’s life
How long should my wake last?
A wake will generally last 2-3 hours, but it can be longer.
You will want to plan enough time to allow mourners to talk to one another and, as the host, if you would like to talk to as many people as possible.
Think about how long this will take without you feeling rushed. If you are feeling overwhelmed and do not want a long wake, you can set a time when inviting people to the wake.
This is especially important if you are holding the wake in your own home. If you are expecting a large number of mourners at a wake, holding it in a hotel or pub can be of benefit as people can stay longer if they wish.
This will mean you can leave the wake whenever you feel tired and need to rest.
How much does a wake cost?
You can hold a wake that suits your budget, no matter how big or small.
The average cost of a basic funeral in the UK is over £4,000.
This price will increase depending on flowers, coffin styles and the number of funeral cars, for example.
If you find that you only have a budget for a small wake, you can speak with family and friends who can help with catering. You can also limit the refreshments on offer.
Another good way of keeping costs down is to hold the wake in a pub or hotel in which mourners expect to buy their drinks, aside from a welcome drink.
Nuthurst Grange offers a relaxing atmosphere and a high-quality service that is sensitive to your needs. Find out more about booking the perfect setting for your wake.