Checklists: Planning for a Wake

In many cultures, a time is set aside before the funeral service for friends and family to gather to offer condolences and support. This time is usually called a wake (or viewing) or a visitation. Traditionally, during a wake or viewing, the body is on display, with an open casket unless the circumstances of the death would prohibit it.

At a visitation, the body is not necessarily present. If the body is there, it would usually be with a closed casket. Visitations can take place at any time, before or after the funeral. Both wakes or visitations can be formal or informal events. Today the word “visitation” is often used as an umbrella term to include a wake, viewing or visitation.

Cultures and religions have strict traditions or laws concerning viewings, visitations and wakes. Some forbid the tradition, while others require it. If you are wanting the religious influence upon the time of remembrance and are unsure of the correct practice, consult a representative of the religion or denomination of your choice.

This Checklist on “Planning a Wake” has a corresponding Essential under the same title. The Essential will give you assistance on how to fill out the Checklist. Together, they will guide you through situations that often occur during a time of loss.

Here are some items that need to be considered when planning a wake. Some of the items may be included in the purchase price of services at a funeral home.

  • Inform friends and family of the passing of the loved one.
  • Let the funeral home know when you wish to have the wake.
  • Display a guest book for people to sign. Have someone prepared to be with the guest book and greet individuals as they arrive.
  • Gather pictures of the deceased for display. Some pictures may be set in frames or in a collage.
  • Others may be prepared in a multi-media program.
  • Bring mementos or other items of importance to the deceased and family.
  • Plan on being present during the entire time of the wake to greet guests and support the immediate family.
  • Provide beverages and light snacks for the family and close friends. If the wake is held away from the funeral home and in a less formal setting alcoholic beverages are often accepted.