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What Should Be Included in a Wake?

A wake is the term often given to the social gathering held after a funeral service. Wakes give everybody an opportunity to express their feelings and speak with others close to the deceased. Perhaps more importantly, wakes help provide closure, helping with the grieving process.

To help, we’ve created this brief look at what should typically be included in a wake:


One of the first things you need is a location for your wake. In many cases, the wake is held at the home of a relative or close friend of the deceased. However, those with many guests may need to hire a venue for the event.

Where possible, it’s best to hold the wake within reasonable distance of where the funeral service was held, bearing in mind that it can be difficult for some people to travel. If you have the budget, it may be a good idea to provide transportation from the ceremony to the wake.

You should also ensure the venue is suitable for all your guests. For example, accessibility can be a big problem for people in wheelchairs.


Most people won’t know you’re holding a wake unless you invite them, and its best to send invites as early as possible. Giving people plenty of notice will help ensure they are available and can attend. When sending invitations, it’s also a good opportunity to let potential guests know of any dress codes or other themes you want them to follow.

Who you invite to the wake is entirely up to you. Many people will make the event an open invitation so anybody can attend. However, many others refer a wake to be a private affair to which only the deceased’s closest friends and family are invited. It can be a good idea to sit down with others close to the deceased to help you decide who should be invited and who should not.

Food and Drink

Whenever holding an event for numerous people, you will need to provide them with all the food and drink they need. And it’s usually best to offer a variety of food so there’s something suitable for everybody. You may also want to bear in mind that some people have specific dietary requirements whether for religious, ideological or medical reasons.

Whether or not alcohol is present will depend largely on the culture and beliefs of the deceased and their loved ones. In many cases, alcohol can be beneficial because it helps guests come out of themselves and talk about their feelings. Of course, alcohol can also lead to unwelcome behaviour, so you might want to distribute any alcohol sparingly.


Some wake organisers will arrange activities for guests to take part in. For example, memory books are common at wakes where guests get to tell some of their favourite stories about the deceased. Another common activity is to plant a tree in memory of your loved one, which will serve as a commemoration of their life.

Some wake hosts will also arrange a slideshow or similar to help remember the deceased. Images can bring memories flooding back, sometimes helping to make the wake as cheerful as it is sombre. Regardless of which events you organize, you should ensure everybody can take part, so nobody feels left out.


The wake is also a good opportunity for loved ones to say a few words about the deceased. Not only that, but it’s also an opportunity to do so in a less formal setting.

During a wake, guests are likely to say a few words that are closer and more personal, often encouraged by alcohol. A wake might also be the appropriate time for some ‘edgier’ comments but be mindful about taking it too far to avoid upsetting somebody at this sensitive time.

If you are planning on making a speech at a wake, then it’s best to prepare fully. Write your speech down, get feedback from others and practice reciting it in front of a mirror.

Something for the Children

Children can easily become bored and irritable so it’s best to ensure they are fully cared for. Taking care of the kids includes ensuring they have all the food and drink they need, and some toys or other entertainment to keep them busy. Young children in particular won’t fully understand death and its implications, so you can’t expect them to behave in the same way that adults would.

If you are organizing a wake or attending one with children, a change of clothes can be a good idea. Children will often be dressed smartly for the service, but smart clothes can be restrictive and uncomfortable. A change of clothes will help to keep children comfortable and well-behaved.

Find A Professional

Arranging a wake can be very taxing, physically and mentally. You may also have funeral arrangements to make, and it is easy to become overwhelmed at such as difficult time. Fortunately, professional funeral directors are on hand to help out and take the work and the stress away from you.

Another advantage of using a professional to arrange an event like a wake is that you can be confident everything will go smoothly. The experts have deep experience in organizing such occasions and know what is needed to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible.


Losing a loved one is difficult, and making plans after such terrible news can be challenging. If you have recently lost a loved one and are not sure what you should do next, feel free to get in touch with the team at Academy Funerals. Our Friendly and professional team will look forward to hearing how we can be of assistance.

Academy Funeral Services is part of Heaven Address, an online community where families can share precious memories of loved ones.