The question of holding a wake vs funeral might appear to be trivial for some; however, other people struggle with this decision. While both ceremonies are held to honor and commemorate the dead, there are certain advantages to both options that make choosing a difficult task. However, what is most essential about these practices are that they are both being used as a way to show respect for the recently departed. They are also a chance for friends and loved ones to say their final goodbyes to the one who was recently deceased.
A wake is traditionally done a few days, or just a few hours, after the death of a person. The body is laid to rest in a casket and then the casket is placed at a chapel or a funeral home. Often the wake is held at the home of the departed without the casket present. Wakes are a gathering where people share stories and fond memories about the person who has died. It is usually held in a room where some seats are laid out for the guests, and stands of flowers that have been bought as a sign of condolence are placed all over the room and near the casket. A wake can last for days or whatever duration the family of the party desires. A wake that is longer than a day will typically take place at a family member’s house instead of a funeral home.
When comparing a wake vs funeral, the funeral is a more controlled and often more reserved ceremony. The burial of the body may be part of the funeral ceremony, which includes a service and sometimes a procession to the burial place. During the funeral family members and friends deliver eulogies to the deceased. Speeches can include poems, hymns and quotes to commemorate the dearly departed, making the funeral service very emotional. Speeches can be given during a wake, but it is typically done in a less formal manner. Normally, there is also a dress code for a funeral service and a wake usually does not require guest to wear formal attire. Although the customs of a wake and funeral varies between cultures or countries, mourners often wear black to a funeral service.
At a wake family members often bring food for people to eat. Friends and family share stories, sing songs, tell jokes and do whatever they can to celebrate the life of the deceased and not focus on the sadness of their passing. Different cultures have different beliefs about the wake. Some cultures believe that they should remain up all night with the deceased prior to the funeral the next day.
A wake and a funeral may sometimes be combined, with an officiant conducting the service in the morning after the wake. However, nowadays many people choose either one of these ceremonies for various reasons. Some say that a wake is easier to organize and to manage. Especially if the person has been cremated, instead of having a formal funeral the family will choose to have a wake (or informal gathering) instead of a funeral service. Choosing a wake vs funeral is done because it helps the family to save money if they choose not to have a funeral or burial service.
Many families prefer to have a funeral service because it is a more solemn occasion and is thus a better and more respectful way to honor the dead. A traditional funeral that includes prayers, hymns, eulogies and other methods to pay respect are very important to many people. For these reasons, this is why many people can’t decide between a wake vs funeral and choose to have both ceremonies. There is no right or wrong decision; it depends on the family on how they want to give their final farewell to their loved one.
Updated: May 14, 2013