How To Organise A Wake

Posted: 09/01/2018

Organising a funeral reception for a loved one who has just passed is unsurprising, a task that many find difficult to undertake. However, it may be something that the deceased has asked for, or something you feel is appropriate, however hard it is to do, in order to honour the memory of a family member or friend.

What is a wake?

A wake can be held before or after a funeral service, and provide an opportunity for family and friends to meet each other to talk about and remember the person who has died in a relatively informal meeting place. For some, they find that talking with other people about the deceased and revisiting old happy memories or fond stories they have of someone who has passed away can help them with the grieving process. However, it is important to understand that this may not necessarily be the case for all those who have been bereaved.

If you are considering holding a wake in the memory of someone dear to you, then you may wonder how to go about organising one. With so many other responsibilities to take care of when dealing with the death of a family member or friend, including death certificates and organising a funeral, it may feel overwhelming, not knowing where to start when it comes to arranging a wake. Here, we have put together a guide from announcing, through to the different aspects of holding a wake, in order to alleviate some of the stress in what is already an emotionally-charged and draining life experience.

Announcing a wake


You may decide to inform people about a wake through personal invitation, or via an obituary notice or Order of Service letter, source: Everplans

When organising a wake, you have the option of either making it public or private. Therefore, it is particularly important to clarify with family which option you would like to choose, and whether or not you are comfortable with acquaintances potentially coming to the reception.

In addition, it should be noted that you could arrange any type of wake you care to choose – for example, you may choose to host multiple wakes – one for family and another for friends and acquaintances.

In terms of letting people know that you are arranging a wake, its recommend to personally contact close family relatives and friends regarding information about the wake, such as the time and the venue. For others, you may decide to print information about the funeral information at the back of Order of Service at the funeral service. You can also publish an obituary notice to inform people of the reception. However, if you intend for the wake to be strictly family members only, it is important to state this within the obituary or Order of Service in order to avoid any confusion arising.

Things to consider when organising a wake


You should try to organise catering services as soon as possible when it comes to a wake, in order to make sure that they will be available on the day you choose. Source: Skylawn Funeral Home

In much the same respect as when it comes to making funeral plans, wakes require taking into account numerous decisions such as the following:

  • Budget – It is important to outline how much you can afford to spend on the wake before arranging it. You need to factor in costs for things such as the venue, catering and entertainment
  • The venue of the wake – Most people tend to hold a wake at a church hall, social or sports club, or a hotel within reasonable distance of where the funeral has taken place. Others opt to hold a wake in the house or garden for a more personal, less expensive touch, or choose a restaurant or coffee shop. Many funeral directors will offer their services to help you find the right venue for you and give the best advice to make choosing a venue less stressful.
  • Catering – One of your top priorities when organising a wake should take into consideration what type of food you will have and how much food you need or want. If you choose to get caterers, this should be done as far in advance as is possible. Alternatively, you may choose to provide homemade food and drinks. You should try to pick food that can cater a vast range of dietary requirements, or perhaps choose food or drink that the deceased loved having. If you are trying to keep costs down, then perhaps consider asking friends and relatives to help, bringing buffet food items with them. Many friends or family find they often do not know what to do to help someone who is grieving and so would be likely to be more than willing to lend a helping hand.
  • Decoration – You may decide that you would really like to have the venue decorated with flowers or photographs. If this is the case, remember that you may need to visit the venue beforehand in order to set this up. You will also need to verify with venue staff prior to the wake that it is possible to decorate the venue too.
  • Entertainment – It may come as somewhat of a surprise to be considering the idea of entertainment options at a wake, but it is becoming increasingly popular to do so. Many see wakes as a celebration of life, and so may decide to organise music, a band or singer, or slide-shows of their loved one in order to honour their memory
  • The number of guests – It goes without saying that one of the most important things when it comes to organising wakes involves deciding how many guests you will invite. You also need to factor in that the venue and food that you have will be able to accommodate attendees
  • Timings – When organising a wake, you should consider how long you want the wake to go on for. You may have organised the funeral service on the same day, which is already an extremely draining experience and therefore may want to keep a funeral reception a relatively short affair. Funeral directors will often help with advising the venue about your needs on your behalf.