October 12, 2020

Funeral Visitation and Wake Etiquette

Unfortunately death is apart of all of our lives. Some of us have experienced it more times than we would like to remember while others have never been to a funeral. There are specific unspoken rules that everyone should follow whether you attend a funeral, visitation, wake or memorial service. 

Whats The Difference? 

 First off, you might be asking yourself what the difference is between these four things. They all accomplish the same thing, but the way they do it is slightly different. They all bring attention to the deceased in a respectful manner, but the family decides which one they want to do. 

A memorial service is a gathering where the family and friends of the deceased are invited to come together to remember the person who passed away. This service usually proceeds the funeral and often times the body is not present. If the deceased was cremated, the urn may be present at a memorial service. Dress code for a memorial service is the same as a funeral since it takes place directly after the funeral. Proper funeral clothes include dark clothing colors to help blend into the crowd. You don’t want to wear anything that takes the attention away from the mourning family. Typically clothes that you would wear to a job interview, church or business meeting. 

A visitation is during a set timeframe where friends and acquaintances are invited to meet with the family of the deceased and offer their sincerest condolences. This is usually one or three days before the funeral and will be held at a funeral home, or the family’s home. The body of the deceased may be present, but that is up to the wishes of the family. When attending a visitation you should dress semi-formally. You do not need to dress as formally as the funeral, but you should still be dressed up a little bit. 

A wake  is similar to a viewing where the body is present in an open casket. During this time, people can come by and say their goodbyes, pray for the family and offer their condolences. The main difference of a wake is it is usually more religious. A wake is used more as a social event. Prayer is shared, scripture could be read and goodbyes are given. 

A funeral is the most universal way that people mourn the loss of someone. It typically involves a church service where scripture is read, family members share stories, a video slideshow is played, etc.. Funeral etiquette is very professional clothing with dark colors so you don’t take any attention off of the family at the center. Following the funeral, friends and family will make their way to the gravesite where a smaller ceremony will be held. Once at the gravesite, another ceremony is held and the casket is lowered into the ground for the final resting place of the deceased. 

What Is The Proper Etiquette? 

 What you say, dress and do at each of these ceremonies is slightly different. At a memorial service, since it typically follows the funeral, the proper etiquette will be the same as at the traditional funeral. Dress formally, don’t draw attention to yourself, and respect the family. When attending a memorial service, be sure to arrive on time, stay until the end of the service, leave your cellphone on silent and pay your respects before leaving. 

Visitation etiquette depends on where the service is taken part. When the visitation is at a funeral home, it will usually be set for a few hours during the day. Dress nicely, stop by the funeral home, introduce yourself if you’re not extremely close to the family, and pay your respects. You don’t need to stay the whole time. Stopping by long enough to do those few things mentioned above will let the family know that you’re thinking of them. 

A wake is often thought of a time where a celebration of life happens. People drink and toast to the deceased in a memorial type of way. In the western culture this isn’t always the case. If you’re invited to a wake, there may be refreshments, but don’t assume that it will be a giant party. A wake may be a large religious event depending on the family. Friends and family will share stories, favorite scripture and some sort of celebration of life. 

A funeral is one of the last stages in honoring the deceased. Make sure to arrive to the funeral 15 to 20 minutes early. This allows for a few moments of silence before the beginning of the ceremony and you don’t want to be the last one causing noise as you come in late. If you happen to arrive late, don’t walk down the middle aisle to find a spot. Take a side aisle and find a sea near the back so you do not interrupt the service. When you arrive to the funeral, sit in the middle or back rows. The front rows are reserved for family and close friends. 

For More Information

If you’re attending a funeral for the first time and you still are not sure what to do. Give us a call and we can give you specific tips and etiquette for your situation. It can be a difficult time and we want to make that as easy as possible for you and your family. 



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *