Funeral-Wake Protocol

Written by lynda moultry belcher
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Attending a funeral can be a stressful experience, particularly if it is for a family member or friend. Because heavy emotions are involved, it is challenging to navigate through the maze of emotional fallout that surrounds such an event. This is particularly true at a funeral wake, which is when many people first view the deceased. Following certain protocol will help ensure that proper respects are paid and all parties involved are considered.

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Time Frame

When attending a funeral wake, use your judgment on how long you should stay at the funeral home or venue of the wake. If you see that most other visitors and attendees are only staying for a few minutes at a time, follow suit and do the same. If others linger and spend additional time with the family, sharing memories about the deceased, then you may do the same.


As funerals become more personalised, wakes are also more custom-tailored than the traditional viewing before a funeral. The choice is up to the people planning the wake, and attendees should follow the wishes of the family. Personalised wakes may include music or art enjoyed by the deceased, shared memories from friends and loved ones, a slide show of photos and anything else that represents the spirit of a departed loved one.


If you have children present or have a hard time viewing a dead body, you may want to reconsider your attendance or prepare in advance. Many people have a strong reaction when they view a deceased person. Don't react verbally or physically to the sight of the body. If it upsets you to view it, simply excuse yourself--quietly--and remain in another room until you are able to compose yourself.

Confirm Wake Parameters

Read the obituary to find out whether or not the wake is private. In some instances, family members prefer to hold a wake for immediate family only, and unwelcome visitors cause undue stress to the bereaved. If you are unsure if it is private, call a close friend of the family or the funeral home to inquire, so you don't show up to what was supposed to be a family-only affair.


Leave small children at home. In most instances, a funeral wake offers a quiet time in which family and friends can reflect on the life and memories of the deceased. The last thing you want is for that tranquillity and period of mourning to be drowned out by the sounds of a crying and/or impatient child. If the deceased was a family member, spend private time talking with your child in a quiet place away from the wake. This will allow her to express her grief in any way she chooses.

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