The wake traditionally involved a period of time when friends and relatives literally stayed awake with the body of the deceased until it was taken to the church for the funeral or to the cemetery for burial. These days, a wake is usually held in the funeral home.
Inform friends and family that a loved one has passed away, and let them know the date, time and place of the wake (more often called "visitation"). This can also be done by placing an obituary in the local newspaper with the same information.
Let the funeral home know when you wish to have the wake. The home will prepare the body for viewing, and will see that any flowers sent will be displayed during the visitation.
Display a guest book for people to sign as they come in. This is often provided by the funeral home, or you can purchase your own.
Bring some pictures of the deceased to put on a table in the room, if desired. People will appreciate seeing the person as he or she appeared in life.
Plan to be present during the visitation to greet friends and neighbors who come to pay their respects to the deceased and to the family.
Plan an old-fashioned wake for the deceased away from the funeral home, if that is your preference. You can reserve a pub or restaurant, or hold the wake in your home.
Provide beverages, food, disposable cups, place settings, napkins and plates if the wake is held in your home. Alcoholic beverages are usually considered appropriate.
Greet guests, lay out the food and drink, and spend the time toasting or otherwise remembering the deceased.
The body is usually displayed in an open casket during visitation in a funeral home. The body is usually not present if the wake is held in a home or other location, but sometimes this can be arranged. Ask the funeral home what is appropriate. Visitors usually bring food to a wake if it is held in a home. The food is eaten by guests, and any remaining food is left with the family of the deceased. Old-fashioned Irish wakes consisted of drinking, game playing, wrestling, dancing and singing. Use your best judgment as to what is appropriate in your case.