How to organise a funeral wake

How to organise a funeral wake.

What type of celebration?

If it falls to you to arrange the wake for a family member or close friend, this may be a deeply fulfilling role to play to honour the memory of the late departed person. 

There are many factors to consider but, the first is to be certain that what you arrange is what the deceased wanted.  Did they want a big show, with wider family members and friends present? In Church, with a Celebrant, or just a private room in pub or hotel.  If suitable, and the family wish it, guests may be invited back to the family home.  If it is summertime, a simple marquee should be considered for protection against the sun or a sudden shower.

Food and drink 

It is usual for mourners and guests to be offered refreshments.  Exactly what will depend on the time of day.  If post luncheon, tea and coffee, plus perhaps a choice of red and white wine.  Soft drinks must also be available.  A choice of sandwiches served from a convenient table and possibly canapes, served by waiters, if funds allow.

If funds are short, relatives and close friends may combine, by arrangement, and individuals bring a tray of a different types of food.

If the person was a beer drinker, some male guests will appreciate a glass of their favourite brew of ale, or wine if a lady.  For a Scot, a wee dram of their favourite finest single malt would be appreciated.

Speaking about the person and relating to the audience

Who will make the address, or eulogy?  Will other family members and friends want their say too?

Some useful tips:

  • Who am I speaking to?
  • How would the person like to be remembered?
  • What made them special? Favourite pastimes and interests, likes and dislikes?
  • When were they happiest?
  • Who was close to them?
  • What did I really like about them? What did other people really like about them?
  • What are the highlights of their life?
  • What achievements did they make?
  • If one could say only three things about them, what would they be?
  • Who can help me check my facts?
  • Do I want someone else to give the eulogy on my behalf?
  • Is anyone else planning to speak about the person at the funeral? Do we need to avoid saying the same thing twice?

The speaker should try and be relaxed and speak slowly and confidently.  They should practise their words several times, in front of someone else who should be a fair critic when necessary.

And be brief!  5 to 7 minutes is enough time to convey what you want to.

Electronic photo frame

This feature is used more and more today.  Treasured photos can be displayed on a large monitor, in the room with the guests.  It might have some of the person’s favourite music playing over the moving slide show.  But very discreetly.

The whole point is to make people feel as relaxed as possible under the circumstances.  This is hard when you have a grieving family which is a good reason not to have the wake the same day as the funeral.  If this is a private affair or restricted today due to COVID-19 then it is easier as immediate family and friends have had some time to come to terms with their loss and be able to be in society and company again.

To play a lament.

Music is a great healer.  What about a lone piper playing The Gael – Last of the Mohicans played by Dark Isle Piper? Or some such favourite.

COVID-19: guidance for arranging or attending funerals
during the coronavirus pandemic.

During COVID19 it is not possible to conduct funerals and cremations as before. Attendance at funerals either in church or at a crematorium is limited to 25 persons.



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