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What Is the Purpose of a Funeral Wake?

A funeral wake is simply a gathering of mourners before or after the funeral service, or sometimes, in place of it.

In Australia, when we think of a wake it usually consists of the mourners from the service gathering at the deceased’s home, or another venue, to eat, drink and share memories of their loved one.

A family walk away after a funeral

The Wake: A Short History

In other countries, a wake can mean something different such as a viewing of the body before burial or cremation in order to pay final respects and say goodbye.

A wake can occur before or after the funeral, but either way it’s a way for the mourners to share their grief and find mutual support from others who are feeling the loss of their loved one.

The traditional meaning of the word ‘wake’ was to watch or guard the dead before burial and mourners would pray and support one another until the burial ceremony.

Soon, food and drinks were added to sustain the mourners during their vigil, and the less religious held their wake after the service and it became a social gathering to remember the dearly departed.

Modern Wakes

Sometimes called a funeral reception or post-funeral reception, a wake provides valuable support and relief to mourners by allowing them to express their grief and loss, and share their thoughts and memories in a safe space with like-minded people.

It’s become an important part of the grieving process in Australia and helps the mourners accept the death of their loved one.

A wake is a celebration of life and a way to catch up with friends and family while relaxing after a long and emotional day.

Is a Wake Necessary?

Having a wake isn’t required but many people expect to have some sort of informal gathering after the funeral service, and if there isn’t one planned already often an impromptu wake will occur in the local pub or someone’s home.

Culture also plays an important role in whether or not there is a wake, and the type of gathering.

Some people may also forego the traditional funeral and decide to just have the wake instead to help people celebrate life in general.

Wake Etiquette

Just like the funeral service, a wake is completely personalised to reflect the life of the deceased.

While there’s usually no rigid dress or behaviour code, it’s always expected that you dress and behave respectfully.

Remember, a wake can be a very emotional time so be considerate of others and pay your respects to the deceased and their immediate family without overstaying your welcome.

Arranging a Funeral

As a family owned and operated funeral home, Personal Farewells understands the importance of family, and we’re here to support, guide and help you choose the right funeral service and a meaningful farewell for your loved one.

We offer a range of budget friendly funerals to help you honour and celebrate their life, with genuine compassion and personalised services to suit your individual requirements.

Call us on 1300 95 95 33, email us on [email protected], or fill out our contact form for more information and support to help you through the funeral process.


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