A memorial service, or wake, is a deeply personal event that celebrates the life of someone who has passed away and gives the deceased’s friends and family an opportunity to gather and collectively remember the individual.

For some, the idea of a wake is not a pleasant thought at all and a small minority of people find the practice offensive. However, the vast majority of mourners embrace the tradition of the wake and interpret it as a chance to swap stories about the deceased and to laugh, cry and honour their relative and friend together. In order to help you plan a fitting memorial service, we’ve compiled this guide.

You may wish to ask your chosen funeral director for some advice about the wake. They may have suggestions for venues and catering, even if they don’t participate in the wake itself. If you’re taking out a funeral plan, you may wish to cover off the cost of the wake within your plan.



It’s important to remember that a funeral, and any memorial service that follows, is often an emotional moment. Everyone will respond to them in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, so individuals should not feel pressured to hold or attend a wake if they do not feel it’s appropriate or do not like the idea.

Some people will attend the funeral and not the wake, some will attend the wake and not the funeral and others will attend both. Guests can be notified of the wake’s time and location at the end of the funeral service, via an announcement in the newspaper or on an online obituary, or, if you prefer the occasion to be a little more private, by personal invitation.


Time and Location

Traditionally, the wake takes place after the funeral service, although this isn’t always the case. As long as everyone attending knows where and when the wake is to be held, there’s no problem with holding the memorial service at a time of your choosing. There are no real rules or codes of practice to worry about when planning a wake, so do what feels best for you, the deceased and their friends and family.

When it comes to considering location, all you need to think about is how much you want to spend and roughly how many people will be in attendance. If you don’t wish to spend much, or would prefer a more personal and private wake, you could host it at home. However, church halls, pubs, social clubs, sports clubs and hotels are also common places to hold a wake.



Food is a customary part of a wake, though whether you hold a catered wake or choose to go without food is entirely up to you. Depending on the venue, catering may be included in the booking cost. If not, you could provide your own food or ask guests to bring something to share. This way, the cost and responsibility are divided between all of those in attendance.



Though the wake itself is a memorial, it’s becoming more and more common to set up a small memorial to the deceased at the service. These can often consist of photographs, a slideshow or video footage and focus on the deceased’s life, providing the guests with an opportunity to remember their histories together. As attitudes towards death and funerals have changed, it’s become more acceptable for people to take a different approach towards the wake, using it as an opportunity to celebrate the deceased’s life rather than holding a solemn affair. If this is what you would prefer to do, you may want to think about some kind of entertainment, such as music.



It’s difficult to estimate how much a memorial service will cost, as each service is different. A memorial service can cost as much or as little as you want, so think about how much you’ve got to spend and what kind of send-off the deceased would have wanted. You can always cut costs by looking for a cheaper venue, providing the food yourself or by holding the wake at home.

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