Everyone deals with death differently. When it comes to paying your respects to the departed and saying goodbye, the two most common ways are through funerals and wakes. These gatherings allow the family and friends to remember the departed together.
Learn all about the difference between a wake and a funeral, so that you know what to expect at each of these gatherings and are better prepared.
The Definition Of A Wake
A wake is also known as a “viewing”. It’s when the casket or urn with the remains of the departed is displayed. The purpose of the wake is for people who knew the deceased to pay their respects and offer their sincerest condolences to the bereaved family. It is an informal visitation in remembrance of the departed.
Anybody who knew the deceased can attend the wake. For larger wakes, especially, members of the public are invited, and they form a queue to pay their respects to the dead, say goodbye, and grieve with the family.
Why, When, And Where Does It Take Place
Wakes are held to allow loved ones and the community to pay their final respect to the departed and be physically present to support the family. Generally, wakes take place before the funeral. In some countries, wakes can go for as long as five days — longer even if family members still need to travel home.
Those present for the wake offer support to the family and try to provide comfort to one another. For the immediate family of the departed, the wake is the last chance for them to be “physically together” and reflect while processing their grief.
Usually, stories about the departed are exchanged throughout the wake while attendees are served a light meal. In some cultures, families also prepare dances and songs in remembrance of the departed.
Wakes may be hosted in a family member’s home or even in the deceased person’s home but are more commonly hosted at funeral homes. Chapels and community spaces can also be another option for wakes, especially if you need a larger area.
The Definition Of A Funeral
A funeral is a formal religious ceremony and is the most intimate gathering before burying or cremating the deceased person’s body. Usually, funerals are limited to family and friends.
The casket or the urn bearing the remains of the person who passed away is set in a location chosen by the bereaved family for viewing. This is also when families and close friends share eulogies.
Why, When, And Where Does It Take Place
The main intention of organizing a funeral is to provide a dignified and memorable goodbye to the dead and to lay down the deceased in their final resting place.
Similar to a wake, funerals can also be the final chance for families to be with their departed to mourn and grieve together. Funerals happen right before the actual burial or cremation of the deceased.
Some would opt to have the funeral in their religious church or place of worship, while others do it right in the cemetery or funeral chapel where the wake was held.
5 Differences Between A Wake And A Funeral
Wakes are typically held in enclosed spaces wide enough for people to gather and spend even the entire night. A funeral can be done indoors and outdoors, permitting the weather to be agreeable.
Places like funeral homes, places of worship, or even the home of an immediate family are the most common choices. Usually, the funeral is held near where the deceased will be buried or cremated. Otherwise, a funeral procession would have to be included in the itinerary.
#2. Cultural Differences
Both wakes and funerals tend to be influenced by the culture, religion, and beliefs of the deceased and their family.
For example, cremation is the common choice for Japanese funerals with a memorial service as per the Shinto or Buddhist customs. In the Philippines, a public wake lasting up to seven days followed by a Catholic funeral is generally followed.
#3. Dress Code
When attending a wake or a funeral, it is appropriate to use somber clothing. While you can opt for more casual and relaxed clothing at a wake, you need to dress well and wear smart casual or formal attire when attending a funeral.
At a funeral, think about clothes you’d typically wear to the office but in somber, darker hues. In some cultures, white is the most popular color for wakes and funerals while in others black or grey is the acceptable color. Unless the family has explicit requests regarding the dress code, follow the norm of the community.
#4. Formal Vs. Informal
Wakes are more casual and laid back than funerals. Visitors come in and offer their sympathies to the bereaved family and respect the departed. During the wake, people often exchange stories and memories about the departed and may share a laugh.
At a funeral, the behavior is more reserved and somber. It is considered a more formal event wit h a structure to follow. Often, there is less room for casual chatter and banter at a funeral, and a person leads the entire ceremony through songs, prayers, and other traditional rituals.
#5. Customs Followed
Wakes tend to be more religious and are closely tied to Catholicism. So, you can expect prayers or reciting scriptures.
Funeral customs, on the other hand, vary based on religion and culture. For instance, there’s New Orlean’s “Jazz Funeral”, where a musical march is incorporated into the gathering.