Viewings, Visitations, And Wakes — What's Right For Your Family?

27 September 2022
 Categories: , Blog


While the funeral or memorial is the centerpiece of planning after the death of a loved one, it's not always the only gathering. Many families organize a wake, a viewing, and/or a visitation. What is the difference? And which may be right for your family?

Here's what you need to know about additional funeral service options.

1. A Viewing

The most personal of gatherings is generally that for a viewing. Viewings are usually held before any official funerals or memorial services, and they may be held early if the deceased person is not embalmed.

The point of a viewing is to allow the most intimate friends and family to have a private moment to say a personal goodbye. For this reason, the body is usually included and may be visible to mourners. Most viewings happen at the funeral home and may or may not include any refreshments. People often come and go.

2. A Visitation

Visitations are a less formal but larger gathering that may come before or after a funeral. The primary difference from a viewing is that the casket is either not present or it is closed. But, similar to the viewing, people may come and go to share condolences with family and to say a more private goodbye to the deceased. The absence of the body means visitations are usually open to more people. 

3. A Wake

Most people have heard of a wake, but they may have a skewed idea of what a wake looks like. The idea of a wake may conjure up thoughts of celebratory drinking, laughing, and sharing humorous stories. And if your loved one or family would like such a wake, you may definitely have it.

Know, though, that you aren't required to have a celebratory wake. You can plan a more conservative reception-style gathering for those who attended the funeral (or who couldn't attend). Food and beverages are expected, and you may even offer a full meal. Wakes are generally held immediately or shortly after the funeral. You can have one in the funeral home, at a personal home, or at a favorite location. 

Where to Start

Should you add one or more of these gatherings to your funeral plans? Start by learning more about them. Meet with a qualified funeral home in your area to learn about their planning services, space availability, handling of caskets and remains, and recommendations based on experience. No matter what your family chooses to do — or not do — the result will be an honor to your loved one.