How to Mourn in Public: Your Guide to Wake Etiquette

Former Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson II once said, “It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that count in the long run.”

A wake is a great way to celebrate the life of a loved one in a way that captures the joy with which they lived life. They have a different tone than a funeral or visitation, so it’s important to know that going in and understand proper wake etiquette and what one might expect.

We’ve put together a few tips for you for the next time you attend a wake. Read on to learn what they are!

1. What to Wear

Wakes may tend to be more of a celebration of a life lived than a solemn affair of mourning. Even so, people are still grieving. Though a wake is a party, you shouldn’t come with party hats and streamers.

To determine what is appropriate to wear, first, look at the invitation. Your host may very well have included some suggestions for attire, so if they have, you should respect their wishes. If you cannot find any suggestions from the host, it is best not to try and ask them, as they are dealing with a lot right now.

It is best to wear something more subdued that will not attract attention to yourself because the point of the wake is to honor the person who has passed.

2. What Do I Bring?

You are not obligated to bring anything to a wake, but there may be some things that you could bring that would bless the host. The exception would be if the invitation specifies. For example, most of the time food is provided at a wake, but in some cases, the family may ask you to bring a dish to pass.

Flowers can be a nice way to make the event more beautiful and honor the person who has passed. Often, the invitation will include instructions on whether they desire flowers and perhaps a charity that you can donate to instead if they don’t. A sympathy card is a great way to show your support and love for the family of the deceased in their time of need, and some choose to include a gift of money for the family to help them pay for funeral costs.

3. How Should You Stay?

How long you should stay will depend greatly on your relationship to the person who has passed. Generally, a wake or visitation will have stated start and end times. You are not required to stay the entire time.

Usually, your presence is enough to honor the person and support their family. If you can only stay for a short time, the family will still appreciate that you came. Stay as long as you need to in order to express your condolences and honor the person, but be sensitive to the family and know that everyone else there is trying to do the same thing.

You should make an effort not to monopolize the host’s time and you should not stay past the stated end time.

The Key to Wake Etiquette

The key to wake etiquette is understanding that the family has a lot going on and may need your support, or they may need space. Try and be sensitive to their needs.

If you are in need of funeral services for your loved one, we would be happy to help you. Contact us today!