Organising a Wake


A wake is an informal social gathering of friends and family of the deceased, which is normally held straight after the funeral service.

You may wish to consider holding a wake to celebrate the life of your loved one, allow time to share memories and catch up with distant relatives.

Our friendly Funeral Directors are available to offer guidance and advice when organising a wake, plus below is a helpful checklist of things to think about when planning a funeral reception:

Who to invite to the wake

Having a wake provides more flexibility for friends and family to be involved and pay their respects to your loved one.

The reception is normally a private gathering, but it is completely up to you. It may feel more appropriate to make the event more public and put out an announcement with an open invitation for people to attend.

Some guests may not be able to attend the funeral but can come along to the wake, other people who were present at the funeral may not be able to come to the wake and some will attend both.

Younger children, for example, may not attend the funeral service but be present at the reception.

Choosing a venue for a wake

If you are on a limited budget you may wish to hold the wake in the comfort of your own home, or the family home, and provide refreshments yourself.

Common and popular venues for wakes include:

  • Pubs
  • Church/village halls
  • Hotels
  • Social clubs
  • Your own home or the family home

The type of venue you choose may depend on the number of people you invite and if you are expecting a large group it may be wiser to hire a venue and arrange someone else to look after the catering to avoid any stress on the day.

When securing a venue, it is wise to visit beforehand to check its size and facilities meet your requirements. Be sure to book in advance and arrange timings, so the venue staff have plenty of notice and friends and family know what time to arrive.


Typically food and drink are provided to guests at a wake. The cost of the catering may be included within the hire price or some venues will allow you to take along your own food and drink.

Sandwiches, snacks or a hot/cold buffet are commonplace at wakes as they cater to a range of tastes. But many venues and caterers will be flexible and meet any specific requests you may have, whether that is serving your loved one’s favourite food or something culturally different.

It is your choice to serve alcoholic drinks or not at the wake, although in some religions and cultures this won’t be appropriate.

If emotions are running particularly high, it may be a good idea to limit the amount of alcohol on offer.

Ideas to make a wake more personal

  • Decorate the venue with photos of your loved one or take along albums for guests to look through
  • Create a music playlist of their favourite songs to play
  • If there is a TV at the venue create a picture slideshow
  • Ask family and friends to write stories and memories in a guest book
  • Serve their favourite food and drink
  • Decorate the space with flowers they loved


Our knowledgeable team may also be able to help you with ideas whilst discussing the funeral arrangements. Get in touch with your nearest branch here.

We can help you with all your funeral planning arrangements