Top Tips for Hosting a Modern Wake

Once a traditional Irish ceremony designed to watch over the body and prepare the deceased for burial, the wake is witnessing a modern non-secular revival. If you are planning on hosting a wake to celebrate the life of a dearly departed friend or family member, consider some of the tips below to guide you during this difficult time of grief.


Traditionally held in the home of the deceased, a modern wake is best held in a home environment. Many wakes are now held in a large, hired venue or at a local bar- this is not recommended as the atmosphere should be casual, comfortable and focused on celebration, not 'drowning sorrows'. Keep the occasion relaxed and friendly by hosting the wake in the home of a loved one or close friend.


To hold the wake before or after the funeral is a personal choice, best made by the next-of-kin and closest family members. The traditional wake was a gathering prior to burial, however many modern wakes are held post-funeral- hosting a party prior to a funeral could be construed as insensitive. As a viewing of the body is usually hosted at the funeral home and is a rather subdued affair, a wake can be organised as a separate occasion focused on shared commemoration.


The next-of-kin should have the final decision on whether to hold the wake. It is important to invite all people who had a strong connection with the deceased, as those who are not invited may feel excluded. Expect some people to not attend, as they may find the practice personally confronting- however by extending the invitation they will feel involved in the collective grieving process.

A wake is not usually an occasion fit for children attendance. If there is a group of older children who had a deep connection with the deceased who would like to attend the wake, you may want to set aside a separate area with age-appropriate activities.

Food and Beverages

Good food and plenty of beverages is the standard for a wake. If you would like to limit the intoxication of guests, serve a plentiful assortment of finger foods throughout the wake to ensure alcoholic beverages are not consumed on an empty stomach.

If the deceased was particularly fond of a specific beverage or type of food, you may want to offer this as a form of remembrance- you may even find it becomes a conversation point and evokes fond memories of the deceased.


Most importantly, the modern wake is a time for celebrating life. Recount personal stories and encourage other guests to share their favourite experiences with the deceased. If you are concerned that it may be difficult to break the ice initially, you may want to jot down a few fun memories to have on hand, in case you cannot think of a light-hearted tale in the heat of the moment. If the departed had a comedic nature, the wake is a wonderful opportunity to share jokes- either ones they told you personally, or anecdotes you think they would have enjoyed.

Good company, good food, a relaxed atmosphere and a few laughs—the perfect way to commemorate the life of a loved one or dear friend. For more information, contact David W Bull.