What is the Difference Between a Wake and a Reception?

While a wake is a more traditional religious service that is akin to a visitation or viewing, the reception is a less formal gathering that usually takes place after the funeral. During a wake, mourners will be able to pay their last respects to the deceased and show support and condolences to their family.

A reception, however, is an informal gathering that usually takes place after the funeral. This gives family and friends time to gather together, usually over food, and visit with each other.

Why Have a Funeral Reception?

A funeral reception allows for a more casual and light-hearted celebration of life. It gives friends and family who haven’t seen each other in a long time a chance to reconnect, and the preparation of food offers comfort to all who are mourning.

It is usually open to everyone who attends the funeral, especially close family and friends. However, it also provides an option for people who could not attend the funeral to offer their condolences. Loved ones and friends will have a chance to relax after all of the seriousness of the funeral and share fond memories of the person who passed away.

What to Expect and Proper Etiquette

There is no right or wrong location for a reception, as long as it can accommodate the proper amount of people. For a smaller and less formal option, you could host the reception at a restaurant. Other options include churches, which often have teams of people that can prepare and serve a meal for the gathering, and event halls.

There will almost always be food at a reception, and this can either be catered, prepared by the restaurant, prepared by church volunteers or prepared by family members who are up to the task. And the menu will vary based on financial considerations and cultural traditions.

Although the atmosphere at a reception is generally lighter, it is important to continue to respect those who are suffering by not displaying rowdy or wild behavior. While alcohol is often offered, just be aware of your limits and don’t over-do the drinking.

It is also customary that the immediate family members of the deceased be served first. If there is a line for the meal, they should be at the front of the line with extended family and friends following behind.

How to Personalize a Reception

There are many ways to pay tribute to your deceased loved one at a funeral reception. Personal touches and customization will keep their memory at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Often, family members will put together a memory table with various pictures, rewards and achievements from their lifetime. Playing their favorite music in the background or serving their favorite meal is another way to celebrate who they were. And you could even make a video with clips from their life to play at the reception.

Additionally, providing funeral keepsakes for your guests is a great way for everyone who attends to bring home something that will always remind them of their loved one. These could include personalized key chains, recipe cards, charms, Christmas ornaments and more.

Custom prayer cards would also be a great way to cherish the memory of your loved one. They can be personalized with their name, picture, a poem, a verse or a prayer.

Another option for a keepsake is celebration of life bookmarks. They are simple, beautiful and useful and would provide guests with a sweet reminder of the deceased every time they crack open their book or bible.

Don’t Forget the Guestbook and Posters

It is important to remember that there may be people who come to the reception who weren’t able to make it to the funeral. For that reason, it is a good idea to bring the guestbook to the reception as well. Doing so will ensure that the family of the deceased will have an accurate record of those who attended both events.

Also, any customized funeral posters that were displayed at the funeral should be moved to the reception. They can be used to guide your guests to the correct area of a restaurant or venue or to memorialize the deceased if the reception is at a family member’s home.

When all is said and done, the immediate family of the deceased will want to show their appreciation to all who came, supported and comforted them in such a difficult time. Sending funeral acknowledgement cards is more than enough to say “thank you”, and they can also be customized for a more personal touch.