Understanding the Differences Among a Wake, a Memorial Service, and a Funeral


Whenever a beloved family member passes, several choices suddenly need to be made by those tasked to look after their affairs. If the departed didn’t formalize their last wishes, the family might memorialize their lives in various ways.

However, it can become a pretty overwhelming scenario between mourning the loss and organizing how best to remember the dearly departed. This is when people need the guidance of expert professionals in the field. People who don’t know how to proceed would do great to consult with a funeral director from so they can provide their loved ones with a convenient service.

Several options are available if you want to memorialise your dearly departed’s life. In this article, we’ll discuss them so you can make the right decision.


When a person dies, social convention dictates that the deceased’s family will give people who knew their loved one time to pay their respects. This is also known as the funeral wake, where people view, gather and meet other persons who knew the departed. Usually, there’s a casket or an urn present so people can pay tribute to the person’s memory. The casket can also be opened or closed, depending on the family’s decision.

Generally speaking, the family holds the wake in a funeral home or a chapel, which can be open to the public. It is customary to accept people who wish to mourn with you on your loss, and it is also necessary for the guests to introduce themselves to the family. They can exchange stories and memories about the departed to honour their life. Guests can also bring appropriate gifts such as flowers to show their unity with the family in their time of grief.

Memorial service

Meanwhile, the family can hold a memorial service a few days, weeks, or even months after the burial of the departed. The family can have the ceremony honouring the departed either at the funeral home, in a place of worship or special significance. Instead of viewing the departed, there’s usually an urn or a photograph of the person, and the family can opt for personalised services to remember their loved one.


A funeral service is an intimate ceremony held to honour the departed. Depending on the deceased’s wishes, they could either be cremated or buried afterwards. The ceremony happens within the week of the person’s passing. Finally, the family holds a religious service at the funeral home, the house or a place of significance to the deceased.

Though it is generally an intimate event, the family can eulogise the departed with speeches or visual presentations to honour their life. This part of the funeral gives the family a sense of closure and helps them acknowledge that the time has come to say goodbye to their beloved family member. The funeral is also an activity where those who grieve for their loss can experience and support one another.

Final thoughts

Now that you know the differences among a wake, a memorial service and a funeral, you can make the right decision to honour your loved one. Memorialising their life is an essential step towards grieving and accepting that the loss is permanent and there’s a time to move forward.

Abel Eino
the authorAbel Eino