Funeral vs. Viewing vs. Wake vs. Memorial
There are a lot of ways to celebrate the life and mourn the death of a loved one, but make sure you know which is which. A lot of traditions and ceremonies sound similar but have important differences with regards to participants, formality, and location.
- A funeral is any service that precedes or involves an actual burial. There is usually a service (at the gravesite or in a house of worship) followed by the burial or internment. An officiant often leads the services (especially if it is a religious service), but there can be readings, memories, music, and prayer.
- A viewing (or visitation) is much less structured than a funeral. During a set amount of time, mourners can come view the body (or visit it, since some people prefer to have a closed casket instead of presenting the body). In this way, people can take their time paying their respects and saying goodbye. People may come and go or mingle with other mourners and share stories and recollections. Viewings often take place in someone's dwelling or at the funeral home.
- A wake is very similar to a viewing, except that it arose from Irish Catholic tradition. It often involves a priest saying a rosary, and taken literally means that family and friends stay awake all night before the burial, taking turns staying with the body. It can be in a church or the funeral home.
- A memorial does not require the body or remains of the Deceased, and so can take place at any time after the death. This is ideal for accommodating faraway and traveling mourners. The memorial can be structured or unstructured and can take place in the home or a community center or religious space. Music, stories, prayers, and recollections are common.
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