Understanding the Difference Between a Wake and a Funeral

white and red roses

When a loved one dies, family and friends often gather to share feelings, memories, and support. Wakes and funeral services are two types of memorial practices observed in many cultures throughout the world. These services are designed to honor those who have passed and provide one of the first steps on the path to healing for family and friends.


A wake is an opportunity to visit and pay respects to a loved one who has passed on. At the wake, friends and family members gather together to share food and drink, memories, support, and to say goodbye. Traditionally, the wake is a memorial gathering held in the home of the deceased or their family before the funeral. Alternatively, a wake may take place in a funeral home. Family and friends who attend a traditional wake will stay up all night with the body—thus, the origin of the term, “wake.” Modern wakes may be traditional or unique, and the body may or may not be present. Some families choose to hold a wake immediately preceding the funeral service.


A funeral service is a formal memorial that is typically officiated by a religious figure such as a priest or chaplain. Funerals are also a time for remembrance; friends or family may speak about their loved one during the service. Many cultures have funerary rites that may take place during this ceremony as well. A funeral typically precedes the burial or cremation of the body. The service may take place in a funeral home or church before the body is transported to its final resting place, or a funeral may be held directly at the gravesite.

Planning memorial services for a loved one is an important part of the grieving and remembrance process. At Skylawn Memorial Park, we offer as much or as little assistance as you need to make your loved one’s service special and unique. Please call (650) 349-4411 or click through our website to learn more about our placement and ceremony options in San Mateo. 

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