Four Tips For Attending Your First Wake

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If you have been lucky enough not to lose any friends or family members up until this point, then the experience of attending a wake will be new and foreign to you. The idea of attending the funeral home, viewing the body, and giving your condolences to the family may seem intimidating when you're not sure what to expect. However, if you follow the tips below, the experience should go quite smoothly.

1. Remember this is not supposed to be enjoyable.

If you feel uncomfortable about this experience, just remember that everyone does. Death is, by nature, difficult to handle. Nobody quite knows what to say because they know that their words will not bring the deceased back to life. Attend with the knowledge that everyone else, no matter how many wakes they have been to, also feels a bit uncomfortable with the experience -- just like you.

2. Dress modestly.

Several decades ago, everyone would wear black to a wake. Recently, it has become appropriate to wear other colors. Navy blue, brown, and even dark green are certainly appropriate. What you need to avoid, however, is overly bright and loud patterns. This is considered disrespectful because it calls attention to you when the attention should be on the deceased and their family.

3. Don't Feel the Need to Linger

The point of going to the wake is to greet the family and give your condolences. If you feel so motivated, you can give a prayer over the body or observe a moment of silence and thought nearby. However, when you have done these things, it's completely okay to leave. Some people do choose to stick around and chat a bit longer, but you are under no obligation to do so if you do not feel comfortable or do not really know anyone else at the wake.

4. Sign the Guest Book if There Is One

At most wakes, there will be a guest book at the door. This serves as a memorial for the family, so make sure you sign it before you leave. Sometimes, the guest book will also ask you to indicate whether or not you are planning to attend the funeral that is coming up in the following days. Fill out this information, if it is requested, as it allows those planning the funeral to make accommodations, such as seating and refreshments, for the right number of people. 

Contact a funeral home for more help.