The concept of the wake is coming back into practice in certain circles. There are things to be said for wakes, but you must be careful when deciding whether or not to host a wake. Some people grasp the idea wholeheartedly. It becomes a way of paying respects to the deceased without drowning in your sorrow. But others can be put off, or even offended, by the idea.
A modern wake is, essentially, a celebration of the deceased. Friends and family gather together. A wake involves good food, good friends, and, above all, laughter. It's a time for swapping stories about the person who has died; sometimes serious stories, sometimes humorous ones. For some people, it becomes a chance to counterbalance the sorrow of losing a loved one with the joy of having known them in the first place.
A wake is sometimes considered synonymous with a visitation or viewing. However, visitations and viewings tend to be subdued gatherings and are often held at a funeral home the day before the funeral or immediately preceeding the funeral.
Holding a wake is something that must be considered carefully. For some, the idea of essentially having a party before the funeral is disrespectful, even calloused. Some people will be offended if you hold a wake and offended if you don't invite them. Death is a sensitive issue, and end of life issues must be handled with sensitivity.
Whether or not to hold a wake is the decision of the next-of-kin. However, a close friend or relative can help the next-of-kin make that decision and should be in charge of most of the details if the next-of-kin decides to hold a wake.
When holding a wake, it's important to create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where people can feel comfortable swapping stories and just talking about the deceased. A home is the best place to host a wake. Larger venues are rarely as comfortable and casual.
A wake is a deeply personal matter. It can be a beautiful time of loving and letting go; it can also hurt and offend. But, rightly handled, a wake can be the right way to remember the deceased.