The funeral service takes care of the formal or religious rituals prior to the committal and cremation or burial. The service may be emotionally draining for the mourners, so having a less formal gathering immediately afterwards allows people to unwind.
In the UK, the traditional ‘funeral wake’ is no longer the only option. Many families are choosing to hold a smaller, private funeral for immediate family only, followed by a separate ‘Celebration of Life’ service either after the funeral or as a stand-alone event some time afterwards.
Wake, reception or gathering
A funeral wake is traditionally held immediately after a funeral (or sometimes beforehand). It is a gathering for friends and family, where they can relax, express their condolences and share stories about the person who has died. It can be held in your home, at a pub or function room, usually with catering and drinks.
Celebration of Life Service
There is a trend in the UK for moving away from the mournful, solemn tone of a traditional funeral service or wake towards a more celebratory commemoration of the life of the person who has died.
A Celebration of Life Service is a more personalised, joyous event that expresses the person’s individuality and personality. Rather than focusing purely on the grief of loss, the life of the person is celebrated and happy memories are shared.
Friends and family are invited to engage with the event, contributing in any way they wish to express their feelings and emotions. There is no right or wrong way to style the event – if the person who died was passionate about something in particular, that could inform the ‘theme’ of the event.
The event can be held anywhere, typically involving a lunch with photos, videos, music and speeches.
It can be held in conjunction with a burial or cremation, but in many cases families take their time organising a celebration of life service after some time has passed.
You can organise a celebration of life event yourself, or employ the services of a specialist. Traditional funeral directors are unlikely to offer this as part of their service, but a new breed of niche professionals and celebrants can help organise and manage the event.
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