Wake protocol

Went to a wake for a neighbor over the weekend, and was a tad surprised at how it was handled. Wondered if protocol had changed since the last one I attended or anything.

I come from a RC family, where open casket wakes are the rule. They are usually somewhat free-form in that there is no specific pattern/rules. You walk in the back, the casket is at the front. Some people are milling around in the back, drinking coffee downstairs, sitting in the chairs, or up near the casket. In whatever order you wish you sign in, chat with folks, go “pay your respects,” express your condolences to any family of the deceased, sit a while, scout out whether there is any food somewhere…

For this wake, you walked in and saw a big line of people stretching from the right of the casket to the back of the chapel. To the left of the casket was a receiving line of maybe 8-10 people - the spouse, siblings, kids and their spouses, a couple of grandkids… The only one I had ever met before was the spouse. There was no way to comfortably go up, view the body, and express condolences to the wife without “cutting in line.”

So we stood in this line for probably 30-45 minutes, before getting to the front. Then, after a moment or 2 with the spouse, it was a little awkward going to the rest of the relatives saying variants on, “You don’t know me, but your dad was a great neighbor.” And the receiving line kinda shifted over in front of the casket, so there was no way to simply spend a few moments with the deceased.

Absolutely no one was sitting in the chairs or hanging out - I got the impression most folks had pretty much “had enough” after making their way through the line. While waiting in line there were several tables with pictures and stuff from the dead guy. On the one hand, it was something to look at and discuss while waiting. On the other, it made it clear that they pretty much intended things to proceed in the manner they did.

This dead guy was Presbyterian - don’t know if that is relevant.

Ever experience anything like this?

Your OP confuses me (I’m sure that’s my fault, not yours!) What you’re calling a “wake” is what I’ve always known as a “viewing”. To me, the “wake” has always been after the funeral, where there was food, drinking (for us Catholics, anyway, :wink: ) and a chance to reminisce about the deceased, etc.

But I’ve never been to a viewing like you’ve described. (FWIW, I’ve never been to a viewing where there was food, either, except possibly for little dishes of mints or hard candies on tables). But if there was a receiving line, I wouldn’t feel it necessary to do the whole “You don’t know me, but. . .” routine. I’d just go to each person and either say something brief about what the deceased was to me (“Debbie was a good friend to me for more than 14 years”) or briefly offer condolences (“I’m sorry you’ve lost someone close to you; please accept my condolences”) and move on.

Still, no matter what you call it, that does seem like an awkward set-up.

In fact, my friend Debbie did die recently, and the viewing was a big, open room in the funeral parlor, people milling around, open casket, even a DVD slide show on a TV screen in the corner. Plenty of time to go up to the casket, say a prayer if you wanted to (though no place to kneel like Catholic families get!), seek out her husband and sons, talk to them, etc.

From wiki:
…In many places, a wake is now synonymous with viewing or funeral visitation or Visiting Hours. …

Dunno if it is a Chicago area thing, but I have been to a number of wakes where somewhere in the funeral home there would be plates of cookies or maybe even finger sandwiches.

I’ve been to several Visitations - and they’re all a bit different. Some have recieving lines, and some don’t. Some are open casket and some are closed. Some are in churches and some are at funeral homes. A lot of the differences have to do with how well the person is known in the community, and how the family wants to conduct things.

I went to visitation for a co-worker’s Mom, and it was open casket, in the chapel of the funeral home. People came in and out as they wished, and sat in the pews. Every now and then someone would stand up and witness about their memories of the deceased, or sing a hymn.

I went to a visitation for a well-known physician, at his church. The recieving line was many hundreds of people long. I waited over an hour in line to see my friend (it was his dad) and his mom.

One was for a little baby. The funeral home had a video of photos of him with his family, playing over and over on a TV there.

One thing I haven’t seen much of (like norinew) is food at the funeral home. Some of the churches will have snacks, and most will host a meal after the actual funeral, but food seems out of place (to me) at the yucky old funeral home.

At the visitation (what I’ve always known as a wake) for my mom, there was room for the family off to the side of the main room at the funeral home. We kind of ebbed and flowed in there, and it meant that we had somewhere to go just to relax for a few minutes. That’s where the coffee was and somebody sent a tray of sandwich stuff. A couple of other people brought things like cookies or snacks. It was nice to have it there.

At my cousin’s wake there were crackers and snack stuff, along with coffee, downstairs in the funeral home, away from the chapel part.
Oh, and in my experience, the wake comes first, often or usually the day and evening before, then the funeral, and then sometimes a luncheon immediately afterward. Mostly.

That sounds pretty typical of the viewings I have been to in the past. Many different religious backgrounds, by the way. The wake, like others have pointed out is usually after the funeral, and depends on the religion and area as to how it differs, usually. For our Dad’s wake, the 4 of us and our spouses went to O’Charley’s and ate, drank and talked. That’s what Dad would have appreciated – he was never one for drinking, but always one for good conversation.

Yes, that sounds like a typical visitation/viewing. Just this last week, a very dear old friend’s mother died and they had visitation the afternoon and evening before the funeral the following morning.

Then he had a wake this past Saturday. That consisted of about 20 close friends and family members gathering at his mother’s house to drink, play cards (she loved Euchre), drink, play Nintendo Wii, drink, laugh and tell stories and, finally, drink and get all teary eyed. It was a blast and I know that it was a welcome opportunity for my friend and esp. his sister to release some of the stress and tension they’ve been dealing with for the past week.

So to sum up: In my experience, it isn’t a wake unless it involves a 2 day hangover.

Hodge (going to be early tonight)

Yes, at my Presbyterian mother’s visitation.

Actually, as I read your OP, I was amazed at the similarities to the visitations that occurred in the days prior to Mom’s funeral. There were, IIRC, two visitations, and the receiving line was not planned, but somehow just developed. People lined up to speak with my Dad and my sister and me, Mom’s casket was closed as per her wishes; there was no religious or other reason for it being closed. There were many floral arrangements around and on the casket, and a recent photo of Mom in a nice frame. No “artifacts” were about, but I do recall a Protestant friend’s funeral where his watch, favourite pipe, ring, and a few other personal effects were displayed, so that’s not unheard of.

Note that that was Mom’s visitation. The wake took place after the burial; and was a very noisy, cheerful, and boozy affair.

Dinsdale, in my experience, while not fast (thank god!), what you described is not the norm. First would be the wake at the funeral home, depending on the deceased it might be two nights - people milling about, chatting, etc. Always coffee, sometimes finger sandwiches/cookies.

Following is the funeral - church, then graveside.

After that is visitation at the family’s house or at a restaurant (almost always the White Eagle in Niles). This was the rockin’ good time to booze it up, laugh, and share memories time.

Lutheran, btw, born and raised in the area.

ETA - the terms wake/visitation seem to be interchangeable, no?

Hmm, I’ve been to lots of viewings (mostly non-denom Christian) and never seen one like that. My experience has always been like you described – a book for signing in, open casket (or closed with some pictures on a table), free-form, milling around, finding the family and expressing condolences, spending a moment or however long at the casket, and talking with others you know there, and leaving.

I don’t think so. I’ve never been to a formal wake, for example. That’s not something which happens much in Baptist country. I’ve been to some get-togethers or parties which probably had the function of a wake, but nothing formally called that.

Visitation is stiff upper lip and all that. That’s all we get, here.

I tend to be sloppy with terms for various “religious” rituals, since it is not important to me. Tho I don’t mean to offend, I find myself reverting to my Catholic upbringing, such as calling church services “mass.” And growing up Catholic in Chicago, the thing in the funeral home with the dead body in front a day or 2 before the funeral was always called a wake.

Side note: I used to pass a funeral home on my route to and from grade school. Many is the time I surprised my mom with armsful of perfectly good flowers someone had tossed in the dumpster…

I was at one this winter that was exactly as you described. Well, except some people actually did hang out after, making small talk and trying to be adults.

Oh, and it was at a funeral home.