When it comes to funeral planning, there are many fuzzy terms that may be confusing. Are you having a funeral service or a memorial service? Is there a visitation or a wake? Do they occur in a certain order? While some of these terms sound similar, they are all unique and different. And all these may be a part of a full or traditional funeral service. If you’re planning a funeral, it’s critical to learn the meaning and be able to decide how you can honor your loved one.

Differences Between Memorial Services, Funerals, Wakes, and Viewings

Differences between a memorial service, funeral service, wake, and viewing

Remember, no matter what sort of a service and events you’re planning for the funeral, always remember to notify your friends and family. You can do this easily on the Everdays Announcement that you create for your loved one.

1. Memorial Service

A memorial service is a service to memorialize a deceased person. However, their body is not present. It is known as a memorial service if a person has been cremated and a service is held with the cremated remains present. If a burial occurs prior to the service for the deceased, then the future service is a memorial service.

2. Funeral Service

A funeral service is a service to memorialize a deceased person with their body present. Unlike a memorial service, or a wake, or a viewing, the funeral typically involves an actual burial. A funeral typically takes place at a funeral home or a place of worship such as a church. The funeral itself usually takes place anywhere from a day or two to a week or so after someone has passed away.

3. Wakes

A wake is a traditional Catholic ceremony based in part on the Celtic traditions of Ireland. The tradition states that family and close friends should stay away through the night with the deceased in order to offer protection from evil spirits. The Catholic idea of a wake may also include a short ceremony where a priest recites the rosary or some scriptures. This is why wakes are also known as rosaries. Wakes are typically at funeral homes. Wakes often take place a day or even several days before the funeral. Modern wakes can also take place right before the funeral, on the same day.

4. Viewings

A viewing is a gathering of friends and family where visitors pay their respects to the deceased.  A viewing, compared to a funeral, is generally a more informal event. It allows mourners the opportunity to share their grief, support one another, and say goodbye on a personal level. Viewings take place at the funeral home typically the day before and sometimes the same day. The body of the deceased may likely be displayed to allow mourners the opportunity to pay their respects. Guests come and go as they see fit, some staying for hours while others drop by for just a few moments.

If you had more questions around planning a funeral, download our free funeral checklist HERE.


Everdays is designed as a solution to help make communication around a passing less burdensome, so that you can focus on what matters most.