Wakes and Funerals

Red and white roses offered during the wake and funeral.

It’s not every day that we encounter wakes and funerals, and some people are clueless and unsure as to what to do when they visit a dead person. What should they wear? What will they do once they get to the location? What is the right thing to say to the family of the deceased person? How long can you stay at the reception? And can you invite other people? These are just some of the questions we usually ask ourselves or to others before attending a wake or funeral. Some people even list their do’s and don’ts so they’ll know what they should do and avoid from the start, people who usually do this are those who’ll visit a wake or funeral for the first time.

We often misunderstood the meaning of wake and funeral, and sometimes the two are being mistaken as the other one. What we don’t know is that these two are different in a few aspects.


During the wake, guests offer their last respect to the deceased and their family.

The wake, or sometimes referred to as a reception after the funeral, is an opportunity to mourn the passing of the person who has died and, as well as to celebrate their life. Typically, it’s a time when family and friends come to pay their respects to the deceased. Guests are lined up to extend their condolences to the family.

The term wake was initially used to denote a prayer vigil. Through the year, its association with prayer has become less important, although not lost completely. In many countries, a wake is now mostly associated with the social interactions accompanying a funeral.


A funeral, on the other hand, is a ceremony connected with the final disposition of a corpse, such as a burial or cremation. It is a ceremony that honors the life of the deceased, and an opportunity for family and friends left behind to say their final goodbye. A funeral is also an assembly for the community to come together a time of mourning and reflect on the life of the dead person. This service generally takes place the day following the wake.

The purpose and reasons why having a funeral are important can be found here.

The funerary customs settles the beliefs and practices used by what may be the family’s culture, and it is done to remember and respect the dead, from interment to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor. Customs vary between cultures and religious groups. Common traditions for funerals include mourning the deceased, remembering and celebrating their life, and offering support and sympathy to the bereaved; additionally, funerals may have religious aspects that are intended to help the soul of the deceased reach the afterlife, or in some cases, the deceased resurrection or reincarnation.

Historically, mourners would walk in a funeral procession to the gravesite; today, people use vehicles. Either all guests will use cars, or they will still follow the tradition of walking behind the hearse.


A black cat that is part of a wake or funeral superstition.

Superstition is any belief or practice that considered not logical or reasonable. All countries have their own set of superstitions that people still followed until today. Like the country Philippines, they have their superstition or “pamahiin”, as they call it, to follow when doing a visitation or funeral. Aside from the superstitions around the world¹, here are some of the Philippines’ superstitions they still follow until now:

  • When you encounter a black cat right after attending a wake, it just doesn’t pertain to bad luck, and some people say it means that you’ll be the next to die.
  • Pregnant women are not allowed to look at the casket or even go to the burial. It is said that they will have a problem giving birth or even miscarry their baby.
  • Family members or widows should only wear black for one year. It is a sign of grief or loss.
  • Women on their period should not visit any wake or attend a funeral. They will suffer a foul-smelling menstruation every month.
  • Family members should not say thank you to people giving their condolences. It is assumed that you are saying thank you that someone is dead.
  • Children should wear red or anything with red when sleeping. Wearing red will prevent the dead from visiting them. Children tend to get sick or have nightmares.
  • For adults, it is avoided to wear red or other bright-colored clothes. When attending a wake or a funeral, one should wear dark-colored clothes as a sign of mourning. The Red color is said to ward off the dead. Children can wear red-colored clothes to avoid seeing or playing with the spirit of the deceased relative.
  • Avoid counting the number of cars in a funeral procession. It’s believed to be bad luck. Some believe doing so will reveal the number of years you have left to live or will take a year off your life for each car you count.
Michael Johnston

Michael Johnston

I am a licensed funeral director and the owner of Beloved Cremations. My cremation center is licensed and certified to operate in Los Angeles, California as well as other nearby cities. I also write articles here and in other sites to help readers like you to navigate funeral and cremation process the easiest way possible. If you have general question or inquiry about our cremation services, just call us anytime.

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