Before The Funeral: Viewings, Wakes and Visitations

A common practice in many cultures is to spend time with the body before the funeral or disposition. A viewing (also called a wake) may be brief and take place immediately before the funeral service, or may last for up to three days before the service. A visitation can take place any time, before or after the funeral service or disposition, and can last for hours or days.

Basic features of a viewing or wake

  • The body is on display in a casket
  • The casket may be open or closed
  • Takes place at the funeral home, your own home, or the social hall at a religious place of worship
  • Takes place before the funeral and disposition
  • May be family-only or open to the public

Basic features of a visitation

  • The casket is closed or the body is not present at all
  • Takes place at the funeral home, your own home, or the social hall at a religious place of worship
  • May take place before or after the funeral and disposition

Cost of a viewing or visitation

If you will be holding a viewing or visitation at a funeral home, the funeral home may charge you for use of the facility and room set-up. Some funeral homes will charge by the day while others will charge by the hour. If you will be holding a viewing or visitation at a location other than the funeral home, the funeral home may charge you for set-up and transportation services.

Personal advocacy

Be aware that many funeral homes will require that the body be embalmed if a viewing or wake is to take place. If you do not want the body to be embalmed, consider finding a funeral home that does not require embalming in the event of a viewing or wake.

To learn about planning post-service events, see our article Post-Funeral Reception.

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