The Irish Wake

One of the best known funeral traditions associated with Ireland is The Irish Wake. The Wake is what can be described as a glorious send-off of departed loved ones and an important feature of Irish funeral traditions. Sadly, this Irish funeral tradition became less popular in modern Ireland. However, in recent years across rural and urban Ireland, this funeral tradition is becoming a preferred choice for many people wishing to mark their loved ones final departure from their home, and also to keep their loved ones with them until they go to their final resting place.

The time-honoured practice of watching over the recently deceased from their time of death to burial is, to a lot of people, an essential aspect of the grieving process. This is perhaps a predominant reason why many Irish funerals are now preceded by a wake.

The origins of Wakes come from various sources, with no single agreed origin. Regardless of origins, it is a fact that the wake ceremony has given comfort and support to those who have had their loved pass away, those who have nursed a loved one through a terminal illness and those who did not have the chance to say goodbye. 

The Wake can be described as an opportunity; an opportunity to rejoice and celebrate the person's life in the company of their family, friends and relatives. Most people get a lot of comfort from the exchanging and reminiscing of stories and memories of their loved ones with family and friends. Above all else, the Wake is an opportunity to mark their final departure from their home for the last time. The Wake can be said to be a display of both sadness and happiness as the end of the departed's life is marked, but the life is remembered, memorialized and above all treasured.

At Egans, we believe that The Wake plays an important part in supporting the grieving of loved ones. in 62 years of guiding our clients through funeral arrangements, we have had many clients come and thank us for suggesting a Wake as they felt they truly had the chance to spend those last few precious days/hours with their loved ones and had the opportunity to say a final goodbye.

Given the feedback from our clients, we at Egans are advocates of the time honoured Irish tradition of a Wake. We have therefore provided some important information below to shed some light on wakes and how Egans Undertakers will help you set up for the final goodbye.

Where is a wake usually held?

  • Typically, a Wake is held in the home of the deceased, or that of a close family member or relative. 
  • When the Wake is taking place, the death notice will notify this by usually saying 'reposing at...', followed by the address of the wake. Customarily, the deceased is waked for at least one night. During this time, family, friends, relatives, work colleagues, neighbours and acquaintances of the deceased come to pay their final respects.
  • Wake atmospheres are respectful, with tears and laughter as stories and good times are shared.

Who can attend a wake?

  • There are no set guidelines for who should attend a wake (unless specifically requested by the family - usually by death notice stating 'house private' which restricts the wake to immediate family and invited guests). If you knew the deceased, or a family member, then you could attend the wake, although you do not have to be invited. 
  • Traditionally, wakes are attended by multiple groups of people: family, friends, relatives, work colleagues, neighbours, school friends and of course acquaintances.
  • The Wake traditionally involves close family and friends (taking turns) staying with the deceased through the night.

When best to attend a wake? 

  • Times do vary from wake to wake and it is best to enquire with a family member or the undertaker. Closer to the removal time of the deceased, it is best to leave relatively early as to give sufficient time for last respects and goodbyes to be paid by the immediate family.
  • A Guest Book is usually provided upon entering the wake house which you should sign so the family know who has visited.
  • Also, there is no obligation to bring anything with you to a wake. However, people usually bring things such as sandwiches or cakes as this difficult time is tiring on family members. 

What to do upon entering the wake house

  • Usually, when someone enters the house of a wake, they will be greeted by a member of the deceased's family, or somebody close to the family, who will show you to the wake room.
  • Beside the deceased are often the immediate family members. Make your way to them and offer your condolences to each. Many may struggle with what to say or feel awkward in this situation. Rest assured that people will understand.
  • Following this, you may take a moment to say a prayer. 
  • After you offer your condolences and view the deceased, it is customary to stay and converse with those present. Depending on how well you know the family, acceptable times to stay at a wake range from ten minutes to several hours. However, if you are a close friend or neighbour, you may volunteer to help the family in any way you can.

Translate This Page

Home / Contact Us

Address: Ard Na Greine, Bonavalley, Athlone, Co.Westmeath     Opening Hours: 24 Hours
Telephone: (090) 6472236     Mobile: 0872494293     Email: