Funeral Speech Advice

What To Say At A Wake

What To Say At A Wake

Table of Contents

Attending a wake can be a deeply emotional and difficult experience. The loss of a loved one is never easy to process, and knowing what to say in such situations can often leave us feeling anxious and unsure. However, offering comforting words and sharing heartfelt memories at a wake can provide solace to those grieving in their time of need. In this guide, we'll explore what to say at a wake, how to speak with loved ones, and deliver your message in a compassionate and comforting manner.

A wake is a gathering held in honor of the person who has passed away, allowing family members, friends, and acquaintances to come together and share memories, sympathy, and support during this difficult time. Whether attending as a close friend or a distant acquaintance, your words can make a significant impact on those mourning the loss.

1. Express Your Sympathy

When speaking at a wake, the first thing to express is your sympathy for the deceased's family and loved ones. You might start by saying something like, "I'm so sorry for your loss" or "My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time." Keep your message simple, genuine, and heartfelt. Remember to address the bereaved family members by name, as this helps establish a connection and shows your support.

2. Share a Personal Memory

One way to offer comfort is by sharing a positive memory or story about the person who has passed away. Sharing a personal experience can not only help validate the emotions of the grieving family, but also remind everyone of the positive qualities and moments of the deceased. Consider sharing a story that highlights their sense of humor, kindness, or accomplishments.

3. Offer Support

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Offering support to those grieving is a crucial element when attending a wake. You can express your willingness to help by saying, "Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help" or "I'm just a phone call away if you need someone to talk to." Keep in mind that following through with your offer is just as important as expressing it, so be sure to keep in touch and check in on the bereaved after the wake.

4. Keep It Brief

A wake is an emotional time, and many people may wish to speak or simply provide a listening ear. Therefore, it's essential to keep your message relatively brief, allowing others to participate, share their thoughts, and spend time with the family. Limit your conversation to a few minutes, but deliver your message with sincerity and genuine emotion.

What To Say At A Wake Example 1

A wake, often held before a funeral, is a time for friends and family to gather, remember the deceased, and offer comfort to each other. Unlike the more formal setting of a funeral, a wake provides a space for sharing personal stories, expressing individual grief, and celebrating the life of the loved one who has passed. For many, finding the right words to say at a wake can be challenging. This guide aims to provide insights and suggestions for speaking at a wake, helping attendees navigate this solemn occasion with respect, empathy, and sincerity.

Understanding the Purpose of a Wake

Before delving into what to say, it's crucial to understand the purpose of a wake. Traditionally, wakes allow mourners to pay their respects to the deceased and offer support to the bereaved family. It's a time for reflection, sharing memories, and expressing condolences. The tone can vary from somber and reflective to a more celebratory remembrance of the deceased's life, depending on the family’s wishes and the personality of the departed.

Offering Condolences to the Bereaved Family

When approaching the bereaved family, it’s important to express your condolences with sincerity and simplicity. A simple, heartfelt expression such as, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” or “My thoughts are with you during this difficult time,” can be profoundly comforting. It's not necessary to offer lengthy condolences, as the mere act of your presence at the wake speaks volumes about your support and sympathy.

Sharing Personal Memories and Stories

One of the most meaningful contributions you can make at a wake is to share personal memories of the deceased. These anecdotes can be reflective, humorous, or poignant, highlighting qualities and experiences that capture the essence of the person. For example, you might say, “I’ll always remember the time [Deceased's Name] helped me through a difficult project at work. His/her patience and humor made all the difference.” Sharing such memories can offer comfort to the bereaved, showing them how their loved one impacted the lives of others.

Speaking About the Deceased’s Character and Legacy

Commenting on the character and legacy of the deceased is another way to honor their memory. Reflect on their virtues, contributions, and the positive impact they had on those around them. You might say something like, “I admired [Deceased's Name] for his/her kindness and generosity. He/she always went out of his/her way to help others.” Such reflections can provide solace to the family, reminding them of the lasting impact their loved one has made.

Offering Words of Comfort and Hope

In moments of grief, words of comfort and hope can be a balm to the bereaved. While it's important to be mindful of the family's beliefs and the tone of the wake, offering comforting words can be deeply appreciated. Phrases like, “May you find strength in the love of family and the warm embrace of friends,” or “I hope the cherished memories bring you peace during this time,” can be soothing.

Being Mindful of Religious or Cultural Sensitivities

Wakes can vary greatly in terms of religious and cultural practices. It’s crucial to be aware of these contexts and tailor your words accordingly. If the wake is part of a religious tradition, consider including appropriate religious sentiments in your expressions of sympathy. For instance, in a Christian wake, you might say, “I pray that God’s peace and comfort be with you during this time.”

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

There are certain phrases and topics best avoided at a wake. Statements that attempt to minimize the loss, such as “He/she is in a better place now,” or “I know exactly how you feel,” can sometimes come off as insensitive. Instead, focus on acknowledging the loss, offering support, and respecting the unique grief of the bereaved.

Listening with Empathy

Often, the most important thing you can do at a wake is to listen. Be there for the bereaved family and other mourners, offering a compassionate ear. Let them share their memories, express their grief, and talk about their loved one. Your attentive presence can be a significant source of comfort.


In closing, remember that what you say at a wake doesn’t have to be perfect. It's the intention behind your words that truly counts – the intention to offer comfort, to share in the mourning, and to celebrate the life of the deceased. Whether you choose to share a memory, express condolences, or simply offer a listening ear, your presence and your words can provide significant comfort to those grieving.

What To Say At A Wake Example 2

Attending a wake and finding the right words to say can be a daunting task. A wake, typically a more informal gathering than a funeral, serves as a space for family and friends to come together, share memories, and offer support before the formal funeral service. This guide is intended to help those who wish to speak at a wake, providing suggestions on how to articulate their feelings in a manner that honors the deceased and comforts the bereaved.

Understanding the Essence of a Wake

A wake is an occasion for both mourning and remembrance. It's a time to acknowledge the loss of a loved one, reflect on their life, and offer condolences to the family. The tone of a wake can vary greatly depending on cultural, religious, and personal preferences. Some may be somber and reflective, while others might adopt a more celebratory tone, focusing on the joys of the deceased's life.

Offering Condolences

The primary purpose of speaking at a wake is to offer condolences to the bereaved family. Your words should convey sympathy and understanding. Simple, heartfelt expressions like, “I’m deeply sorry for your loss,” or “Your family is in my thoughts during this difficult time,” are often more comforting than elaborate speeches. It’s important to be genuine and speak from the heart.

Sharing Personal Memories

One of the most meaningful aspects of a wake is the sharing of personal memories about the deceased. Recounting a fond memory, a shared experience, or an anecdote that highlights the deceased’s qualities can be a powerful way to honor their memory. For instance, you might say, “I will always cherish the memories of our family gatherings with [Deceased's Name]. His/her laughter and stories brought so much joy to us all.”

Commenting on the Deceased’s Impact and Legacy

Speaking about the impact and legacy of the deceased is another way to honor their memory. Acknowledge the positive influence they had on those around them and the lasting impressions they left behind. You could say, “The kindness and generosity of [Deceased's Name] touched so many lives. He/she leaves behind a legacy of love and service that we will never forget.”

Providing Comfort and Hope

Words that provide comfort and hope are especially valuable at a wake. While being sensitive to the family’s beliefs and feelings, you might offer words of encouragement and solace. Phrases like, “May you find comfort in the love and support of those around you,” or “May the cherished memories bring you peace,” can offer solace to the bereaved.

Respecting Cultural and Religious Traditions

Be mindful of any cultural or religious traditions that may influence the proceedings of the wake. If the wake is rooted in specific religious or cultural practices, it’s respectful to tailor your words to fit the context. For instance, in a religious setting, incorporating elements of faith or scripture may be appropriate and comforting.

Avoiding Inappropriate Topics

It’s important to avoid certain topics that might be deemed inappropriate or insensitive at a wake. Steer clear of bringing up controversial aspects of the deceased’s life, personal grievances, or anything that detracts from the purpose of offering comfort and honoring the deceased’s memory.

The Power of Listening

Sometimes, the best thing you can say is nothing at all. Being an attentive listener can be just as comforting as speaking. Allow others to express their grief, share their memories, and speak about their feelings. Your presence and willingness to listen can be a great source of comfort to the bereaved.

Closing Thoughts

In concluding your remarks, it can be helpful to reiterate your sympathy and support. A simple closing like, “We will all miss [Deceased's Name] dearly. Please know that I am here for you in this difficult time,” can provide a sense of closure to your message.


In essence, what you say at a wake should come from a place of empathy, respect, and sincerity. Whether you choose to share a memory, offer condolences, or simply be present to listen, your words and actions can play a vital role in providing comfort to those grieving. Remember, it's not about saying the perfect thing but about expressing genuine care and support.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Wake?

A wake is a social gathering associated with death, usually held before a funeral. Traditionally, it involves family and friends coming together to remember the deceased, offer condolences, and provide support.

What Should I Say When I First Arrive at a Wake?

Upon arrival, it's appropriate to express condolences to the family of the deceased. A simple statement like “I’m so sorry for your loss” is respectful and empathetic.

How Should I Address the Family of the Deceased?

Address the family members warmly and with empathy. Use comforting words and, if you knew the deceased well, share a brief, positive memory you had with them.

Is It Appropriate to Share Stories About the Deceased at a Wake?

Sharing stories is appropriate as long as they are respectful and reflect positively on the deceased. These stories can offer comfort and help celebrate the life of the loved one.

How Can I Offer Comfort to the Bereaved Family?

Offer comfort by showing your support, listening if they want to talk, and sharing fond memories of the deceased. Sometimes, simply being present and offering a listening ear is the best support.

What Topics Should I Avoid at a Wake?

Avoid controversial subjects, personal grievances, or anything that might be construed as disrespectful towards the deceased or their family.

Should I Bring Anything to the Wake?

While not mandatory, bringing a sympathy card, flowers, or a donation to a charity favored by the deceased can be a thoughtful gesture.

How Long Should I Stay at a Wake?

The duration of your stay should be based on your relationship with the deceased or their family. Staying for a reasonable amount of time to show your respect and offer condolences is customary.

Is It Okay to Ask the Family How the Deceased Passed Away?

It’s best to avoid asking about the cause of death unless the family brings it up. Focus on offering support rather than seeking details.

Can I Offer Help or Support to the Family?

Offering help is a kind gesture. You can offer to help with the funeral arrangements, provide meals, or assist in any way they might need during this difficult time.

How Do I Approach Someone Who is Visibly Upset at the Wake?

Approach with sensitivity. Offer a comforting word or gesture, such as a gentle pat on the back or a hand over theirs, and be there to listen if they wish to talk.

What if I Didn’t Know the Deceased Very Well?

If you didn’t know the deceased well, focus on supporting those who did. Expressing your condolences and offering your sympathy are still meaningful.

Is It Appropriate to Laugh or Smile at a Wake?

A wake is a solemn occasion, but sharing a fond or humorous memory that brings a smile or lightens the mood can be appropriate, as long as it is respectful.

Should I Speak to Other Attendees at the Wake?

Speaking to other attendees is appropriate. Share memories of the deceased or offer comfort to each other, as wakes often bring people together in shared grief and remembrance.

What Should I Say to Younger Family Members?

Offer age-appropriate condolences to younger family members. A simple “I’m sorry for your loss” or “Your [family member] was a wonderful person” is suitable.

Can I Bring Children to a Wake?

Bringing children depends on the family’s preferences and the child’s ability to understand and respect the solemnity of the occasion.

How Do I Offer Condolences If I’m Unable to Attend the Wake?

If you’re unable to attend, sending a sympathy card, making a phone call to the family, or sending a message expressing your condolences are thoughtful alternatives.

Is It Appropriate to Share Religious or Spiritual Words?

Share religious or spiritual words if you know these sentiments align with the beliefs of the deceased or their family. Be mindful and respectful of their faith and traditions.

What is the Etiquette for My Attire at a Wake?

Wear respectful and subdued attire. Traditional black or dark colors are customary, reflecting the solemnity of the event.

How Can I Prepare Myself Emotionally for Attending a Wake?

Prepare yourself by reflecting on your memories of the deceased and what you might say to the family. Be ready to offer and receive comfort.

Saying the right words at a wake can be a challenging yet essential part of the grieving process. Remember to keep your message succinct, personal, and uplifting, as it can provide solace to those mourning the loss. If you find yourself struggling with expressing your thoughts and emotions, consider using Eulogy Assistant. Designed to simplify the eulogy-writing process, Eulogy Assistant offers personalized guidance and support to help craft a beautiful and heartfelt message that honors your loved one in the way that they truly deserve.

Need a Eulogy?
Get a Personalized Professional Eulogy Written For Your Loved One

Writing a eulogy for a loved one you have just lost, can be both challenging and painful. Alongside the pressure of delivering a meaningful tribute in front of other funeral guests.

Let our expert Funeral Speech Writers create a heartfelt & personalized eulogy, that captures the amazing life and memories of your loved one.

Learn more about our Professional Eulogy Writing Service today, and see how we can help you.


About Zachary Scott

Zachary Scott, at the helm of the Funeral Advice Department, is known for his comprehensive insights into the funeral industry. His leadership in the Good Funeral Awards before joining Eulogy Assistant has been pivotal in recognizing excellence within the sector. Zachary's expertise and dedication to providing supportive guidance have significantly enriched Eulogy Assistant's offerings, helping families find solace and understanding during times of grief.