What Happens in a Chapel of Rest for a Funeral?


Death of a loved one has always been marked by varying rituals throughout the world. Many of these traditions are still practiced to this day.

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Though rituals change and evolve, they still serve as a way for families and friends of the bereaved to support each other until the time comes for final farewells. 

What Is a Chapel of Rest for UK Funerals? 

Chapels of rest are quite common and popular in the U.K. These aren’t houses of worship or a place for saying prayers. Instead, these are quiet, dignified sanctuaries that are dedicated to providing friends and family a place to mourn their loved one’s passing. It’s a place of solemn reflection and expression of loss in a safe environment.

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The role of a chapel of rest

In its simplest definition, a chapel of rest is a place where friends, family, and relatives of the bereaved can visit and grieve for the one that they’ve lost. It’s primarily a place for mourning just before the dead is laid in his or her final resting place.

Think of this chapel and what happens inside as a more traditional type of wake as opposed to many of the modern funeral wakes that are often held right after the funeral. 

Modern wakes tend to take on a livelier atmosphere since they serve as a celebration of life for the one who has passed away. In comparison, visitation at the chapel of rest often takes on a melancholic and sorrowful atmosphere. Most chapels of rest in the U.K. allow a few days of visitation, normally two to three days before the funeral.

What do chapels of rest look like?

Most chapels of rest are located near funeral homes. Though funeral homes do serve as an ideal place where family and friends can gather to view their departed loved ones, not all funeral homes have these special rooms.

A typical chapel is held in a small to medium-sized room, though there is no standard measurement on how large they should be. Most are roomy enough to accommodate numerous visitors for viewing and grieving. The immediate family, however, has the final say of whether they would like visitors to come or not. 

The chapel itself is very private, allowing family and friends to grieve and support each other away from prying eyes of curious onlookers and, in some cases, the media. These chapels are popular among families who want to have private funerals. Most rooms have space for an open or closed casket, depending on the family’s choice.

Chapels typically have heavy curtains in the room, especially if there are also windows. Curtains are placed to ensure the family’s privacy and security. They also function to allow for grieving and reflection without any distractions. Seats are lined up so that the bereaved families and their guests can rest and sit comfortably. Chapels are set up to provide a comfortable space and privacy to gather with friends and family. 

Many funeral homes package chapels of rest with other services offered. The directors try to make the entire planning and grieving process as fluid as possible and cater to specific wants and needs. This includes personalization of the overall look and feel of the chapel according to the family’s preference.

If the deceased has left specific instructions regarding a chapel of rest and his or her funeral, they will be followed and arranged at the same time by the funeral director.  

What Happens in a Chapel of Rest? 

The chapel of rest is a place for friends, family, and acquaintances to pay a visit to the deceased, show their respect, and make their final goodbyes. This is also a place to demonstrate support and care for a family who lost someone they hold dear. 

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Connections and closure

The chapel of rest provides a place for people to reunite to pay their last respects. When you visit, expect a lot of talking and greeting as friends and relatives gather together. Friends and family reminisce about the good old days and, of course, cry as they remember the one who passed away. 

Share memories others can delight in rather than painful ones that might cause some people to feel upset or uncomfortable. Take note of your manners and remain courteous and respectful at all times, as this is a sensitive and emotional moment for everyone present. 

Pay attention to any requests the family makes on your chapel of rest invitation. Just as a funeral, these occasions have their own rules and etiquette that everyone should follow. The family may request certain dress codes to be followed in order to keep the event solemn.

In the end, everything falls at the discretion of the family and the funeral director. You can contact the funeral director or the deceased’s family about what to wear to a wake, any limitations, and rules throughout the visitation period.

Mourning and support

Since the chapel of rest is set up as the ideal place and time for mourning, expect a lot of crying. This is normal, and should not make you uncomfortable. Your tears will show the family that you share in their grief. Pay respect to those who mourn, especially the bereaved family.

If there’s anything the chapel of rest is about aside from being a place for the dead, it’s the perfect venue where you can show your love, understanding, and support to the family. Being surrounded by people who share in their grief can uplift their spirit and make them feel better. 

Who’s Able to Go in a Chapel of Rest?

Perhaps you’re wondering who gets to go into a chapel of rest. Remember that this place serves as a venue where the family, relatives, or friends of the departed can gather together and pay their last respects. However, this doesn’t mean that everybody can visit. Typically, only specific people can go into a chapel of rest.

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Family and friends of the departed

With close relationships, losing someone you love can hurt very deeply, but that doesn’t mean you have to mourn on your own. Thanks to the chapel of rest, the burden can be a tiny bit lighter, knowing that you’re not alone in such a difficult time.

There is a certain solace knowing that you’re not the only one who lost someone so dear. As mentioned, chapels of rest are there to gather the support of family and close friends so you don’t have to go through this painful journey on your own. 

Friends of the family 

Unless restricted by the family, anyone who knew the deceased or is close to the family of the one who passed away can pay a visit. The exception to this rule is when the family has requested complete privacy to let them grieve in private.

You’ll find that some families limit visiting to certain days and times, and others limit the number allowed to visit at any one time. If unsure, it’s always a good idea to contact the funeral director or a member of the family for this information before you visit. 

While visiting is seen as a kind and caring gesture, if you’re unable to visit, there’s nothing more you need to do than to send a sympathy card or speak with a family member about your absence. If you face mobility issues, financial hardship, cannot travel, or cannot take time off of work, feel free to send your condolences through a card, flowers, or another method specified by the family to show your love and support.

Why Go to a Chapel of Rest?

A chapel of rest is one of the best venues where friends, family, and acquaintances can come together and support each other through the grieving process. It’s the perfect place to bring back memories, shed tears, and lean on each other as you share the remaining hours in the presence of the departed.  


  1. Editors “When Someone Dies in a Hospital or a Care Home,” Nidirect, Nidirect Government Services, 2020. nidirect.gov.uk/articles/when-someone-dies-hospital-or-care-home.
  2. Allcock, Paul. “Should You View Your Loved One in the Chapel of Rest?” SAIF, SAIF, May 2017. saif.org.uk/2017/05/should-you-view-your-loved-one-in-the-chapel-of-rest/.

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