Timing is everything not just in life but also in death. There’s a lot of confusion about the etiquette around funerals, wakes, repasts, and so on. They’re an unusual occurrence, and that means there’s a lot of confusion about what time you should get to a funeral, wake, repast, and so on.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Time Should You Arrive at the Wake?
- What Time Should You Get to the Funeral?
- What’s the Appropriate Time to Get to a Repast or Reception?
- Where to Find a Schedule for the Funeral
Because we don’t go to these memorial events often, it’s not always clear whether you should arrive early, extra-early, on time, or even a few minutes late. If you’re not super close to the family or the deceased, sometimes there is even confusion about if you should attend the wake or funeral at all.
Luckily, it’s not as complicated as it sounds to find the best time to get to the funeral, wake, repast, memorial, and so on. It depends on a few different factors, like how well you know the family as well as the venue for the event. To simplify this confusing process, we give clear, specific answers below.
What Time Should You Arrive at the Wake?
A wake is when friends and family visit the home of the deceased or the family home shortly after the death. In some traditions, wakes are incredibly common. They’re an informal way to pay respects, say goodbyes, and even celebrate the life of the deceased.
How do wakes work?
Unlike a formal funeral or memorial, wakes are much less formal. There are fewer wake etiquette points to be aware of. They’re usually a window of time when you can stop by to be with the family. They rarely are limited to a single meeting or short gap of time.
For example, after the death of a loved one, the family might announce they are hosting a wake over the weekend. That means that friends and family are welcome to stop by during the weekend hours to pay their respects. With this type of invitation, you don’t need to worry so much about the best time to arrive.
What time is most respectful for attending the wake?
Though you have more flexibility when planning your arrival time for the wake, you should still be considerate. If you’re incredibly close to the family, you might wish to stop by earlier in the day and stay longer. You might assist with hosting duties, providing food and drink, or cleaning up at night.
If you’re not very close, it’s a good idea to stop by during the middle of the day. Avoid meal times or times that are too late or early. Late morning and mid-afternoon are a great choice.
Beyond that, avoid overstaying your welcome. While wakes are a great opportunity to share kind words with the family and bring a sympathy gift, you don’t want your presence to get in the way of the family’s grief. It’s appropriate to stay anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour if you’re not very close.
What Time Should You Get to the Funeral?
When planning to attend a funeral, you’ll need to be careful of the clock. This is when it’s most important to be aware of your arrival time. If you show up too early, you could get in the way of preparations. If you arrive too late, you might interrupt the service. Knowing a few things about funeral etiquette will help this process.
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What is the best time to arrive at the funeral?
Unless you’re very close to the family and will be assisting with the set-up process, arrive at an appropriately early time. This means arriving 15 to 20 minutes before start time.
If you arrive before this, do your best to stay out of the family’s way. They might be putting final touches together, and this isn’t something you want to interrupt. If you feel comfortable doing so, you could ask if there’s anything you can help with.
If you're attending a Zoom funeral hosted with a service like GatheringUs, you'll probably know exactly when you're supposed to "show up." Just make sure you have the time correct and that you test your camera and microphone at least 30 minutes beforehand in case you experience any issues. Connect to the funeral via the link you're provided about five minutes before the official start time.
What to do if you arrive at a funeral late
Unfortunately, sometimes life happens. You could have run into traffic or another unexpected delay. If you do happen to arrive late to the funeral, try your best to be considerate.
The best thing to do is to wait for a short lull in the service. Avoid sitting down when someone is speaking. Once there’s a transition between speakers or services, take a seat in the back of the room. It’s important that you avoid drawing attention to yourself as much as possible.
What’s the Appropriate Time to Get to a Repast or Reception?
After the funeral or memorial, many families host what’s known as a repast or reception. This is a less formal opportunity to talk with the family, grieve, and share memories. Sometimes food and drink are served, though this isn’t always the case. Like with the funeral, you’ll want to make sure you arrive at the appropriate time.
Traveling to a new location
Oftentimes, the repast is held at a different location than the funeral home or church. While it isn’t uncommon for the repast to be held in a reception space on-property, don’t expect this to be the norm.
If you need to travel to a new location for the repast, it will likely be a family member’s home, local restaurant, park, or another venue space. Unless otherwise stated by the family, you’ll want to go directly from the funeral to this next location. Make sure you coordinate transportation beforehand to ensure you get there quickly.
Arrive promptly and don’t overstay
You’ll want to go directly to the location of the repast or reception after the funeral. If you must stop somewhere along the way, try to let someone know when they can expect you. If they’re serving food, they might not be able to wait for you to arrive.
Once you’re there, you might need to wait for the family. Sometimes the family lingers at the funeral to say their final respects, so they might be a bit later than you. It’s appropriate to wait quietly or to talk amongst other guests until the family arrives. Never eat before the family arrives since this is very disrespectful.
Pay attention to how long other guests stay at the repast to understand when it’s time to leave. The family likely wants to be amongst their closest friends and loved ones to grieve, so don’t stay more than one to two hours, depending on the nature of the reception.
Where to Find a Schedule for the Funeral
If you’re not sure what time anything starts, there are a few different places to check for the funeral schedule. You’ll want to know what to expect from the event before you arrive. You can usually find the schedule:
- Funeral invitation: The first place to check is the funeral invitation. This could be through email, text message, or a formal card. The time, date, and address are usually listed very clearly.
- Online memorial: Another place to check if there was no formal invitation is an online memorial. These are often on social media, memorial websites, or even local media pages.
- Ask a friend: If all else fails, ask someone what time you should arrive. Try to avoid asking the grieving family directly since they’re likely swept up in other tasks planning the funeral. If you know someone else is attending, see what time they plan to arrive.
Using your best judgment goes a long way when knowing when to arrive at the funeral, wake, or repast. This moment is all about respecting the family and the life of the deceased. You’ll want to make sure your presence is nothing but supportive to those in need.
Be There When It Matters Most
Funerals, repasts, and wakes are a time to come together as a family in support. While it might seem as simple as arriving by the time the service or event starts, you’ll want to be mindful of how your presence affects others. There is such a thing as arriving too early or too late. You also could accidentally overstay your welcome.
Since this time is all about the family, pay close attention to the etiquette above. When in doubt, arrive slightly early. It’s always better to be early than on time or late. As long as you’re proactive about ensuring you’re there at the right time, you’re easing this burden just a little bit for those in need.