Our Journal

What is a living wake?

If you’re dying to know (pardon the pun) what your family and friends are going to say about you at your funeral, then perhaps a ‘living wake’ is for you.

The idea of celebrating a person’s life whilst they are still alive at a memorial event known as a living wake, has gained attention over the past few years as people become less focused on the traditional, and more open to finding unique ways of marking life’s milestones.

A living wake could be particularly appropriate for a person who is terminally ill, and the practise seems to have benefits for both the subject of the celebration and for their closest family and friends.

Journalist Catherine Lambert describes a wonderful living wake she attended; an event named “Cocktails in the Departure Lounge” for her friend, Melbourne Photographer, John Hoerner.

Catherine reported that the invitation insisted that “laughter and cheer were compulsory” and “It was probably one of the best of their many great parties.”

After the event, Alison Waters, John’s wife remarked, “To celebrate a life well lived is a joy and, aside from helping me so much, Johnny also loved it. We stayed up all night after talking about it.”

fire pit at a living wake

One of our partner celebrants here at Tomorrow FuneralsMelissa Jacob, specialises in conducting living wakes. She explained that she loves “the freedom this kind of event gives people in choosing how they’d like to say goodbye.”

“One thing that’s been beautifully reflected across all of the living wakes I’ve been a part of is the absolute outpouring of love for the person whose wake it was.”

Melissa described a living wake she conducted for Fred who was diagnosed with bowel cancer and given 6 months to live.

As his health and energy was in decline, he found the constant request by friends to visit him was getting difficult. This led Fred to plan a living wake, inviting his community to a Winter bonfire in his backyard. Guests were instructed to dress warm and bring their stories.

As the Celebrant, or storyteller, Melissa led the group as they shared their many stories of Fred. There were drinks and campfire roasted marshmallows. Everyone laughed and cried and took time to say long goodbyes to Fred.

Melissa explained that “as the guests left their common feedback was that they’d arrived with great trepidation that night, but left with full hearts having had a real chance to say farewell.

Afterwards Fred sent Melissa a note thanking her for one of the greatest nights of his life. He died two weeks later.

What is a living wake?

Instead of a traditional funeral happening after a person has died, the event is held whilst they are still alive and present. This could be done in a formal ceremony, a more relaxed party with off-the-cuff speeches or a combination of both.

Celebrations for someone in the last stage of their life will likely invoke strong emotions like sadness and fear but can also be an incredibly warm and uplifting way to acknowledge relationships and tell the story of someone’s life.

What are the benefits of a living wake?

Kate Morgan, Head of Memorials at Tomorrow Funerals explained “a living wake can be as important for the family and friends of the person dying, as it is for the one whose life is being celebrated. It gives space for people to formally say things they need to say before the death and is an incredibly bonding and cathartic experience if done well.”

In general, our culture tends to steer away from death. The whole concept is pushed to the backs of our minds, but many people and cultures believe that coming to a place of acceptance of our mortality is liberating. For those who can embrace their mortality, a living wake can be a truly extraordinary experience.

How do I arrange a living wake?

To organise a living wake it’s a good idea to book an experienced celebrant who will take time to listen and prepare an event that comprises all the important things that need to be said and done.

If you are planning a living wake for yourself or someone who is terminally ill, our single package offers a simple solution and will include everything you require. We begin the process by carefully matching you with one of our dedicated and creative celebrants to craft a beautiful ceremony or even help plan the party of a lifetime! When the time comes, a dignified cremation is included and for some, knowing these arrangements are pre-booked and paid for is a great comfort.

Can I arrange my own living wake?

Absolutely! We have everything you need to plan your very own living wake with all the information you need on prepaid funerals and packages for prepaid cremations and memorials too.

At Tomorrow Funerals we are focused on finding unique and memorable ways to celebrate life and help families understand the many options that are available.

What is Tomorrow Funerals?

We are a new type of funeral home. We believe that finding genuine and new ways to honour your loved one can be an important step in starting your grief journey.

Our one simple funeral package includes:

  • a dignified cremation + transfers + death certificates + hand delivery of ashes
  • our Stories Bundle includes a tribute video + a website with online guestbook dedicated to your loved one + bound keepsake book + design of printed material for the memorial
  • finally, we carefully match you with one of our wonderful celebrants who will take time to plan a unique memorial event tailored specifically to your person

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We’re always here to help

Call us 24-hours / 7 days on 1800 574 824
Our Journal contains our entire list of resources for creating personal memorials.
Or visit our funerals page, for more information on our unique memorial style funeral package.