Planning a Viewing or Visitation for a Funeral? Here Are the Key Differences

visitation or viewing

Whether you choose a viewing or visitation for a departed loved one, these gatherings play a key role in the grieving process.


During times of loss, funeral arrangements are pivotal in helping families cope and pay tribute to their dearly departed. Two significant components of the funeral process are visitations and viewings, each with its unique purpose and impact on the bereaved. It’s important to understand the subtle distinctions between these practices, as they both offer meaningful opportunities for final goodbyes and commemorate a well-lived life.


Here, we explore three key differences to help you decide whether a viewing or visitation suits your family.


The Nature of the Gathering

  • Visitations: A visitation is an informal gathering held before the formal funeral service or memorial. The environment is usually less somber, so it provides a comfortable and casual setting for family and friends to gather, share stories, and offer condolences. Visitations create an intimate space for attendees to support one another, lending a sense of camaraderie during a challenging time.

  • Viewings: On the other hand, a viewing, also known as a wake or calling hours, involves the presence of the departed’s body in an open casket or on display. Viewings are typically held at a funeral home or place of worship. They allow mourners to pay their respects to the departed by viewing their body one last time. The viewing provides a more formal setting for honoring the person who has passed away.


Emotional Healing and Reflection

  • Visitations: Visitations encourage an atmosphere of connection and emotional healing. Attendees can freely share anecdotes, laughter, and tears while reminiscing about their cherished memories. This unstructured time together often helps support the healing process through the connectedness that comes from gathering with others who are also navigating the pain of loss.

  • Viewings: A viewing, although more formal, offers a distinct opportunity for closure. It allows family members and friends to see their loved one for the last time, providing a tangible final goodbye. For some, viewing the body can be a powerful way to come to terms with the reality of death and find a sense of peace.


Customization and Personalization 

  • Visitations: These gatherings are often seen as a blank canvas for personalization. Families can choose to incorporate elements that reflect the unique personality and passions of their loved one. From displaying photographs, memorabilia, and favorite possessions to playing specific music or sharing favorite foods, visitations can become a deeply personalized tribute to a life well-lived.

  • Viewings: Viewings, though more formal in nature, can still be personalized in subtle ways. It provides a respectful space for displaying meaningful items alongside the casket, such as floral arrangements, photographs, or religious symbols. These details can serve as a testament to the individual's beliefs and interests, creating a sense of familiarity and connection for those paying their respects.


Visitations and viewings are both significant components of the funeral process, each contributing to the unique tapestry of remembrance and healing. Both serve as avenues for honoring the departed, fostering emotional connections among mourners, and providing an opportunity for closure. As you navigate the delicate path of grief, understanding these differences enables you to craft a meaningful farewell that truly reflects the essence of your departed loved one.


If you need further assistance to determine whether a viewing or visitation is right for your situation or if you wish to make funeral arrangements, our caring funeral directors are here for you. Please contact us anytime.


About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, grief counseling, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit

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