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Visitation is a gathering of friends and family after a death. At a viewing or wake, visitors can see and touch the body of the person who died.

Both visitation and viewing offer the opportunity to sit together with the family of the deceased. It may be a time to simply listen to whatever feelings they wish to express, or a chance for everyone to share their memories.


Visitation is a more comfortable option for people who don’t want to view the body. There can be photos of the deceased displayed, or a video with photographs from their life. A visitation without the casket present can be held anywhere that is convenient for family and friends to gather.


A viewing usually takes place at a funeral home or in a church, one or two days before the funeral. A viewing may also be held immediately before the funeral to allow friends the chance to view the body and attend the funeral in one trip. It’s also helpful for out-of-town guests who are coming from a distance.

One value of a viewing is that it can help create closure for those who want to see or touch the body, helping them come to terms with the loss of a close friend or family member. This is even more important when the death was sudden and unexpected.

For a viewing, the body may or may not be embalmed. It will depend upon how long since the death occurred, state regulations, and religious practices. However, a funeral home may have a policy requiring embalming for a public viewing.

Private Viewing

With a private family viewing at home, the body may be laid out on a bed or covered table, allowing the family to easily see or touch the body as they wish. You do not need to have the body embalmed before a private viewing if it is not required by state law for the time period elapsed since death.

Related Issues
Funeral or memorial service

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