Go boat punting from Magdalen Bridge Boathouse, enjoy a picnic at Christ Church Meadow, or pay a visit to Oxford Botanic Garden to celebrate the life of your loved one.
Hosting a wake in Oxford
A wake is an informal event that traditionally takes place after a funeral service and cremation or burial. It’s usually an informal event that involves family and friends gathering to share memories and celebrate the life of their loved one.
Traditionally, wakes would take place at someone’s home, or a community centre or pub, but they can take place anywhere. The people organising the wake may want to honour their loved one by holding the wake at a place that was special to them, such as at the grounds of their favourite football team, for example.
Also, although wakes usually take place directly after the funeral service, they can be held at any time. They can also be as structured or as informal as the organiser would like. Wake organisers have the freedom to host the event that’s right for them, their family and friends, and their loved one.
If you’re organising a wake in Oxford, there are plenty of unique venues where you can host the event in your own way, from a boat punting at Magdalen Bridge Boathouse, to a picnic at Christ Church Meadow.
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If you’re choosing a celebration of life instead of a traditional funeral, you could consider direct cremation. This is where the cremation doesn’t have any attendees, and the crematorium will return the ashes directly to you or your loved ones.
Christ Church Meadow
Christ Church meadow is a space in the middle of Oxford and is open to the public all year round. It is a tranquil place, though it is susceptible to seasonal flooding and is home to a wide range of wildlife, such as the rare English Longhorn Cow.
The meadow has been used as a site for entertainment, sport and recreation for years, and was the location for some of the earliest balloon flights in England. The Cherwell river and the Thames surround the meadow, with the Thames alternatively known as the Isis as it flows through Oxford. The Isis is home to college boathouses where rowing teams train and compete, and every summer, the major intercollegiate regatta takes place. The meadow has also staged many outdoor performances, most notably a play honouring the history of Christ Church in 1968.
The large Broad Walk separates the river and the Meadow Gate, installed when John Fell was the dean of Christ Church in the 17th century. There were talks about turning the walk into a bypass in recent years. Still, these plans did not move forward, and Christ Church Meadow remains an idyll amongst the hustle and bustle of the city and could make a diverse, beautiful location to hold a unique wake for your loved one.
Oxford Botanic Garden
Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in the UK and is located in the middle of the city, tucked away in the busy High Street. It is a beautiful, unique venue where you can celebrate the life of a loved one. While the garden usually hosts outdoor parties and drink receptions for birthday celebrations and wedding receptions, the team can cater for any kind of event, including a wake or memorial.
The Conservatory and the Events Lawn are available to rent at the Botanic Garden. Meanwhile, the open-sided traditional Woodland Barn is being developed at Harcourt Arboretum to host large events.
Most events take place between March and October, and the garden’s main event season runs from the end of June to the end of September, and any events that will carry on into the evening (after 9 pm) will need to take place in the summer.
All the spaces in the garden are held outside except for those booked in the Conservatory and Woodland Barn. The venue recommends hiring a gazebo or marquee in case of bad weather.
Unfortunately, the gardens do not provide catering for events, but they can put you in contact with trusted local caterers. There is not a set price for events, but you can submit an enquiry form on their website detailing the kind of event you would like to book.
There is access to electricity in the Conservatory and this can be arranged in most of their open-air spaces by hiring a generator. The gardens do not provide any AV equipment or facilities, but they can put you in contact with trusted hire companies. As most of the spaces in the gardens are bright and usually lit by natural light, a visual display can be difficult.
While there is no parking at the botanic gardens, the nearest public car park is at St Clements’ Street, 5 minutes away from the gardens when walking over Magdalen Bridge. However, on-site parking for a catering van or other suppliers is available. The Harcourt Arboretum does have a public car park but provides parking for guests and suppliers.
Punting is a favourite pastime in Oxford, not just for students and locals but visitors too. It is certainly a unique way to hold an intimate wake for your loved one. You can hire the punts offered by Magdalen Bridge Boathouse for an hour, but you can also spend the whole day on the water and return to the boathouse before sunset. The punt can accommodate up to 5 people, so you can hire multiple punts to allow other friends and family to attend.
Boat punting is a great way to see iconic Oxford landmarks. You’ll set off south from the boathouse, gliding past the famous Botanic Gardens and through the Christ Church College Meadows. You may take a left past St Hilda’s College gardens and past the gorgeous Magdalen School rose gardens before gliding under the miniature white bridges, returning to the Botanic Gardens and the boathouse.
Or you might take the more adventurous path, heading south towards the Isis and along the entire Christ Church Meadow, where the river opens up. Or you could travel north from the boathouse, passing Magdalen College Tower and past the Angel and Greyhound Meadows and into the wonderful countryside of Oxford.
Arrange a direct cremation with Farewill
We can help you organise a cremation service that's right for you. We'll help transport your loved one, handle all the paperwork and hand-deliver your loved one’s ashes to you.