Funeral Wake Etiquette in Singapore
Funeral Wake Ettiquette in Singapore
When attending a funeral wake in Singapore, a common concern that people often have is understanding the proper etiquette that’s expected of guests.
We ask questions such as what we should wear, how we should behave, which topics are potentially taboo, and more. After all, the bereaved family is going through a sensitive time and we should be mindful of how we show up for them.
In this guide, we hope to clear the air on proper funeral wake etiquette – so you can pay respects with sincerity, dignity and confidence.
Be Mindful of Different Cultures
Different religions carry out funeral ceremonies differently, and it is important to be aware and sensitive to the distinct cultures and traditions practised.
Being well informed and showing respect towards the deceased beliefs, not only fosters empathy and support towards the bereaved but also honours the life of the deceased.
Dress Code for Funeral Wakes
When attending a funeral wake, do dress appropriately. Be neat and conservative. Understand that your attire is a mark of respect for the deceased and the bereaved family.
Depending on the deceased’s religious beliefs and customs, you may want to avoid certain colours and styles that conflict with their traditions. If you’re unsure of what these traditions are, a safe choice would be clothes that are conservative and have muted colours such as black, white, or dark blue. It is also important to dress modestly even in safe colours. To be extra safe, avoid the colours red, yellow and brown – this is especially important at Chinese funerals. Avoid wearing revealing or inappropriate clothing such as shorts or spaghetti strap tops.
Conversations with the Family
When approaching the mourning family, be tactful with your language and mannerisms. Avoid talking about family matters, and if the deceased died an unnatural death – please quell your curiosity and do not ask the family about the circumstances surrounding the death. Avoid gossiping or discussing this with anyone else at the funeral either.
A simple rule of thumb is to simply offer your condolences. Your genuine sincerity and presence will be appreciated. It is okay to laugh and smile but do keep it light and respectful and only do so when appropriate.
There is no fixed time as to how long you should stay when visiting a wake. Depending on your relationship with the deceased, paying your respects and checking on family and friends is what you should do during your visit. If you are unable to attend the wake for the duration it is held, you may simply offer your condolences with words of support or send condolence flower stands.
In today’s digital age, it is second nature to capture memories and experiences through photos and videos. However, during events such as funerals, it is crucial to practise sensitivity and restraint from taking inappropriate photos. Some points you should take note:
- Always ask for permission and obtain consent from families before taking photographs.
- Exercise discretion. Use your smartphones and cameras quietly and avoid using flash photography.
- Do not take pictures of the deceased without the bereaved families’ permission. It is inappropriate and intrusive to grieving family members.
- If you intend to share photos and videos of the funeral wake online, it is important to act responsibly and respect the privacy of grieving friends and family.
It is advisable to leave the photography and videography taken to professionals or designated family members, who can handle this with the utmost respect and care.
Paying Respect and Joss Sticks
To pay your respects, you may bow in front of the altar of the deceased. While bowing, you may offer a quiet prayer, or simply speak a few words in your heart to the deceased. This is considered to be universally acceptable behaviour, regardless of religious beliefs.
Some Chinese families may burn joss sticks for their loved ones who have recently parted. If you are accustomed to using joss sticks, a member of the family (most likely one you know) will accompany you to the altar and pass you the joss sticks, allowing you to pay respects to the deceased.
If you do not wish to do any of the above, simply bowing your head with respect for a few seconds will be enough. When you attend the wake during a time when the family is busy with rituals or sermons, it is important that you do not disturb them. Make yourself comfortable at the wake until the family is free to talk.
Note: If you attend the wake during a time that family is busy with rituals or sermons, refrain from disturbing them and find yourself a seat an an available table. Only approach the family when they are available.
You may offer a cash contribution to help the bereaved family subsidise the cost of holding the funeral. In Chinese tradition, this practice is referred to as offering “white gold” or “bai jin”.
You can make your contribution after you are done paying respects to the deceased. Don’t worry about how much money to give, as this is entirely up to you. It depends on how close you are to the bereaved family and you may contribute any amount you feel comfortable giving.
Aside from condolence donations, you can also consider sending flower wreaths, condolence stands or condolence blankets. The type of condolence contributions also depends on the type of funeral that is held and the religion practised. Condolence flower stands and wreaths are great ways to express comfort and support to the bereaved. Flowers symbolise peace and love, making them a nice touch as funeral decorations.
Condolence blankets are usually used in traditional Chinese funerals such as Buddhist and Taoist funerals. The history behind these blankets was donated to cover the funeral settings from the public to allow privacy for bereaved families. Today, they can still be commonly found especially in HDB void deck funerals.
What’s the Red String for?
At most funeral wakes in Singapore, you’ll see a paper plate with peanuts, melon seeds and pieces of red threads on every table. If you’ve ever wondered what this piece of string represents, it is believed to ward off any “bad luck” that you may happen to pick up when attending the funeral wake. You may take one and tie it around your finger, but do remember to dispose of it before you reach home.
Can I Bring My Child Along?
Before attending a funeral wake with your child, explain to them what a funeral is and why you are visiting the wake. Children are inherently curious and thus may have questions about death and the deceased, be prepared to answer their queries honestly and with sensitivity.
Ensure that your child is closely supervised so that they do not cause disruption to the funeral wake. It is important for the child to be prepared and understand the solemnity of the occasion.
Writing a Eulogy
A eulogy is a remembrance speech given by close family members, friends or even colleagues during a funeral or memorial service. If you are being invited to deliver a eulogy, take your time to plan and write out your eulogy. Think about the significant and memorable moments that you share with your loved one or key milestones they have celebrated. Sharing a eulogy can bring comfort to bereaved friends and family at the wake and celebrate the legacy of the departed.
Need Help Arranging a Funeral Wake?
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If you require any assistance from Casket Fairprice, please contact us on our 24/7 hotline at 64559909. Check out our funeral packages and services here.
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