Funeral Wake Etiquette in Singapore

When attending a funeral wake in Singapore, a common concern is understanding the proper etiquette that’s expected.

We ask ourselves questions such as what to wear, how to behave, which topics are potentially taboo, and more. There’s a lot to think about when paying your respects to the recently deceased and speaking with family members who are grieving their loss.

In this article, we hope to clear the air on proper funeral wake etiquette – so you can pay respects with sincerity, dignity and confidence.

Singapore funeral wake

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 bereaving 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.

hand holding support

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 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.

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.

Paying Respects 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.

joss sticks

Condolence Contributions

You may offer a cash contribution to help the bereaving 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 bereaving 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 were donated to cover the funeral settings from the public to allow privacy for bereaved families. Today, they are still commonly found especially in HDB void deck funerals.


What’s the Red String for?

In 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, but do remember to dispose it before you reach home.


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?

We hope the tips provided on this page help you the next time you need to attend a wake. If you are arranging for a funeral and would like a helping hand, we’re here to assist. Please contact Casket Fairprice at any time, we are available 24/7.