In Singapore, understanding funeral reception etiquette is important due to its diverse cultural environment. A funeral wake is a gathering held before or shortly after a funeral, providing a space for friends and family to come together and remember the deceased.

Respecting the varied funeral etiquettes ensures that attendees contribute positively to the solemnity of the occasion and support the grieving family appropriately.

This guide covers 5 important aspects to help you participate in a funeral reception that is both respectful and supportive. We also offer practical advice on honouring the deceased’s memory while providing solace to those mourning.

1. Dress Code

Dressing appropriately is important when attending a funeral reception as it reflects respect for the deceased and their bereaved family. Opting for sombre and conservative attire is advised to honour the solemnity of the occasion.

Dark-coloured clothing such as black, grey or navy blue is typically appropriate, ensuring that the focus remains on commemorating the deceased rather than drawing attention to oneself.

Also, choose modest and comfortable clothing that blends into the respectful atmosphere of the funeral service. Bright colours and casual wear are generally inappropriate, as they may seem disrespectful to the family and other guests at the funeral.

Other Considerations Based On Religious Or Cultural Background

Funeral etiquette varies significantly across cultures and religions, influencing the appropriate dress code at funeral receptions. For example, it is particularly important to avoid red, yellow and brown at Chinese funerals, as these colours may clash with traditional mourning practices.

In contrast, white is often preferred at Buddhist and Hindu services, symbolising purity and rebirth. When unsure about the specific customs associated with the deceased’s background, opting for neutral colours like dark green, white or grey is a safe and respectful choice.

It’s also advisable to dress modestly, avoiding any clothing that is too revealing, such as shorts or spaghetti straps, to respect the deceased’s family and other family members attending the funeral.


2. Condolence Money (“Pek Kim” Or “Bai Jin”)

In Singapore, it is a customary practice to offer condolence money, also known as “pek kim” or “bai jin” (white gold), during funeral receptions.

This tradition signifies financial support to the bereaved family, assisting them with expenses associated with the funeral service, such as the casket, cremation and other related costs.

The money is typically presented in a small white envelope, symbolising respect and mourning, contrasting with the red envelopes used during joyful occasions.

The amount of condolence money given at funeral receptions should reflect your relationship with the deceased or their family. It’s not about the sum but the thought behind the gesture.

Typically, it is advisable to give odd-numbered amounts, such as $30, $50 or $100, as even numbers are often associated with celebrations, not mourning periods.

However, the key is to offer what feels comfortable for you, bearing in mind that the grieving family will appreciate any contribution. This support during a funeral helps convey your sympathy and respect for the deceased, reinforcing the bonds among friends and family during these tough times.

How To Present Condolence Money

When presenting condolence money at a funeral reception, placing it in a white envelope is the norm. It is respectful to hand this envelope directly to a close family member of the deceased who is managing the donations.

Modern alternatives like PayNow are also becoming acceptable, offering a contactless way to send funds directly to the family’s account.

This method is convenient and maintains the privacy and dignity of the transaction. Ensure your name and the amount are recorded, which helps the family keep track of contributions.


3. Paying Respects

When attending a funeral reception, paying respects to the deceased is a central act of remembrance and honour. Common practices include:

  • Bowing before the altar.
  • Offering silent prayers.
  • Simply holding a moment of reflection for the deceased person.
  • Burning joss sticks and praying

This act serves as a personal and profound expression of condolences to the family members and showcases the respect and importance of the deceased in the lives of the attendees.

In Chinese funerals, specific customs like joss sticks or red threads are prominent. Joss sticks are burned to aid the loved one’s journey to the afterlife, accompanied by offerings like paper money and miniature houses.

A red thread may also be given to guests to tie around a finger during the funeral; it symbolises protection from bad luck associated with death. Before leaving the funeral, removing and disposing of the thread is customary to leave any negative energy behind and not bring it into one’s home.


4. Behaviour And Conversations At The Wake

When attending a funeral reception, maintaining a respectful and subdued demeanour is important. It is important to choose your words carefully, especially around the bereaved family members.

Conversations should avoid sensitive subjects such as the circumstances of the deceased’s death, particularly if it was unnatural. Speculating or asking about such details can unintentionally intensify the family’s grief.

Physical presence often conveys more than words could. Simple gestures like a comforting hand on the shoulder or a sincere hug can be more consoling than trying to find the perfect words. Non-verbal expressions of sympathy can be profoundly comforting to those mourning.

When you do speak, it’s better to express simple condolences rather than attempting to offer explanations or cliché sentiments. This approach respects the family’s emotional state and supports them through their grief, affirming that you’re there to offer support and comfort during a difficult time.

This engagement adheres to funeral etiquette and reinforces the importance of solidarity and compassion within the community of friends and family gathered to remember the loved one.


5. Visiting Etiquette

When attending a funeral wake or reception in Chinese culture, it’s important to understand and respect visitation customs. Traditionally, family members might have held all-night vigils by the coffin and could play mahjong with the family.

Still, modern practices have evolved with changes in funeral home offerings, like increased security, making constant vigilance unnecessary.

It is courteous to contact the bereaving family ahead of time to inquire about suitable visiting hours. This shows respect for the family’s arrangements and ensures your visit does not disrupt private rituals or rest periods.

Visitation length can vary based on your relationship with the deceased or the bereaved family. A short visit to pay respects and offer condolences may be sufficient if you’re an acquaintance, while closer friends and family members might stay longer to provide support.

Noise should also be kept to a minimum, especially in the evenings, to maintain the solemnity of the occasion.

While there are no strict rules regarding the attendance of young children or pregnant women, their presence at wakes is typically left to the discretion of their parents or themselves, considering their comfort and the nature of their relationship with the deceased.


Conclusion About Funeral Visitation Etiquette

Understanding and practising proper funeral reception etiquette is important in showing respect and support for the bereaved during their time of loss.

Each gesture holds significant meaning and showcases your respect and empathy towards the bereaved family. This sensitivity is important, reflecting a deep respect for the deceased and their cultural traditions.

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Choose Casket Fairprice for a caring and respectful farewell to your loved ones, where every detail is handled with the utmost respect and professionalism. Contact us today to learn how we can support you during this difficult time.


Frequently Asked Questions About Funeral Reception Etiquette

What Should I Do If I Can't Attend The Funeral Reception In Person?

If you cannot attend a funeral reception in person, it’s considerate to let the family know and express your condolences in another way. 

You could send a sympathy card or condolence flower stands or make a donation to a charity favoured by the deceased or their family. Reaching out via a phone call or message also offering your condolences and support can be a thoughtful gesture.

Is It Appropriate To Take Photos At A Funeral Reception In Singapore?

In Singapore, taking photos at a funeral reception requires sensitivity and respect for the family’s feelings and privacy. Always ask for permission before taking photographs, especially of the deceased and the immediate family members.

If you are allowed to take photos, do so discreetly without using flash and avoid posting any images online without explicit consent from the family.

How Long Should I Stay At A Funeral Reception?

The duration of your stay at a funeral reception should reflect your relationship with the deceased or their family. A brief visit to express condolences might be appropriate if you were not very close to the deceased.

However, if you were close to the deceased or their family, spending more time at the reception shows support and can be comforting to the bereaved. Always take cues from the event’s atmosphere and the family’s responses.

What Is The Etiquette For A Funeral Viewing?

The etiquette for viewing the casket at a funeral involves several respectful practices. It’s important to approach the casket calmly and solemnly; this is a moment to quietly honour the deceased. Observers typically pause by the casket to say a silent prayer or reflect briefly.

If the casket is open, it’s customary to view the deceased respectfully, but touching the body should generally be avoided unless you are very close to the family or explicitly invited to do so by the family.

Always follow the lead of the deceased’s family and adhere to any specific cultural or religious customs that may be in place.