In Singapore, funeral wakes are a common. We often find ourselves – as visitors to a funeral wake – confronted with questions related to funeral wake etiquette. We hope the following section, provided by Western Casket, offers some pointers to assist and guide you in lending support to your friends, colleagues and loved ones as they go through a very emotionally challenging time.
Visitors to a wake should dress simply and not flamboyantly. Choose simple pastel colours for your attire and avoid extremely bright colours. In the context of Singapore's climate, visitors can do without a formal jacket. Never dress sloppily to a wake as it can be seen as a mark of disrespect to the deceased and the family of the deceased.
In approaching any conversation with the bereaving family, it is advisable to exercise caution and tact. Family backgrounds are sometimes complicated and it is best to steer clear of conversations that may encroach upon these dynamics. For cases involving unnatural deaths, it is also best to avoid comment or speculation so as not to add on further emotional pain to the bereaving family members.
Generally speaking, there is never a right word to mention and it is sometimes better just to be physically present. A hug or a comforting hand speaks louder than words. Don’t worry too much about trying to find the most appropriate words. In such situations, words may be difficult to come by. Saying you don’t know what to say will usually be more appreciated than cliché statements.
Inherent within a funeral wake are rituals and embedded traditions that may be in conflict with your religious beliefs and traditions. The rule of thumb is certainly not to force ones’ beliefs and traditions onto another person. Visitors who do not share any close ties to the bereaved family are not obligated to participate or conform to the rituals and traditions during the funeral wake. Your presence there speaks volume to the bereaved family regardless of one’s religious sensitivities.
At a Chinese funeral, you may be offered a red thread. As red is an auspicious colour for the Chinese, it is often a respectful gesture on the part of the bereaved family to have a red thread / a bucket of water with flowers in it ready for its visitors as they do not want to inconvenience their visitors with the perceived possibility of “bad luck” that may be associated with the attendance of a funeral wake.
It is best to first contact the bereaving family before paying a visit to the funeral wake. It is common to see individuals from different groups related to the deceased or their family members arriving at a funeral wake together. Keeping noise to a minimum especially after 10.30pm in the evenings is the responsible thing to do.
Additionally, there is no hard and fast rule to young children and heavily pregnant women attending funeral wakes. While it may be taboo to some, we neither encourage nor discourage young children or heavily pregnant women from attending a funeral wake. It is the individuals' or parents (in the case of children) decision especially after serious consideration of their relationship with the deceased or bereaving family.