How to prepare and give condolence money

How to prepare and give condolence money

How to Prepare and Give Condolence Money

When attending a funeral, etiquette is important as we want to be respectful towards the deceased and their family. In Singapore, the giving of condolence money (ubiquitously called pek kim or bai jin among the Chinese community) is also commonplace for funeral guests, though it’s not obligatory. If you’re unsure of the dos and don’ts of this practice, here’s what you need to know:

The purpose of condolence money

Condolence money is largely given for a practical purpose: to help the mourning family cover funeral expenses. On an emotional level, condolence money conveys the giver’s concern and support for the grieving family.

Etiquette and considerations for preparing condolence money

The first question that comes to most people’s minds when preparing condolence money is probably: “How much should I give?” There is, in fact, no binding rule. But there are a couple of factors to consider when deciding on the amount to give:

  • Your relationship with the deceased and/or their family: the closer you are, the more you’d want to give.
  • The family’s financial circumstances: how much monetary support does the family need?
  • Your own financial circumstances: how much can you afford?

In Chinese customs, it’s usually the case for condolence money to be in odd numbers, based on the first digits. For instance, $30, $50, $70, and $100. Why is this so? Well, even numbers are considered auspicious and given during celebrations like Chinese New Year and birthdays.

Timing and presentation of condolence money

Again, there’s no hard and fast rule to when you should be giving the condolence money. However, people generally do so at the start of the visit, after paying their respects to the deceased. Or, just before they are leaving.

How to Prepare and Give Condolence Money

Reception table at a Christian wake by Direct Funeral Services. The condolence money box and condolence book are placed here for the convenience of guests.

Many websites suggest putting the money in a white envelope. In reality, it’s more common for guests to pass the money, sans the envelope, directly to a family member they know. It’s similarly acceptable to drop the notes into the condolence money box, found on the reception table. The person manning the reception table will then record your name and the amount you gave, so that the family can tally the total sum collected at the end of the funeral.

These days, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are also comfortable with the idea of offering and accepting condolence money via PayNow.

Alternatives to condolence money

As mentioned earlier, the giving of condolence money is not compulsory. If you prefer to express your sympathy through other forms, condolence stands are one of the most popular alternatives. Still, do understand that some families may not accept them for environmental reasons, or due to space constraints at the wake or funeral venue.

Apart from condolence stands, there’s a variety of unique and meaningful sympathy gifts out there, from personalised memory books to charitable donations in the name of the deceased. But condolence money or not, your good intentions matter the most at the end of the day.