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Wedding Etiquette in Singapore: Cultural Dos and Don’ts

wedding etiquette singapore
Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life

Have a wedding to attend this weekend, but not sure of the dos and don’ts? Here’s our wedding etiquette cheat sheet!

We’re still coming down from a wedding high thanks to Sassy team member Liyana (pictured with her husband above), who got married just a few weeks ago! If you’ve been invited to a local wedding happening soon, don’t fret, mama. We’ve come up with a quick and easy wedding etiquette guide to help you breeze through local weddings with ease. One thing to note is that dancing isn’t something common at Singaporean weddings unlike those of our Western counterparts, as it’s usually reserved for the performances some close friends, family members or professional dancers stage for the beloved wedding couple. That said, just make sure to have fun, enjoy yourself and eat plenty, mamas!

Malay Weddings

What to wear

Don’t restrict yourself, colour-wise, mama! There are no ominous colours in the Malay-Muslim culture, so don’t be afraid to wear your brightest prints to the darkest hues. A general rule of thumb is to be modest with your clothing and dress appropriately – no shorts, crop tops or anything that shows too much skin or is too tight. Women usually put on a comfortable traditional costume like the baju kurung or abaya, but if you have neither, any modest clothing you have will do. For the hubs, well-fitting jeans and a pressed shirt (both long and short sleeves are welcome) make for the perfect uniform.

What to bring as a gift

Wrapped presents are uncommon gifts from guests at Malay weddings (unless you’re a close friend of the couple and would be handing your gift to them on a separate occasion) so monetary envelopes are encouraged. The amount you should include is up to you, so gift to the best of your ability! Some shops sell special wedding envelopes, but any envelope will do!

Solemnisation

While some couples prefer to hold their ceremony at the mosque, it can also be held at one of their homes or at any appropriate wedding venue surrounded by immediate family and close friends. If you’re a close friend and have been invited to join the solemnisation, be sure to dress appropriately since it’s considered a sacred religious affair. 

malay wedding

Food you can expect

Almost every Malay wedding will be held in a free-and-easy buffet style (woohoo, we’ll be having seconds, please and thank you!). Traditionally, the must-have dishes you’ll see are nasi minyak (rice cooked with a mixture of ghee and spices), chicken or beef rendang, ayam masak merah (red tomato-based chicken dish) and sambal goreng (a stir-fried mixture of beef lung, prawn, fermented soy bean, or tempeh, and more). Modern receptions have also seen the likes of sweets carts, ice cream booths (the kids will be thrilled) and a variety of food vendors present at the wedding alongside the traditional buffet.

malay wedding

Should you be punctual?

Malay weddings are usually held for extended periods of time throughout the day or night to accommodate all guests, as some may not be able to attend at certain times but can be present at others. As a result, feel free to arrive at any time that suits you! However, the bride and groom will not always be at the wedding altar. If they are absent, they probably have yet to arrive (if it’s still early into the wedding), or have gone to change into another set of outfits. Their arrivals and outfit changes are usually scheduled, so if you’re keen on being at the reception only when the bride and groom are present, make sure to ask the couple for the timings of when they would be at the altar beforehand.

Indian Weddings

What to wear

Anything but white and black, as they’re colours worn at funerals. The brighter, the better! Anything modest and appropriate will be just fine as is with other customs.

What to bring as a gift

Monetary envelopes are best, although you can personally hand over your boxed gifts to the wedding couple any time before or after the reception. It’s also great to gift with amounts ending with 1, such as 11, 21, 31, and so on.

indian wedding

Traditions/Timings/What’s appropriate and inappropriate

Depending on whether you’re at a Hindu, Sikh, or Muslim wedding, the ceremonies may differ. Typical Hindu and Sikh weddings may last anywhere between 1 to 4 days, depending on how traditional the families are. The solemnisation and religious rituals are usually held in the morning or early afternoon, and most guests would only be invited to the banquet reception afterwards. Just to be sure, ask the wedding couple beforehand if you should be mindful of any other particular customs.

indian food wedding

Food you can expect

Ranging from both vegetarian to non-vegetarian in a buffet-style spread, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the festive Indian fare. And don’t worry about eating something spicy by accident mama, because an abundance in spices don’t always mean that you’ll feel like you’re breathing fire afterwards.

Chinese Weddings

What to wear

Since spring is one of the most celebrated seasons in Chinese culture, go for shades that remind you of it, like green, orange and pink. Avoid full outfits in black or white since they are considered a symbol of death and mourning. While you may think red is a sure go-ahead, mama, it’s a colour that’s usually worn by the bride during the wedding, so you might want to steer clear to avoid stealing her thunder!

What to bring as a gift

Ang baos are your best bet! Go for a bright red or gold one filled with however much you wish to give, but be wary of gifting in numbers that begin or end with 4, since its Chinese translation is often mistaken for the word for ‘death’. As at Chinese New Year, figures ending in 8 are considered most auspicious! Typically you’re expected to give the cash amount that covers the cost of your banquet meal; check out this super handy website for going rates at all the hotels around Singapore, and note that the prices are per person, mama.

chinese wedding

Traditions/Timings/What’s appropriate and inappropriate

Unless you’re a close friend of the couple, you will probably only be invited to the wedding banquet, which usually happens in the evening. The morning and early afternoon of the wedding day is when they would carry out the solemnisation and tea ceremony, attended by immediate family and very close friends. You don’t have to be too early to the dinner, but just make sure you set some time aside before the banquet begins to find out where you’re sitting and mingle with other friends or colleagues that may also be attending.

Food you can expect

Don’t expect anything less than a multi-course dinner chock-full of auspicious dishes, mama! This means abalone, roasted duck, lobster, scallops, and more. All of them symbolise blessings of happiness, prosperity, longevity or fertility for the couple.

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