A Guide to Planning a Funeral in Singapore

Death is never an easy topic to navigate. Not only is planning a funeral daunting, it is also emotionally and physically exhausting. There are many factors to consider, from registering the death and obtaining the death certificate, to organising the funeral wake according to religion while making many other important decisions.

To ease your worries and questions, here is a step-by-step guide to planning a funeral in Singapore.

What to do when death occurs?

Should death occur in the hospital, an on-call doctor will certify the death and issue a Certificate of Cause of Death (CCOD). If death occurs at home, a doctor, be it the deceased’s last attending doctor or any doctor on a house call, will need to come to the house to certify the death.

Taking the CCOD, you can then register the death at a Neighbourhood Police Post, Citizen Services Centre, or the ICA Building. Remember to bring the CCOD, a form of identification for deceased, such as identity card, passport or birth certificate, and the informant’s ID.

Once the death is registered, the relevant centre will keep the CCOD and the informant will be issued a death certificate. The next-of-kin can also download a digital copy of the death certificate on My Legacy.

All deaths in Singapore must be reported within 24 hours. The death certificate is required by the funeral director hired before they can proceed with the next steps.

Organising a funeral and its costs

There is no single way to organise a funeral, and the deceased or family members could have their own beliefs and preferences to follow for a wake. The Association of Funeral Directors Singapore has put together a list of funeral directors to make the search for a suitable service easier.

That said, funerals can be costly. Most funeral services average approximately S$5,000 or more for a three-day memorial. The costs can increase depending on how elaborate you require the service to be.

The common costs involved in funeral service are:

  • Memorial service: Three-day services are most commonly done, with options to make them five days, week-long, or even longer.
  • Venue of service: The venue of the service can also affect the cost, with funeral parlours charging an average of S$1,000 more per night compared to HDB void decks.
  • Casket: Costs vary according to the type of casket material.
  • Burial or cremation: Each has a specific cost depending on the religion.
  • Columbarium storage of ashes: A standard niche at the Mandai Columbarium is S$500, but costs are much higher if you choose to keep it at places such as Nirvana and Woodlands Memorial.
  • Legal matters: This includes things like will and Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

Funerals according to religious background

In Singapore’s melting pot of cultures, funeral practices reflect the rich tapestry of diversity that make up the nation. This makes finding funeral services quick and easy regardless of religion, allowing families to send off their loved ones without additional confusion and trouble.

In this piece, we will shed light on the different procedures and approximate costs of funerals based on the religions.

Chinese Buddhist and Taoist funerals

Buddhist and Taoist funerals might seem similar, but there are certain processes and items that are unique to each religion. It can be overwhelming trying to plan these without the help of a funeral director, especially if you are not familiar with the detailed requirements.

Generally, both religions require a scripture chanting session on the last night or day of the memorial service. This is done either by Buddhist monks or Taoist priests according to the deceased’s religion.

For a Taoist funeral, family members will take turns to burn joss paper round-the-clock during the memorial service, while this is not observed for a Buddhist service.

In a Buddhist memorial service, vegetarian food offerings for the deceased are essential. Fresh fruits are also offered to Buddha at the altar.

During the funeral procession, Taoist funerals also have an elaborate paper house burning ceremony where “gold and silver mountains”, paper servants, clothing chests, and other items are burnt. In comparison, a Buddhist funeral procession is quieter without joss paper burning.

Families can engage funeral services that provide a comprehensive package to make the whole process easier for them. A full Buddhist or Taoist funeral package such as the ones provided by Embrace Funeral Service, Ang Brothers Funeral Services, and Unity Casket includes an all-inclusive procedure from embalming to cremation.

A comprehensive three-day Buddhist funeral package typically costs around S$5,000 – S$6,000 while the Taoist funeral package will cost S$8,000 – S$9,000. The funeral service will handle the embalming and encoffin procedures, preparation of the memorial service with altar set-up, coordination of funeral service, ritual and memorial ceremony, and finally, the funeral procession service.

Christian and Catholic funerals

Again, Christian and Catholic funerals in Singapore might seem similar, but also have some significant differences from the backdrop to the actual services required.

For the backdrop, most Catholic funerals will feature a Divine Mercy background while Christian funerals will have a cross with accompanying bible verses.

Catholic funerals usually include both a vigil and a funeral service for the deceased. The vigil will last one to two days for friends and family to come and pay their respects to the deceased.

The third day of a Catholic funeral is the funeral service, usually taking place at the deceased’s frequented parish. A requiem mass, usually lasting for an hour, will take place before the cortege leaves for the crematorium or burial site. The cremation or burial is usually only attended by family members.

For Christian funerals, instead of the funeral mass, a wake service led by a pastor will take place. The pastor will share verses from the Bible and family and friends will sing hymns during the service. Family members of the deceased will also share eulogies during the service.

The last service of a Christian memorial takes place at the crematorium or burial plot where the pastor will give one final message and invite family and friends to say their last goodbyes.

Both Catholic and Christian funeral packages typically cost S$4,500 – S$5,500 for a comprehensive three-day service.

Islamic funerals

An important funeral rite in the Islamic faith is ensuring that burial takes place as quickly as possible after death. There is no wake in an Islamic funeral service, only funeral processions.

Immediately after death, the deceased’s body is washed and covered with a white cloth by family members of the same gender. Then, the body is transported to the location of the funeral, which usually is a mosque. There is rarely an open casket at an Islamic funeral.

Before the body is transferred to the burial plot, certified funeral directors, such as the Singapore Muslim Casket or Jasa Budi, or an Imam will carry out the necessary prayers and religious rites. An Islamic funeral will typically cost around S$1,500.

Hindu funerals

Hindu funeral wakes are usually held at the deceased’s home, and the funeral rites are led by a Hindu priest, guided by the funeral director. Mantras are chanted while the deceased’s body is washed with a mixture of milk, ghee, honey, and yoghurt.

On the day of cremation, a Hindu funeral hearse will bring the coffin to the crematorium. The hearse, usually ornamented with gold-leaf statues, will play loud religious music as it makes its way to the crematorium. The final Mukhagni ceremony will take place before the body is cremated.

Even though the rites for a Hindu funeral would only take one to two days, the mourning period can last up to a month. The collected ash is kept at home until sea burial happens, which usually takes place on the 10th or 30th day.

A Hindu funeral typically costs about S$4,000 – S$4,500 if held at the deceased’s home, and prices can increase if it takes place at the HDB void deck or a funeral parlour.

Free-thinker funerals

With more people becoming free-thinkers, there are also free-thinker funeral packages offered such as those by the Singapore Funeral Group and The Life Celebrant.

These funerals usually have set-ups that reflect the deceased’s personality and likes, with non-religious decorations and flower arrangements to celebrate the deceased’s life. Family members can display the achievements and accomplishments of the deceased, and work with funeral directors directly on how they would like the wake to proceed.

Getting affairs in order

A funeral is both physically and mentally tiring, and there are many things that the family members need to take care of when death happens. Getting your affairs in order helps make it less painful for your loved ones.

Having an LPA allows you to appoint one or more people to take action on your behalf should you lose the ability to make your own decisions. Preparing a will allows you to have the full authority to decide how your estate will be distributed after you die. A CPF nomination allows you to decide how your CPF savings across the different accounts are distributed.

Should you require more information about end-of-life planning, the government also has My Legacy, a website that helps Singaporeans explore, store and share their end-of-life plans.

Read more: Making a Will: What Is It, Why Is It Important, and What Happens When You Die

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