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Grave Matters A Guide to Funeral Rites in Singapore

Grave Matters: A Guide to Funeral Rites in Singapore

Losing a loved one is never easy, and planning a funeral for them is no less difficult. Funerals in Singapore are arranged and celebrated in many ways, thanks to the nation’s cultural diversity. 

Whether it’s your first time planning a funeral or you simply want to learn more about it, our guide explores the different funeral rites practised in Singapore, from Muslim to Christian. 

What are the guidelines for funeral rites in Singapore?

What are the guidelines for funeral rites in Singapore

Singapore’s funeral guidelines state that all deaths must be reported to the nearest police station or the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority within 24 hours. 

Since May 2022, there is no need to register the death, but it has to be certified by a doctor. 

Next-of-kin will be notified of the death details and be issued a digital death certificate number. These guidelines are mandated by law and should be followed regardless of the dead person’s citizenship. 

The National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Association of Funeral Directors Singapore (AFD) are the two agencies that oversee the funeral guidelines in Singapore, ensuring that funeral parlours abide by the mandated funeral laws of Singapore. 

How do I prepare for a funeral in Singapore?

How do I prepare for a funeral in Singapore

There is no single way to prepare for a funeral due to the varying cultural and religious customs practised and respected in Singapore. However, death certification and body collection must be done with respect to the guidelines mandated by Singapore law. 

Step 1: Certify death

Step 1 Certify death

As mentioned earlier, deaths must be reported and certified within 24 hours of passing. 

Deaths must be certified by a medical professional of the next of kin’s choosing. If the deceased passed away at home, family members can request a house call from the nearest hospital.

House calls have varying costs between $150 and $300, depending on the hospital and doctor. Once the request is made, a doctor can certify the death on the spot and issue a Certificate of Cause of Death (CCOD). 

Family members must be able to provide a number of important documents in order for the doctor to issue a CCOD. 

Important documents that family members must present to the doctor are but are not limited to

  • Discharge summaries 
  • Any prescribed medications that the deceased took before passing
  • A complete or most recent medical history of the deceased

Hospitals sustain the right to refuse to give house calls if the deceased’s family cannot provide such information. 

If the deceased isn’t a Singapore citizen or a permanent resident, their bodies can only be cremated at a private columbarium or a repatriation service can be arranged. 

The remains of a foreigner can only be buried in Singapore if their next of kin is a Singapore citizen or a permanent resident. 

What happens if a doctor cannot certify the cause of death?

What happens if a doctor cannot certify the cause of death

In cases where the cause of death is not clear, family members can call the nearest police station and request for the body to be sent to the mortuary. Here, an investigation may take place in order to determine the cause of death. 

Family members will be notified of the transfer and investigation. Usually, family members will be requested to visit the mortuary the next day and must present important documents like:

  • The deceased’s identification cards or documents
  • A complete medical history of the deceased
  • The family member or next of kin’s identification cards or documents

Step 2: Get a digital death certificate

Step 2 Get a digital death certificate

Once the death of loved one is certified, the next of kin will be issued a digital death certificate number. This number will give them 30-day access to the My Legacy portal for certificate retrieval. 

The next of kin can download the digital certificate from the portal and save the file on their personal devices. The digital certificate can be used to apply for a Permit to Bury or Cremate at the NEA’s website. 

Step 3: Engage a funeral director or parlour

Step 3 Engage a funeral director or parlour

The next step is to engage a funeral parlour or director who can arrange for the collection, repatriation, cremation, and embalming of the deceased. You may choose to work with a funeral director who offers religion-specific services for the wake. 

If the deceased had planned their funeral preferences with a funeral director prior to passing, the chosen provider may be notified in order for the deceased’s wishes to be fulfilled for the wake and burial. 

The funeral director may also apply for the Permit to Bury or Cremate on behalf of the bereaved family and expedite the collection, embalming, and cremation process. 

Step 4: Prepare for collection 

Step 4 Prepare for collection

After a doctor issues a CCOD, the deceased’s remains may be collected by your chosen funeral parlour from your home or the mortuary. Bodies sent to the police station for certification may be collected once the investigation of the cause of death is closed. 

It’s important to choose funeral directors that undergo regular training from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) like the Basic Infection Control Course for Handling Bodies with Infectious Diseases, especially if your loved one passed away due to an illness or disease. 

If your loved one passed away at a hospital, the certification and collection process is expedited by the medical staff in charge of your loved one’s case prior to passing.

Step 5: Arrange the burial or cremation

Step 5 Arrange the burial or cremation

Burial arrangements are generally managed by the funeral director. If your loved one pre-planned his or her burial method with a funeral director, the company will arrange for a wake and burial according to the deceased’s wishes. 

These pre-planned burial arrangements coincide with the deceased’s wishes to either be cremated in a specific columbarium or buried in a cemetery. 

The funeral director will arrange for the pre-burial customs in line with the wishes and religious customs of the deceased. 

Important Note: All permit applications coursed through the funeral director must be sent with a letter of authorisation from the next of kin. 

Step 6: Plan the wake 

Step 6 Plan the wake

This step can be done together with steps four and five with your funeral director. The company can arrange for the wake procession, starting with finalising the venue and casket (if the deceased wishes to be buried in a cemetery). 

The wake can be held at the funeral parlour, private event spaces, or at the deck of a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat. Your funeral director can secure the permits for the wake, if necessary. 

Your funeral director can also arrange for hearse transport and chauffeuring services for the bereaved family to the burial location. A procession may also be arranged, provided that the necessary permits from the traffic police are issued. 

What do I do if my loved one passes away overseas?

What do I do if my loved one passes away overseas

Singapore citizens and permanent residents who pass away overseas may be repatriated for burial or cremation. 

Their death must first be registered with the foreign authorities in the country where they passed, and a funeral director must obtain a Coffin Permit to bring the remains back to Singapore. 

An application for this permit may be done through NEA’s Port Health Services site. The Coffin Permit application requires the following documents below: 

  • The death certificate issued by the relevant foreign authorities where the death took place
  • A certificate for embalming, if applicable
  • A Coffin Export Permit from the country exporting the remains
  • A sealing certificate for the export coffin

The Coffin Permit costs around $18 and will be issued together with the Permit to Bury or Cremate. 

An overseas death of a loved one must be personally reported to the Registry of Births and Deaths in Singapore by the next of kin. They must submit the following documents when reporting the death:

  • The death certificate issued by the relevant foreign authorities where the death took place
  • The Coffin Permit 
  • The Permit to Bury or Cremate
  • The identification cards and documents of the deceased
  • The identification cards or documents of the next of kin

Important Note: All documents issued outside of Singapore must have a copy written in English if the documents are written in a different language. 

Are sea burials permitted in Singapore?

Are sea burials permitted in Singapore

Since Singapore has a limited capacity for casket burials, sea burials are permitted, provided that the process abides by the funeral guidelines and regulations, regardless of religious customs.

For water or sea burials, the deceased must not be embalmed but instead wrapped in biodegradable clothing. If cremated, the deceased’s ashes must be contained in a biodegradable container. 

Water or sea burials can only be done in areas where there is minimal risk of the remains floating back to shore. Therefore, funeral directors must arrange a burial in areas where currents are weak and in areas far away from fishing spots. 

Important Note: Sea burials are a preferred alternative for regular burials due to the 15-year limitation on land tenancy. After 15 years, the remains are exhumed and transferred to smaller cemetery plots or cremated and transferred to a columbarium or scattered at sea. 

Key Services to Look For in a Funeral Service

Key Services to Look For in a Funeral Service

When searching for a funeral director or parlour, it’s important to look out for key services like encoffining, embalming, cremation, hearse transport, and repatriation services. 

Other key services for wake arrangements include catering, facilitators, tentages, and more. Going through these key services can help you find a funeral director who can accommodate your loved one’s religious burial preferences and wishes. 

Encoffining Service

Encoffining Service

Encoffining is the process of cleaning, dressing, and preparing the deceased’s remains for burial or cremation. 

Procedures may vary depending on the deceased’s religious affiliations or cultural customs, but the practice generally includes casket preparation and prayer rituals. 

Family members may also choose to place symbolic objects inside the casket or around it before it is transferred to the viewing location. 



Embalming is another process that is heavily dependent on the religious and cultural funeral customs of the deceased and their family. The process involves preserving the remains using chemicals to delay decomposition as long as needed. 

The purpose of the embalming process is to ensure that the deceased’s remains look presentable for viewing during wakes or for long-distance transport. Embalming may be skipped with respect to certain religious and cultural customs that forbid the practice. 

Instead, alternatives like refrigeration are preferred to preserve the body before the burial. 

Embalment services are overseen by funeral parlours licensed by the NEA. The license entails that your chosen funeral parlour abides by the environmental hygiene standards of the agency. 

Cremation Service

Cremation Service

Cremation is an important service which involves reducing the deceased’s remains to ashes for placement in an urn. The process is usually done in a crematorium of the next of kin’s choosing. 

Cremation is a popular alternative to casket burials, especially in Singapore where burial grounds are limited. Cremated remains may be placed and put to rest at a government-owned or private columbarium. 

Buddhist Funeral Rites

Buddhist Funeral Rites

Buddhist funerals are typically very modest and solemn. They entail prayer rituals led by a monk and are held in temples or funeral homes. 

In Buddhist funeral rites, it is believed that the deceased person’s soul doesn’t leave the body until about four hours after their passing. 

Thus, the body cannot be moved or touched for a few hours. During this time, it is common for family members to contact a funeral director for funeral arrangements. 

Religious Significance

Religious Significance

In Buddhism, people can arrange a proper send-off for the deceased in two ways: the Mahayana and the Theravada customs. Both customs believe in reincarnation and nirvana but have different views on when it takes place following a loved one’s passing. 

For Theravada Buddhists, reincarnation happens right after death. On the other hand, Mahayana Buddhists believe that reincarnation happens after a few days following death. Thus, Mahayana Buddhist funerals usually last several weeks. 

Buddhist funerals, in general, involves lots of prayer rituals conducted by a monk. These rituals are performed with the belief that death is a natural process that takes the soul closer to enlightenment or nirvana. 

Thus, death is a sacred phase of one’s life, helping the soul transition out of the body and into its newer, higher form through reincarnation. 

Dos and Don’ts

Dress modestly in dark-coloured clothingWear flashy or revealing clothing in bright colours
Handle religious relics with utmost respect and careTake photos or videos of the funeral procession burial activities
Participate in the rituals or procession if you’re invited to join inSit cross-legged when sitting on the floor or on cushions
Light a joss stick on the altarStand up and leave mid-prayer

Nirvana Singapore 富贵山庄

Address: 950 Old Choa Chu Kang Road, Singapore 699816


Contact Details: +65 9238 6601, [email protected]

Operating Hours: Open 24/7

Nirvana Singapore (富贵山庄) comprises professional staffs in providing 24-hour funeral services.

They are dedicated to providing guidance to families during their time of loss and bereavement.

From pre-planning consultations to post-funeral assistance, they strive to alleviate the emotional burdens associated with funeral arrangements, allowing families to focus on healing and remembrance.

Nirvana Singapore’s state-of-the-art columbarium creates a tranquil setting for meaningful farewells and reflections.

Their meticulously designed spaces offer comfort and solace, fostering a sense of peace and closure for both the departed and their loved ones.

Taoist Funeral Rites

Taoist Funeral Rites

Taoist funerals in Singapore are similar to Buddhist funerals, except the mourning period goes on for 49 days. Rituals and prayers are held after every 7th day during the mourning period. 

There are at least five different dialect groups in Singapore that practice Taoisim namely Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese Hainanese, and Hakka. 

Each of them has specific funeral requirements, but a few general Taoist funeral customs remain the same, such as

  • Prayer chants
  • Burning of paper products
  • Cleansing
  • Soul summoning

When a Taoist dies, their body will be cleansed and dressed according to the number of years they have lived. To honour those who lived a particularly long life (died of old age), their remains will be shrouded in seven layers of a special set of clothing. 

Joss sticks are lit around the altar for mourners to offer prayers and pay their last respects. The burning of paper products, like money, symbolises the necessities the dead should bring with them to the afterlife. 

Religious Significance

Religious Significance (2)

In Taoism, death is seen as a transition period between the soul’s departure from the body and the afterlife. Thus, mourners grieve for the dead as loudly and as elaborately as possible to initiate resurrection and incarnation. 

During a Taoist funeral, a Taoist monk or priest leads a series of chants or sutras around a fire. 

The fire burns nine tiles representing the nine levels of the underworld, and the Taoist priest breaks these tiles as he chants as a way to release the deceased’s soul free into the afterlife. 

A second Taoist priest prays to Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy, on a lotus-shaped seat. 

Dos and Don’ts

Grieve as loudly as possibleWear red when visiting
Look away from the deceased body when it is lowered to the ground or when the coffin is nailed shutBring a mirror with you
Bow slowly and respectfully when approaching the deceasedBring or offer nonvegetarian food 
Bring offerings such as fruits Walk across or in front of the altar

Ang Brothers Funeral Service

Address: 55 Serangoon North Ave 4, #02-07 S9 Building, Singapore 555859


Contact Details: +6598718388

Operating Hours: Open 24/7

Anf Brothers Funeral Service has 40 years of combined experience managing and handling funeral operations for families in Singapore. 

The funeral home believes in providing quality funeral arrangements to families regardless of their budget and background, thus their services are given pro-bono when a client is in desperate need. 

They have extensive experience in arranging Taoist funerals, and their packages start from three-day arrangements that are inclusive of casket service, body collection and embalming, floral arrangements, paper products for burning, and priest attendance. 

Christian Funeral Rites

Christian Funeral Rites

Christian funerals vary depending on the denomination and traditions practised by the deceased and their family. Catholic and other Christian funerals have similar elements like scripture reading, eulogies, and more. 

Christian wakes usually last between three to seven days, and both cremation and burials are accepted in the faith. 

At Catholic funerals, a priest leads the procession from the opening prayer to the closing remarks. 

On the other hand, in other Christian funerals, a pastor takes the lead. Holy Communion may be held during the wake, by request of the deceased’s family.

Variations in funeral rites are mostly linked to the number of prayers and sermons given during the procession, and many Christian families opt to sing hymns and worship music as part of the service. 

Generally, Christian funerals are held at a church or at a private funeral parlour. A mass or sermon may be held during the procession, with a priest or pastor citing verses from the Bible. 

This part of the funeral happens on the last night or on the day of the burial or cremation. 

Religious Significance

Religious Significance (3)

Resurrection plays a significant role in a Christian funeral, with great emphasis on eternal life through Jesus Christ. 

When a Christian passes away, it is believed that the deceased’s soul is commended to God’s care, thus, his or her passing is under the judgment of God alone. 

In Christianity, suffering and sacrifice are redemptive. This means that during funerals, mourners take comfort in knowing that their loved ones have reached eternal life in Heaven and are no longer suffering on Earth. 

They also take this as an opportunity to proclaim their faith and share the gospel with visitors when applicable. 

Offerings are not customary in Christian funerals, but sharing of food after the procession is commonly practised as a way of showing thanks to those who came to pay their last respects. 

Dos and Don’ts

Wear modest clothing in either white or dark coloursTouch the Bible or any religious symbol near the altar
Prepare your eulogy in advance if you were invited to give oneLeave without offering your condolences to the bereaved families
Offer bereavement money when you canTake any photos or videos during the wake and burial

Amazing Grace Bereavement Care

Amazing Grace Bereavement Care

Address: 84 Geylang Bahru, #01-2678 Industrial Estate, Singapore 339692


Contact Details: +6567772422

Operating Hours: Open 24/7

Amazing Grace Bereavement Care offers 24/7 funeral services for Christian families in Singapore. With 15 years of experience in the funeral industry, the company aims to arrange solemn funerals and prompt assistance within an hour of calling. 

The funeral home can arrange a wake in the deceased’s family’s home or at the company’s in-house parlour. They also offer baby and child funeral services, direct funerals, casket and urn services, hearse transport, and international repatriation. 

Amazing Grace Bereavement Care understands the difficulty of losing a loved one, and the team of funeral directors is on-call for any assistance during and after the burial. 

Muslim Funeral Rites

Muslim Funeral Rites

Muslim or Malay funerals in Singapore are held in accordance with Syariah laws and Islamic teachings related to death. Muslim funerals are usually held in a much shorter time frame compared to other religious funeral rites. 

This is because the Qu’uran states that the dead must be buried within 24 hours of passing. 

Muslims in Singapore report deaths and acquire assistance from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. The organisation helps families prepare for the funeral procession, especially since it must happen shortly after death.

There are three main components in a Muslim funeral, namely

  • Ghusl or the washing and cleansing
  • Kafan or the shrouding
  • Jenazah or the funeral prayer chanting

Muslim families typically take charge of the cleaning and washing of the body. Some funeral directors can arrange for the cleansing service and allow family members to take part. 

The dearly departed can only be washed by family members of the same gender. If the deceased is a woman, only women members can take part in the ritual. 

According to Islamic teachings, the ghusl must be done at least three times before the body is dried.

After the ghusl, the deceased is then shrouded in a white cloth and coated in a powdered, nonalcoholic perfume. In the Islamic faith, the kafan protects and preserves the dearly departed’s dignity and privacy. 

The jenazah is then performed following the cleansing and shrouding. This part of the funeral rite is where Muslim prayers are performed by the Imam or leader in a mosque or the deceased’s home. 

Muslim funerals are attended by the whole community and the jenazah is performed together with the congregation. Thus, Muslim funerals are generally a big affair and can last for 40 days following the burial.

Religious Significance

Religious Significance (4)

Death in Islam holds metaphysical meanings to its followers. For Muslims, death is the natural transition from the world to the afterlife, and Allah is the sole judge of their life. 

Because the death of a Muslim person indicates their physical detachment and resurrection from the world, cremation is absolutely prohibited in Islamic funeral rites.  

It is important that the deceased’s body is preserved and buried facing the Qiblat or Mecca. 

In very traditional Muslim funerals, only men are allowed to attend the burial. In Singapore, however, laws are more lenient, allowing women and children to participate in the burial procession.

Dos and Don’ts

Try to stay for the whole day when visiting the bereaved familiesTake pictures or videos during the procession
Offer food and share it with the family members and guestsWear revealing clothing that shows the neck and ankles
Take your shoes off when entering a home or mosqueAttend a funeral procession unless you are invited (for non-Muslims)

Singapore Muslim Casket

Singapore Muslim Casket

Address: Blk 78 Geylang Bahru, #01-2910, Singapore 339686


Contact Details: +6562919794

Operating Hours: Open 24/7

Singapore Muslim Casket has been providing the Muslim community in Singapore with funeral services since the 1970s. 

With decades of experience handling multiple funeral arrangements for different families, the company is well-versed in Syariah law and operates on a 24/7 basis. 

Aside from the standard funeral arrangements, Singapore Muslim Casket also provides burial services for dangerous infectious diseases, international repatriation, and transportation. 

All these services may be customised under a single service package rate. 

Hindu Funeral Rites

Hindu Funeral Rites

Hindu funerals are also known as antyesti, and follow strict Hindu traditions when preparing the body for cremation. 

When a Hindu person dies, funeral preparations must be arranged within 24 hours. The body must be left at home with family members until cremation. 

The mourning period lasts for at least 12 days following cremation. On the 13th day, family members typically hold another private ceremony to release the dearly departed’s soul to the afterlife. 

Antyesti begins with family members washing and cleansing the body at home. The body will be anointed and cleaned with yoghurt, milk, honey, ghee, and essential oils. 

Typically, a white sheet is used to shroud the body, but if it’s a widow performing the ritual on their dead spouse, a red sheet is used instead. 

Wakes are usually arranged for a few hours due to the urgent need for cremation within 24 hours. During this time, friends and family members can pay their last respects while a Hindu priest leads the congregation in chanting mantras and prayers. 

On the altar, the shrouded body is adorned with flowers and offerings. The most common is rice balls placed near the open casket. An oil lamp will be lit and placed near the deceased’s head, symbolising an enlightened soul. 

Religious Significance

Religious Significance (5)

Reincarnation is a central belief in Hinduism, thus when a Hindu person dies, the soul departs from the body and takes in a different, higher form. 

In Hinduism, reincarnation can happen multiple times, and with each form a soul takes, the closer they get to Brahma, the Hindu god. 

Because of this belief, the deceased’s body holds little importance in Hindu funeral rites. Thus, cremation is highly encouraged in the ritual and is done as a way to release the soul to the afterlife as soon as possible. 

Traditionally, the cremation process is done by the Ganges River in India, but in Singapore, families may simply take the dearly departed’s body to a crematorium and scatter the ashes in designated bodies of water. 

Dos and Don’ts

If applicable, wear traditional Indian attire to the wake Eat or bring nonvegetarian food or gifts to a Hindu funeral
Wear white or light-coloured clothingShow excessive displays of grief 
Stand quietly during hymnal or mantra chants Wear jewellery and flashy accessories 
Offer a silent prayer when approaching the deceased’s casketTake any photos or videos during the procession

Little India Casket Services

Address: 88 Geylang Bahru, #01-2728, Singapore 339696


Contact Details: +6585000211

Operating Hours: Open 24/7

For over 30 years, Little India Casket Services has provided Hindu funeral arrangements for Indian communities in Singapore. 

As the first funeral director to offer a casket hearse with a television display, you can give your loved one a unique send-off that honours their life here on earth. 

The funeral director offers cremation services, embalming, ritual prayer leading, repatriation, and sea burials

A Thappu Melam, a Hindu percussion ensemble playing energising and rhythmic traditional drum music, may be included as an add-on during the procession. 

Little India Casket Services also offers customised packages for clients with specific needs or requests for burials and cremation. All packages are inclusive of transportation, cremation fees, garlands, and funeral clothing for the deceased. 

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