The 4 Steps of a Traditional Funeral Service

When we lose a loved one, it’s a time filled with sorrow and reflection. In Singapore, like in many other places around the world, a funeral service plays a crucial role in bidding farewell to the departed. Whether you’re planning a funeral for a loved one or simply want to understand the process better, this guide outlines the four traditional steps of a funeral service. We aim to provide helpful and easy-to-understand information to guide you through this challenging time, respecting the rich cultural diversity found in Singapore.

The Viewing or Wake

The first step in a traditional funeral service is the viewing or wake. This step allows family, friends, and acquaintances to gather and pay their respects to the deceased. In Singapore, wakes are usually held in funeral parlors, void decks, or at the deceased’s home, and can last for a few days. Here’s what typically happens during this time:

  1. Setting Up the Wake: The body of the deceased is usually laid in a casket, which is often open. The area around the casket is respectfully decorated, often with flowers, a portrait of the deceased, and, depending on the family’s beliefs, religious symbols.
  2. Paying Respects: Attendees at the wake approach the casket to pay their respects. This might involve a simple bow, a silent prayer, or a moment of quiet reflection. It’s a personal time to say goodbye in your own way.
  3. Offering Condolences: The wake is also an opportunity for friends and relatives to offer condolences and support to the bereaved family. Sharing memories and stories about the deceased is common and can be comforting.
  4. Cultural and Religious Practices: In Singapore’s multicultural society, wakes can vary depending on cultural and religious customs. For example, Buddhist and Taoist wakes often include chanting and offerings, while Christian wakes might include prayers and hymns.
  5. Duration: Wakes typically last for 3-5 days in Singapore, but this can vary. Some families choose shorter services, while others may adhere to traditional lengths for religious or cultural reasons.

This step in the funeral service is important as it offers a chance for closure and for the community to come together in support. Remember, every wake is unique and is reflective of the life and wishes of the departed.

The Funeral Service

Following the wake comes the actual funeral service, a solemn and respectful event where friends and family come together to remember and honor the deceased. This is how it typically unfolds:

  1. Location: The funeral service in Singapore can be held in various places such as a church, a funeral home, or at the wake location itself. The choice often depends on the family’s religious beliefs and the wishes of the deceased.
  2. Conducting the Service: A religious leader or a celebrant often leads the funeral service. For instance, a priest in a Christian funeral, a monk in a Buddhist ceremony, or a secular celebrant for a non-religious service. Their role is to guide the attendees through the proceedings.
  3. Eulogies and Tributes: One of the key components of the service is the eulogy, where close friends or family members share memories and stories about the deceased. This personal touch adds depth to the ceremony and celebrates the life of the departed.
  4. Religious or Cultural Elements: Depending on the faith or cultural background of the deceased, the service might include specific rituals. For instance, prayer and hymn singing in Christian services, recitations from the Quran in Islamic funerals, or chanting and offering in Buddhist ceremonies.
  5. Music and Readings: Music is often a part of the service, whether it’s traditional hymns or songs that were meaningful to the deceased. Similarly, readings, whether religious texts or favorite poems or literature, can add a personal touch.
  6. Final Farewell: The funeral service often ends with a final opportunity to say goodbye. This could be a moment of silence, a final viewing of the body, or a symbolic act like laying a flower on the casket.

This part of the funeral process is about honoring the memory of the departed, offering comfort to those who grieve, and finding a shared sense of solace.

The Committal Service

The third step in the traditional funeral process is the Committal Service. This is a significant moment as it signifies the final goodbye to the deceased. In Singapore, this service is usually brief and takes place at the burial site or crematorium. Here’s what generally happens:

  1. Arrival at the Site: The casket is transported to the burial ground or crematorium. Family members and close friends typically follow in a procession, marking a journey of finality.
  2. Final Rites: Depending on religious and cultural practices, final rites are performed. In a Christian context, this might involve prayers and blessings. In Buddhist or Taoist traditions, there might be chanting and ceremonial offerings.
  3. Burial or Cremation: If it’s a burial, the casket is slowly lowered into the ground. In case of cremation, the casket is prepared for the cremation process. This moment is often the most emotional, marking a tangible sense of loss.
  4. Personal Goodbyes: Attendees may be invited to throw a handful of soil onto the casket, place flowers on it, or simply bow or pray as a final personal goodbye.
  5. Conclusion of the Service: The officiant usually concludes the service with a few final words. In some cases, there might be a release of doves or balloons, symbolizing the soul’s journey onwards.

This step provides a sense of closure, allowing family and friends to begin the process of accepting the loss and moving forward.

a taoist funeral setup

The Reception or Gathering

The final step in a traditional funeral service is the reception or gathering. This is an opportunity for friends and family to come together in a more informal setting, often after the Committal Service. In Singapore, this gathering plays a crucial role in the healing process. Here’s what usually happens:

  1. Location and Setup: The reception can be held at a family home, a community hall, or even at a restaurant. The atmosphere is generally more relaxed, and the setup can include food and drink, seating areas for guests, and perhaps a display of photographs or memorabilia of the deceased.
  2. Sharing Memories and Comfort: One of the key purposes of this gathering is to share stories and memories of the deceased. It’s a time for laughter and tears, reflecting on the life lived and the impact made. These personal stories often bring comfort and a sense of closeness.
  3. Food and Drink: In many cultures, including in Singapore, offering food and drink is a way of showing care and hospitality. The reception often includes a meal or light refreshments, which also serves as a way to thank guests for their support and presence.
  4. Cultural and Religious Considerations: The nature of the gathering can vary based on cultural and religious backgrounds. Some may include prayer or religious rituals, while others may focus more on social interaction and celebration of life.
  5. Support and Community: Importantly, this time allows the bereaved family to feel the support of their community. It’s an opportunity for friends and relatives to offer their condolences and support, which can be crucial in the days following the loss.

The reception or gathering is an essential step in not just honoring the deceased, but also in providing a space for communal support and beginning the journey of healing after a loss.


The traditional funeral service, with its four steps – the Viewing or Wake, the Funeral Service, the Committal Service, and the Reception or Gathering – plays a vital role in Singapore’s societal fabric. Each step provides a structured way to honor the deceased, deal with the emotional realities of loss, and find communal support. While each funeral may vary based on personal, cultural, or religious preferences, the essence remains the same – it’s a respectful farewell to a loved one and a crucial part of the healing process.

If you’re navigating this difficult time, remember that these steps are not just rituals; they’re a pathway to remembering, mourning, and eventually finding peace.

Contact Us for Immediate Response

We understand it can be tough to lose a loved one. Let us help you through this difficult period and ensure they have a send off they deserve.
50 East Coast Road #01-11
Roxy Square 428769 Singapore
98289318 / 92320939 / 92308671
© 2023 Hearts Funeral. All rights reserved.