United in death: Couple who run well-known funeral company get hitched
Many funerals and a wedding.
Never in his wildest nightmare would he have imagined working in an industry centred on the dead.
But Mr Darren Cheng, 30 did it for love - the love of Ms Jenny Tay, 29.
The turning point was a barely five-minute interview by his then future father-in-law, who had spoken to him from his hospital bed, before he "got the job".
"I remember my 'interview' vividly," said Mr Cheng.
"I met Jenny's father for the first time on Boxing Day when Jenny and I went to visit him in hospital after he had a heart attack," he said of meeting Mr Roland Tay, 70, founder of Direct Funeral Services.
It was during that visit that Miss Tay made the decision to quit her marketing and advertising job and work for her father to help "take the pressure off him".
Within seconds, Mr Cheng, who was also by Mr Tay's bedside, also made the decision to shut down his counselling practice and help his girlfriend in an industry he didn't know much about.
He said: "During the impromptu interview, (Mr Tay) asked me 'Can see dead bodies or not? Can work long hours or not?'
"To both questions, I replied 'can' but Jenny stepped in and sealed the deal with her winning statement when she said 'Daddy, we already got our Build to Order (BTO flat).
"Her father then replied 'Okay, on'."
By then, the couple had already been dating for two years.
Ms Tay is now managing director of the company and Mr Cheng is the operations and business development director.
Mr Tay said of that meeting: "I got a shock when they first brought up the idea. I asked them if they really want to come into my line of work.
"But I started becoming comfortable with the idea when they remained persistent about it.
"That's when I gave in and said, 'Okay, since the both of you are very serious, then okay I will let you both slowly take over but you have to learn all the ground work and everything that goes into this job'."
After five years of being together, the couple tied the knot yesterday and hosted a dinner reception at Shangri-La Hotel.
Mr Cheng, who used to work as a corporate trainer and a counsellor, said of the switch: "It is such a male-dominated industry and I didn't want Jenny to go into it alone."
Mr Tay handed Direct Funeral Services over to his daughter in 2013.
Looking back, Mr Cheng said he "never saw it coming".
"I never expected this. I met her when I was 15 and she was 14. She was this geeky kid with specs but she still looked pretty.
"We lost contact after she moved out of Villa Marina in Siglap, where we first met. It wasn't until I found her again on Friendster that we started meeting up.
"It was also good timing because we had both just come out of our previous relationships."
Ms Tay added: "We were close friends when he first asked me out. I just didn't want to ruin the friendship.
"But he was so persistent and he kept asking me out."
Mr Cheng said: "Since she said no, I just kept asking her out as a friend but doing romantic things like going for meals, walks at night and all that kind of stuff.
"Finally, I guess she just succumbed to giving it a shot and now we're here."
While working together presents the couple with challenges in their relationship, they made a pact to abide by a few rules.
Ms Tay said: "The first rule is never walk out on an argument, the second is to never sleep angry and the third is to never just throw the 'break up' word when you're angry.
"Lastly, no matter how much we disagree on things at work, it never comes home with us. When we are home, it is just us as a couple and zero work."
It is such a male-dominated industry and I didn't want Jenny to go into it alone.
- Mr Darren Cheng on quitting his job as a counsellor and joining his then girlfriend Jenny Tay in the funeral service business
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