A funeral service is not a legal requirement in South Africa.  However, it is customary to have an ‘end of life ritual or ceremony’ to commemorate the life that has passed.  When planning a funeral, all decisions should be made in terms of a persons will.

Try to ascertain what kind of funeral the deceased would have preferred – burial or cremation.   The responsibility for funeral arrangements and determining the deceased’s last resting place normally falls on the closest next of kin or persons named as heirs in the deceased’s will.

For legal and health reasons it is not recommended that one attempt to carry out the job of an undertaker oneself.  The services of a funeral director/undertaker are required for transport and sanitary storage of the body.  Funeral directors valuable knowledge in handling home affairs and their experience with the various funeral arrangements can make things a lot easier for families.

In certain instances the deceased may already have been removed from the scene.  It is absolutely acceptable to select a different funeral director to continue with the arrangements from this point onwards.  Members of the NFDA and other funeral bodies have reasonable standardised rates for removals, so changing funeral directors should not affect the amount you pay for the funeral service.  It is important to know that it is your right as a consumer to select the funeral director who best suits you, whether it is based on price, religion, or any other factor.


Funeral Checklist

What to take with you to a Funeral Parlour

  • A copy of the deceased’s Identity Document.
  • Next of kin’s Identity Document.
  • Funeral Policy – (if there is one)
  • Marriage certificate (this is required by the insurance company if you have a policy).
  • A photo of the deceased for hymn sheets.
  • Clothes – for the deceased to be dressed in.


Funeral directors usually handle the following funeral formalities:

  • Obtaining the death notice from the medical attendants
  • Registering the death to Home Affairs and collecting the death certificate
  • Supplying you with the original and the necessary certified copies of these forms for estate purposes
  • Organising death notices in newspapers
  • Offer a selection of coffins to choose from
  • Preparing and dressing the deceased for viewing / burial / cremation
  • Cemetery or crematorium bookings and funeral arrangements
  • Local transport of deceased
  • Embalming of the deceased for repatriation (if needed)
  • Repatriation of deceased across borders (if needed)


Additional items on the funeral arrangements checklist:

  • Design and printing of hymn sheets / funeral pamphlets
  • Venue – (place of worship / family home / retirement village)
  • Time of day – (this will affect your choice of catering / drinks)
  • Catering (light snacks and tea / alcohol)
  • Candles and floral arrangements
  • Musicians like singers or bagpipers or an organist
  • A sound system / video equipment set up
  • Petals / flowers to sprinkle on the grave
  • White pigeons
  • Helium balloons
  • Personal items belonging to the deceased and special memorabilia to display at the funeral
  • Consider also that you might have the funeral at a more formal venue with light snacks and tea and then a small group of family and friends may get together at the family home after the funeral.  It’s not nice for the grieving host to have to cook or be burdened worrying about hungry guests.  If one doesn’t feel like getting formal catering for both, pizza delivery is great for the home celebration.  Members of the family can all be asked to bring a dish, this is also a nice way for everyone to participate in the end of life celebration.  It is often a time when people wish they could do something to help, so this can present an opportunity.