Hours after a parent, spouse or child passes away, you’re hit with the reality of making the funeral arrangements – a task you may not have hands-on experience with. You may have attended dozens of funerals before and already know the rituals that take place during the burial, but how do you pull it all together yourself considering all the challenges and decisions? You’re mourning the death of a loved one while dealing with the paperwork and all the decisions that involve money.
With the average funeral taking between three to seven days to organise, you need to quickly plan every detail to create a dignified send-off. This can introduce a lot of stress in an already difficult time. To help you get on track, we’ve compiled a useful guide of what to do. When you’re done, we recommend you read our previous blog entry, Average Funeral Costs in South Africa, to get an idea of how much a funeral could cost you.
Notify the Funeral Cover provider
If you or any family member was nominated as a beneficiary in the deceased’s policy, you need to lodge a claim to the Funeral Cover provider as soon as possible so that you can you have money to cover some of the funeral costs. Most Funeral Cover providers deliver funds to the family within 48 hours, if the correct documents have been submitted. The documents needed for your claim may include the death certificate, banking details and the completed claim forms. Once they receive all the essential documentation, and the insurer confirms that you’ve met the terms and conditions of your policy, the money should be paid to you.
Consider burial options
The type of funeral depends on the cultural beliefs and the personal wishes of the deceased. One of the main choices to make regarding the funeral is normally between burial or cremation. The traditional, full-service funeral may involve a viewing of the body during a formal funeral service, using a hearse to transport the coffin to the cemetery where it is buried, a brief graveside service and a reception after the funeral. It is worth noting that a cremation is somewhat less expensive than a burial.
Contact a reputable funeral home
In most cases you will need the services of a funeral parlour to assist with the funeral planning. They will work closely with you to arrange things like the necessary paperwork, collecting and storing the body, preparing the body, cemetery preparation, burial pamphlets, family transportation, obituary notice and flowers. When appointing a funeral home, be sure to take along a copy of the deceased’s identity document, next of kin’s identity document, Funeral Cover policy, and a photo of the deceased for the obituary and hymn sheet.
Selecting a funerary box
You can either choose a coffin or a casket. The main differences are that coffins are narrow at the head and foot and are wide at the shoulders while caskets are rectangular in shape and are usually made of better quality material. Another option here is that you either can choose a coffin or casket from the funeral home’s display room or approach a retailer that specialises in selling funerary boxes. Coffins and caskets come in different sizes, so you’ll need to know the deceased’s body type and measure them with the dimensions of the funerary box before buying it.
Clothing for the deceased
If you opt not to dress the deceased in burial garments offered by the funeral home, you can buy new clothes or dress them in attire that they owned. Think about what the person might have liked to have been buried in, such as a favourite dress or piece of jewellery, or any outfit that represents a personal passion, hobby, occasion, or achievement. Collect these and take them to the funeral home.
Common flower arrangements at a funeral include a central flower arrangement adorning the lid of the casket, a spray of flowers arranged on a freestanding easel, and bouquets in baskets or vases. Common types of funeral flowers to consider are lilies, roses, carnations, and gladioli but feel free to use flowers that were personal favourites of the deceased. Communicate your choices with the funeral home.
Funeral music and hymns
When the coffin is carried into or out of the venue, it is customary to have a piece of music accompany the proceeding. Music can also be played during the service and usually represents the deceased’s personal favourite songs or songs that they requested. You can also ask musician friends or family to sing at the funeral or hire a professional singer to perform at the service. The funeral home will mention all songs, hymns and singers in the funeral program.
Food will usually be served at the post-funeral reception, usually held at the family’s home. You can either prepare meals yourself or hire a catering company to cook and serve the food. Regardless of which option you choose, you need to ensure that there is enough food for the guests.
The memorial service
A memorial service usually takes place in the days between the death and funeral. The service is less formal than a funeral, with the body not present, during which friends and family gather to celebrate the life of the deceased. It is customary to serve guests with light snacks and drinks during the memorial service.
A eulogy is a tribute to the deceased during which the speaker acknowledges the life of the deceased. The content of the speech revolves around why the deceased was loved and will be missed and is usually delivered at the church service or graveside to provide comfort and closure to loved ones. While close friends or family are best suited to pay the tribute it can also be done by a church minister.
Planning a funeral can be daunting because it can apply extra strain during a time of mourning, but in the end it gives you the opportunity to honour and remember your deceased loved one. No one should have to have any additional amount of stress than what they already have, and having Funeral Cover can provide financial relief, while funeral homes can bring lots of practical experience to the table.
DISCLAIMER: This article is intended as a guide only and should not be construed as financial advice.