Funeral Etiquette in South Africa

Funeral etiquette is no different to any other form of traditional etiquette. Because it involves dealing with death, it’s just a little more complicated for most people

What is Etiquette? Etiquette amounts to a traditional or accepted way that we behave in public.

Mostly it relates to social behaviour, and usually to an accepted code of conduct for either professional practice or ceremonies or other formal occasions.

These would include anything from weddings to funerals and even state occasions.

What is Funeral Etiquette?

Mainly funeral etiquette encompasses the way you should dress and behave when you attend a funeral. At least in Western civilisations, people tend to dress conservatively, though not necessarily in black.

If one holds the funeral in a church, the first couple of rows of seats are – as for weddings – usually intended for the family of whoever has died. But funeral etiquette doesn’t intentionally isolate the family, so if there are spare seats, there’s nothing to stop close friends from joining them at the front.

After the funeral service family members greet those who have attended the service. However, this doesn’t mean they have to spend time talking awkwardly to everybody present. It is often, if not usually acceptable to simply say hello or even just shake hands or accept a hug of condolences.

Funeral etiquette is Also important When it comes to Organising funerals

Cultural and religious customs also come into play. After the funeral, funeral etiquette demands that one thanks people formally. A representative of the family will usually write a short thank you note to the Funeral Etiquette minister, priest or another funeral officiant.

Anyone who delivered a reading or spoke at the funeral, either during the service or afterwards at the wake including Pallbearers should also be thanked along with those who contributed flowers or perhaps donations to a given charity.

Funeral Etiquette and Religious Customs

There are so many different religions in the world it can be difficult to pinpoint what the different customs and funeral etiquette require.

Personal choice may also affect funeral etiquette. For example, people choose between cremation and burial. Custom often also dictates how soon after death burial or cremation follows.

Buddhists, for example, prefer cremation while Mormons prefer to bury their dead. Hindus go for cremation within 24 hours of death. Muslims bury their dead as soon as possible after death.

A List of What to Do and What Not to Do

Hollard, one of the companies offering funeral insurance products in South Africa, has compiled a light-hearted list of dos and don’ts for people attending funerals.

  1. Don’t take selfies of yourself with the coffin.
  2. Don’t tweet #FuneralVibes at funerals – it is bad funeral etiquette.
  3. Make sure you dress in an appropriate way.
  4. Switch your cell phone off during the funeral service.
  5. Never flirt with people at the night vigil (if there is one) even if it’s in candlelight.
  6. Tears are okay but not when you’re drunk, especially if you are a relative.
  7. Don’t sing when other people at the funeral aren’t singing.
  8. People do enjoy good stories but talk about your fond memories of the individual who has died.
  9. Never gossip at funerals.
  10. Try not to cry louder than anyone else.

To get a complimentary funeral cover quote, please complete and send the form on this page



All info was correct at time of publishing