How Much Does A Funeral Cost?

Few South Africans are truly prepared for death, or the passing of a loved one. With no plans in place, funeral costs could skyrocket. So, how much does the average funeral cost?
Jason Snyman
2018-08-15

Death and dying are viewed through a kaleidoscope of lenses. It doesn’t just happen to you, it also happens to those who you leave behind. It’s emotional, spiritual and physical. It brings pain, grief, confusion and panic – and sometimes even relief, or peace, or the sense that we’re all connected to something greater. No matter the circumstances which surround our death, one factor remains constant in this modern age.

It’s expensive to die.

Preparation for the end, having that time to put those steps in place, is a luxury many people never had access to. Because, as we all know, the worst could happen at any time.

The opportunity to ease that financial burden, with regards to the funeral service, burial / cremation and the settlement of outstanding debt, should certainly not be taken for granted.

Of course, in South Africa there is no real legal requirement to have a funeral at all. Customarily, however, a ceremony should still be held to honour the life which has passed. How much money all of this will end up costing you depends upon a variety of factors, such as the person’s religion, beliefs or final wishes.
 

Religion, culture and beliefs play a large role. These will dictate matters such as the method of laying that person to rest, the timeframe in which it needs to take place, the location, whether or not they were an organ donor and so on and so forth. Understandably, this can all become quite overwhelming.

Planning a funeral comes with a long checklist. Luckily, a funeral home will be able to assist you and recommend a variety of options.

Because affordability plays such a big role in the way we say goodbye to our loved ones, we decided to take a look at the average cost of a funeral these days, should you not have any estate, plans or policies in place.
 

Things To Take Into Account

A memorial service makes up a large percentage of the expenses. You may need to arrange a sermon, flowers, catering, literature, venue costs, seating, etc. If you’re looking at something like that, you’ll also need to get a rough estimate of the amount of people which will be attending. Perhaps the departed had some unordinary wishes as to how they would like to be laid to rest in accordance with their Will, or otherwise. Examples of these could include being buried inside their prized car, or shot out of a cannon and into the ocean.

In the end, these all depend on you, the family, and what you are able to afford. All of this is over and above the cost of the actual burial or cremation.

The cost of a grave (burial) is commonly more expensive than cremation, and that’s largely due to the cost of the ceremony and the purchase of the tombstone and coffin.

With a cremation, you will be given the option of an arranged viewing, beforehand, and you’ll also be notified of the date of the cremation itself. The crematorium could also arrange a service, which the funeral home will arrange.

So, taking all of that into account, let’s take a look at how much it commonly costs.
 

Funeral Home Fees

Regardless of whether you opt for burial or cremation, there are commonly a number of fees which you’ll need to pay. One of these is the funeral home or the undertaker, which will charge for arranging the funeral, storage and preparation of the body and the processing of all death-related documents, such as the death certificate.

These fees start anywhere from R5000. Some undertakers include the rental of the hearse, to transport the body in a dignified manner, but others add this service as an additional charge. If the body is being transported over the border – costs could skyrocket to well over R10 000, depending on the destination. Then, of course, you have the transport of the attendees to think about.Cremation also costs a little bit more in this regard, because you’ll need to obtain a cremation form from a doctor. This form is to confirm that a doctor has assessed the body and determined no reason for which the body can’t be cremated, and it costs around R600. 

Cremation Costs

The average cost of a cremation in South Africa, can be anything from R7000 to R15 000. With a variety of options, including a private cremation or a chapel cremation, these prices could fluctuate. Nevertheless, you’ll still need a coffin.

You could opt for a memorial service, before or after the cremation, with or without the ashes present. And then, of course, there’s the urn to think about.
 

Burial Costs

The casket (coffin) is one of the more costly layouts. The simplest of caskets, which is little more than a cardboard box, could cost up to R800. Average coffins, however, could cost up to ten times that amount – coming in at around the R8000 mark. Of course, top-of-the-range caskets cost far more, ranging anywhere between R35 000 and R50 000 or more.

Then, you’ll also have to purchase a grave. Depending on where, or the municipality, this could cost anywhere between R1000 to R6000. The latter is presumably in the shade.

Next, we have the tombstones. Anybody who has ever been to a cemetery will know that there are large, beautiful memorials and then there are the more common tombstones. These headstones, ranging from modest to lavish, can cost anywhere between R1000 and R20 000.
 

Odds And Ends

If you’re looking at putting a bit of a service together for the funeral, you’ll need a venue – commonly a church. The venue could cost anything from R500 to over R10 000, depending on what you’re going for. Even a great big tent could cost around R5000.

Then, you may need to feed people, and catering costs can really get out of hand. If it’s in your culture to hold a ceremony involving sacrificial livestock, this also adds a couple of thousand to the bill. A full cow can cost up to R15 000.

Other costs may include hiring somebody to play music, or operate the slide show and sound system, or placing a funeral notice in the local newspaper, or decorating the venue. Candles, balloons or flowers are very popular. They add colour and fragrance to an otherwise mournful experience. Depending on how big you’re going, this could cost hundreds or thousands.
 

In Conclusion

Though quite a difficult topic of conversation to have with a loved one, many people opt for open communication and choose to discuss their wishes long before they die. Of course, it’s always better to put these into writing and develop a sort of after-death guide, if you will.

It seems almost inappropriate, to discuss the matter of money when getting ready to bid our loved ones farewell. We want the best for them, and ourselves, and we want to meet the expectations they may have had in life. To fulfil their wishes.

And it’s understandable that we would want to go with our first instinct and spare no expense.

But, bearing in mind that the average, low budget funeral could easily cost over R20 000, it’s important to remain rational and stay within your budget. In fact, the average cost of a funeral just two years ago was estimated to be between R30 000 and R40 000. Since then, we’ve seen numerous price hikes in fuel, VAT and electricity – all of which contribute to higher prices for pretty much everything.

All of these factors could easily overwhelm a family looking to get through this trying ordeal, and this, in a nutshell, is why life insurance policies and funeral plans are so popular and so necessary today.