Funeral fever: New burial trends emerge in the wake of the pandemic

By Diamante Gaokgorwe
1/25/2023 | 4 min read

As seen in FA News

South Africans are splashing out on outlandish and extravagant burials as funeral fever hits – but are we making a grave mistake?

In a country where various cultural expectations dictate that one’s status in life is closely associated with the degree of pomp and circumstance surrounding their death, funerals have always been big business.

South Africa’s funeral industry sees an annual growth of approximately 12% and generates around R10 billion per year, while according to research paperPaying the Piper: The high cost of funerals in South Africa,” households will spend the equivalent of a year’s income on an adult funeral, on average.

But new trends often emerge in response to traumatic events, and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, many were forced to confront their worst fears around losing loved ones. Seemingly as a result, ‘funeral fever’ has taken hold across the globe, and we’re now seeing a wave of outlandish funeral trends – from the quirky to the downright macabre.

Says Diamante Gaokgorwe, Senior Business Analyst at Metropolitan GetUp: “In many South African families and cultures, there has always existed a ‘blueprint’ for how funerals should be conducted. These unwritten rules might include a top-of-the-range casket, hired marquee set-up and chairs, abundant catering and brand new attire for the deceased’s entire family.”

But in recent times, funerals have become even more of an occasion. “Using a funeral as a vehicle to showcase your creativity or demonstrate your social standing is becoming the norm. On top of the existing, unwritten code around what is expected when someone passes away, we’re now seeing families escorted to funerals in luxury vehicles; eccentric and extravagant tombstones; and even the hiring of high-profile choirs and musicians to perform at funeral processions,” she says.

Thinking outside-the-casket
There is a rise in themed funerals, with pop culture and certain events such as Christmas and sports games all serving as inspiration. “We’re also seeing some unusual accessories,” says Gaokgorwe, with one recent Twitter post showing a tombstone designed to look like a house – complete with sliding door, roof and stoep!

It seems that we’re also being more creative when it comes to casket transportation, with unusual modes such as a horse, fire truck and even Harley Davidson replacing the traditional hearse.

“We’ve also seen families bury their loved ones inside high-end cars, such as a BMW or Mercedes-Benz, presumably so the deceased can arrive at the afterlife in style!”

Fashion to die for
There has been a rise in ‘funeral fashion,’ with social media platforms such as Pinterest serving as dress code inspo for friends and family of the departed.  Those deceased can also be rest assured of looking good: one fashion graduate, Jingle Yu, has designed a collection called ‘Die Fabulously, which aims to tackle the idea that “dead people should be silent and unfashionable”.

The best way to honour a loved one?
While one should be entitled to pay tribute to the deceased in the manner they see fit, Gaokgorwe questions whether an exorbitant event is the best way to honour a loved one. “South Africans face a great deal of financial strain, and the pressure of a lavish affair only adds to this burden.

“There are other, creative and meaningful ways of honouring the deceased. For example, if they were passionate about a specific charitable cause, one can donate a portion of the money that would have been spent on the funeral towards that charity, or even get their friends and family involved in volunteering.

“Perhaps the person that passed away had a legacy in mind – in this case, some of this money could be invested in their child’s education. If they were supporters of a local sports team, you could reach out to their team and ask them to have a moment of silence at one of their matches for their deceased fan,” she suggests.

Gaokgorwe advises that when planning for your own funeral, consider your financial responsibilities beyond the event itself. “While loved ones will want the opportunity to say goodbye, they still need to survive financially after you’re gone.

“When planning for your funeral, it is important that you give detailed and precise instructions, and where the money should go. This ensures that your wishes are clear and not subject to the interpretation of those left behind, and you can rest in peace knowing that your loved ones will not be faced with a heavy financial burden.”

By Diamante GaokgorweTags:
  • funeral cover
  • Funeral plan
  • funerals
  • trends


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