Whether you need to arrange a funeral for a spouse who grew up in a different country or for a friend who had a cultural background different from yours, it can be hard to know what steps to take. In most cases, you will have talked this through with your loved one before they departed, but you may find yourself planning a funeral without any clear idea of their wishes.
One of the best things you can do when planning a funeral for someone from a different culture is to speak to a funeral director who has experience with that culture. They should be able to answer all your questions and help you plan an appropriate service. Beyond this, there are several key considerations you should take into account.
Here are four of the most important.
1. How Should Remains Be Handled?
Bodies are either cremated or buried, and different cultures may have different views on which option is preferred and how the remains should be treated. For example, Sikh and Hindu customs usually favour cremation and recommend that ashes should be scattered in a river. In contrast, cremation is viewed as sacrilegious for Muslims. Such customs can be important to consider even if your departed loved one didn't practice or simply didn't talk about their beliefs, especially when family members who may be more observant are attending the funeral.
2. What Customs Should Be Followed?
Choosing how a body is disposed of isn't the only custom you'll need to consider. Others might be less important, but they'll still be a major part of another culture's mourning process. One example would be the fake joss paper money often burned during Chinese funerals. Such practices may be totally unknown to you, so it's wise to check in good time.
3. What Kind of Religious Leader Is Appropriate?
If you know your departed loved one was not religious, they may not have wanted a religious leader at their funeral. However, religious leaders form central parts of funeral proceedings in most cultures, so it's worth taking the time to find out if any religious aspects should be included in your loved one's funeral service.
4. What Kind of Clothing Should Be Worn?
One factor many people fail to consider is clothing. For most Western cultures, black clothing is considered appropriate for funerals, so you may follow this dress code without considering that other cultures do things differently. However, this is often the case. In some Asian cultures, white rather than black is the traditional colour for funerals, so it's worth taking other cultural norms into account.
Talk with a funeral director who has experience with different funeral rites and cultures, like Asian funerals, to learn more.