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Q. Are there specific guidelines that have to be followed for a Baha'i funeral?


A. Yes, although they are quite basic. Everything else is up to you. See The Baha'i Funeral for details.

 Q. What are the main laws I should be aware of?

A. The gist is: no cremation, no enbalming and no viewing the body; the body should be shrouded and a ring with specific words on it placed on the finger; burial must take place within one hour of the place of death; the casket must be of stone (concrete counts), crystal, or "fine hardwood", the obligatory Prayer for the Dead is said before internment. If we have forgotten anything, please let us know.

Q. I'm not sure I have control over all that. What do you suggest?

A. We do our best to follow the laws, of course, but have sometimes discovered that we didn't get it quite right. Isn't that typical of life in this world? Our understanding is that God's mercy exceeds His justice and we trust that doing our best will be enough. Worrying about it is probably not very useful.

Q. Is shrouding really necessary?

A. It's the law but most western Baha'is are probably not aware of it and would have no clue how to go about it. That's one reason for this web site. Most burials take place in a rush and under trying circumstances so much more research and experience may be required before there is a satisfactory answer to this question.


Q. What is the definition of a hardwood, anyway?

A. That's a good question, too. We thought we knew but have concluded we probably don't.  Everybody agrees that oak is a "fine hardwood" but we were surprised to learn that poplar is also classified as a hardwood. This was good news because making a casket out of solid oak would be expensive these days while poplar is much cheaper and sounds to us like a more sustainable  forest product. There are some good discussions online about the definition of hardwood which, it turns out includes some very soft woods.

 Here's a Wikipedia  list of hardwoods and softwoods. 


Q. I'm organizing a home funeral for my mother who is not a Baha'i. Can I borrow some of your prayers?

A. Of course you can.

Q. Does a Baha'i burial or funeral have to be done through a Spiritual Assembly?

A. No,

Q. Will the local Baha'is help me, if I ask?

A. They may but it is their decision, of course.

Q. I went to a Baha'i funeral where a long, rather unusual prayer was read. It was hard on some people to stand for what seemed like quite a long time. What was that about?

A. You are probably referring to the Prayer for the Dead which is obligatory. One person speaks the words while the rest stand. Of course, some people say it slowly and others rather  more quickly. It doesn't need to be said in front of everyone who attends the service -- in fact, one person, or several,  might choose to find a peaceful time and place to say it. As we understand it, this must be done after death and before internment and always in accordance with the directions.

Q. I have some great ideas for my own funeral. How do I make sure they are carried out?

A. Legally, in most jurisdictions, the body belongs to the next of kin and that person can do whatever he or she wants. Putting your instructions in your will doesn't work because the will isn't usually read until after the funeral. Oops. Perhaps your best bet is to get someone you trust to promise to carry out your wishes.

Q. Are Baha'is cremated?

A. No, that's against Baha'i law. Also, most Baha'is aren't embalmed which is an invasive process. It's a matter, as we understand it, of treating the body with respect even though the really important part (the soul) is no longer present.

Q. My local funeral provider said I can't do most of the funeral myself and have to go through him. Is that true?

A. Not in British Columbia, it isn't. We suggest that you discuss the matter with your local government officials before you accept that you have to pay someone to do what you want to do yourself.  We found out that we could do it all, no real problems involved.

That said, there are often rules around who has to be notified,  where you have to bury the body, etc. Some people like the idea of being buried on their own property, for example. That would have to be checked out carefully.

Q. I talked to an official and she said almost everyone gets cremated or buried by a funeral provider.

A. That was our experience, as well. The government people we talked to didn't know much about diy funerals but they were willing to get us the information we needed. It was a fairly grueling process which is why we started our project to help others and why we set up this web site.

Q. I'm not sure I'm up to all this. What if I screw it up?

A. Actually, we screwed up lots of things in the beginning and probably will continue to do so in the future. In fact, most people expressed real appreciation for what we did.  They liked our handmade funerals and potluck receptions better than the pricey ones downtown. 

Q. How much will it cost?

A. Here's a quick breakdown of typical costs:

    - simple hardwood casket made by a local woodworker $ 700 to 1500

   -  cemetery plot, liner, and associated costs well under  $ 1000

   -   suppies for shrouding, the ring, etc. $ 100 to $ 200

   -   food and flowers, anywhere from almost nothing to a few hundred dollars for plates of goodies from Safeway and some nice floral arrangements.

The total varies but in Canada the government pays a death benefit (it has to be applied for) that, so far, has covered the costs. So far, this has covered the costs. Anyway you look at it, the savings are substantial if you diy. A commercial funeral can easily cost $ 5000 to 15,000 or even more. 

Q. How much is the death benefit?

A. It's through Canada Pension and depends on how long the person contributed. In 2011, the maximum is $ 2500. Not a lot, but it helps.

Q. Do you have information about being an executor and the financial aspects of settling a deceased person's estate?

A. Sorry, that's beyond the scope of this web site and what we are trying to do do, here. 

Q. I've had trouble with a funeral service provider in British Columbia. Besides planning a diy funeral, I'd like to talk to someone about standards in the industry. In fact, I'd like to file a complaint. Any ideas where I can do this?

A. Yes, you can contact Consumer Protection B.C., which regulates funeral homes in British Columbia, by phone at: 888-564-9963 or visit their website at: