New Zealand is a melting pot of religious beliefs and rituals from birth through to death. When someone dies, it is often religious rituals and beliefs which stipulate what happens to the body, how people act and what happens at a funeral service. Taking the time to understand and learn about these rituals before attending the funeral is appreciated by the grieving family.

Funeral rituals of 6 different religions within New Zealand

Understanding common religious funeral rituals ensures that you are able to respond at a funeral appropriately. Here are the funeral rituals which occur at 11 different religious services:


Once a death has occurred, the ceremony of tuku takes place. This helps free the spirit from the body, and the body will be washed, dresses and never left alone. Often it is taken to the marae where people are encouraged to visit to say goodbye. Storytelling, singing and speeches happen before the funeral, and a meal is shared. You can learn more by reading our article Maori Funeral Rituals


After death, the priest or minister will visit the family to arrange the service. A ceremony is held at the deceased’s church which involves prayers, hymns and readings. The casket is present but is often closed. After the burial, food is normally provided to mourners.


A simple service is held, usually at a crematorium. The casket is surrounded by objects the deceased liked in life, monks chant scriptures and bells are rung.


A white coffin is used, and mourners are usually very expressive and vocal. Their clothing is torn in grief. The burial occurs as soon as possible and earth is thrown into the casket.


A procession to the crematorium occurs with the deceased, prayers are said at the entrance and scriptures are read. Hindus believe that cremation releases the spirit from the body.


A funeral occurs within 24 hours, with the service held at the graveside. Prayers and readings from the Koran are done, and women are not allowed to be present. The deceased has their face pointing to Mecca.

If you are attending the funeral service of someone which practices a religion you are not sure about, please ask for clarification from the deceased’s family for guidance.