All The Decisions You Need To Make When Choosing Burial

When a body is buried in the earth, it is laid in a casket or wrapped in a shroud, placed in a plot in the ground, and covered with earth. When a body is entombed in a mausoleum or crypt, it is laid in a casket, placed in a large niche in the wall, and sealed shut.

When planning a burial, there are a number of decisions that you can make about the products, location, and type of service you'd like to have.

Burial service options

A burial may take place after a funeral service at a funeral home or religious place of worship, after a graveside service at the burial location, before a memorial service, or immediately after death (known as “direct burial”).

Burial locations

Ground burial, mausoleum entombment, and crypt entombment traditionally take place in a cemetery. If you live in a rural area, you may also have the option of being buried on your own property. There are also "green" and natural burial grounds located across the country for eco-friendly burial.

  • Will the burial take place at a cemetery, or at another location?
  • If the burial will take place at a cemetery, does the cemetery need to meet specific requirements (religious cemetery, veterans’ cemetery, green cemetery, etc.)?
  • If the burial will take place at another location, do you have the legal right to do so?
  • Are you planning a ground burial, and will you need to purchase a plot
  • Are you planning an entombment, and will you need to purchase a space in a mausoleum?

Burial products

The products you will need to purchase for the burial depend on both your preferences and where you want the burial to take place. As different cemeteries have different requirements, the type of outer burial container (burial vault or grave liner) or the type of headstone or grave marker you'll need will depend on the burial location.  For the most part, however, you will likely need:

As you consider purchasing these products, you might want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • If you’re planning on purchasing a casket, do you have any personal or religious requirements for the casket style? For example, Jews are traditionally buried in caskets with no metal.
  • If you’re not interested in purchasing an expensive casket but would like a have a the body on display for the funeral, does the funeral home you’re working with offer a rental casket that you could use?
  • If the burial will be taking place in a cemetery, what are the cemetery’s requirements regarding outer burial containers? Does the funeral home offer burial vaults or grave liners that meet both the cemetery’s requirements as well as your own preferences, including affordable pricing?
  • If the burial will be taking place in a cemetery, what are the cemetery’s requirements regarding headstones and grave markers? Does the cemetery only work with specific vendors, or can you purchase a headstone or grave marker from a vendor of your choosing?

To learn more about burial products, see our article Burial Products.

Burial costs

The cost of burial can be quite high, when all costs—including cemetery costs—are taken into consideration. If you’re working on a budget, you may want to have a sense of how much you can afford to spend before you begin purchasing any products.

The cost of burial generally includes:

  • Any products you’ll be purchasing, including a casket, a burial vault or grave liner, and a headstone or grave marker
  • Any services from the funeral home you’ll be purchasing, such as transportation of the body, embalming or other preparations of the body, and the use of funeral home staff and equipment for the service, among other services
  • Cemetery costs, including a plot or a space in a mausoleum, fees for opening and closing the grave, “endowment care” fees, and headstone installation fees, among others

Be aware that a funeral home may not take cemetery costs into account when talking to you about the cost of the arrangements you're making.

Once you've thought about these questions and come to a decision about how you'd like the burial to be, you can begin to learn about the burial products that you'll need to purchase to facilitate the burial.

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