If the person who died will be buried in a cemetery, the first thing to figure out is where. Many people purchase cemetery plots while they’re alive, in which case the cemetery has already been chosen. If the person who died did not purchase or choose a cemetery plot, consider where he or she would have liked to have been buried. While many people want to be buried in the place they lived, others prefer to be buried in the place they grew up, or in the place they were born. Also, consider proximity to immediate family members, who will likely be visiting the cemetery most often.
Types of cemeteries
There are four main types of cemeteries:
Public cemeteries are the most common type of cemetery. They are for-profit cemeteries and are owned either independently or corporately. Public cemeteries can be found through local funeral homes, talking to friends or family members, or searching online. If you'd like the burial to take place in a public cemetery, you'll likely have a number of cemeteries to choose from. Factors such as location, cemetery rules, cost, and aesthetics can help you narrow down your options.
To find a public cemetery, use our resource Guide: Finding a Cemetery.
Religious cemeteries are non-profit cemeteries owned by a religious organization. If you'd like the burial to take place in a religious cemetery, the best place to start is usually with your local church, synagogue, or mosque. The leaders there will probably have a number of local cemeteries that they can recommend, and may be able to help you coordinate with a cemetery or may be able to sell you space in that cemetery.
District or municipal cemeteries
District or municipal cemeteries are non-profit cemeteries owned by the city or county. Municipal cemeteries exist in many American cities, however, depending on the size of the municipality, the cemetery may be full, sold out, or dedicated to the burial of residents who die destitute. To find a municipal cemetery in your area, contact your local town clerk or city hall.
National or veterans’ cemeteries
National or veterans cemeteries are government-run cemeteries for the burial of veterans and their families. If you'd like the burial to take place in a VA cemetery, inform the funeral home you’re working with and they can make those arrangements. Burial in a veterans’ cemetery includes a plot, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a headstone, and military honors at no charge. Military honors include folding and presenting the U.S. flag, the playing of Taps, and the attendance of two uniformed military personnel.
Green cemeteries and home burial
Cemetery rules and requirements
Keep in mind if there are any other considerations that are important to you, such as religious requirements that the cemetery may or may not be able to meet, the types and sizes of headstones or grave markers that the cemetery allows, or the types of personal memorials or decorations that may be placed on graves.
When choosing a cemetery, be sure to ask for a full price list of all immediate and future charges. The FTC’s Funeral Rule does not apply to cemeteries, which means that cemeteries are not legally required to provide you with an itemized price list. However, you should feel free to ask for such a price list. The transparency offered by a cemetery can be a good indicator of the ethics and professionalism of the company.
To learn about the types of plots that are available at most cemeteries, see our article Types of Plots.
To learn about the types of mausoleum crypts that are available at most cemeteries, see our article Types of Mausoleum Crypts.