The decision between cremation vs burial is a very personal one, often involving faith, family tradition, and personal beliefs. Cost can also be a consideration because there is a substantial difference between cremation costs and burial costs.
Many people think of cremation as the cheaper option, but the cost of cremation vs burial can be very close depending on the services and products you buy. When you choose cremation, you’re paying not only for the cremation itself but also your choice of urn and (in some cases) a vault or crypt. When you choose burial, you’re paying for the embalming, your choice of casket, and the actual opening and closing of the grave. In both cases, you’re likely paying for the transportation of the deceased as well.
In addition to these costs, you could be responsible for decisions about viewings, whether to have a memorial or funeral service, arranging family transportation, and gathering all of the official paperwork. Each of these comes with additional costs – some small, some very large.
The National Funeral Directors Association’s (NFDA) most recent survey of costs for funerals and cremations estimates the median cost of a funeral with burial to be around $9,420 and the median cost of a funeral with viewing and cremation to be about $6,970. In both cases, however, certain choices will increase the expenses.
Understanding the basics of each service ahead of time can help you make an informed decision now, preventing your loved ones from experiencing unnecessary stress and confusion when you pass. Here’s a breakdown of the process and cost of cremation vs burial, as well as a general idea of how high the prices of certain choices can be.
The choice between cremation vs burial is a deeply personal one. When people work on their prepaid funeral plans and think about what will happen to their body after they pass, they often have many questions about the differences in these processes.
Take a look at the following information to see what this entails.
Cremation laws vary from state to state; however, there are some regulations concerning preparation and transportation that are consistent across the country. Here’s what you need to know before, during, and after the cremation process.
Depending on the state, funeral directors must wait for a time of up to 48 hours between the death and the cremation is performed. Officials use this time to complete the required authorization forms and ensure that the necessary permits are completed and collected.
Before the cremation begins, family members can say goodbye, perform rites of passage, or conduct a funeral service. If a funeral or visitation service occurs, the family can collect any personal possessions or valuable materials – such as jewelry or other personal objects – after the service.
All cremations are performed individually. The staff begins by placing the casket or container in the cremation chamber.
This chamber can reach temperatures between 1,400 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, ensuring all remains are completely processed. The process typically takes 1 - 3 hours, depending on the size and weight of the body.
A cooling period follows the cremation to allow the remains to cool enough so staff can handle them. The remains will weigh between 3-9 pounds and are usually white.
Unless specified otherwise, the urn or container chosen to house the remains is returned to the family or the designated cemetery or funeral home. There are several options when deciding the final resting place of the remains. These include:
Regardless of the service selected, the first step of the burial process is bathing and disinfecting the body. Doing this helps protect the funeral staff, visiting friends, and family, and it provides a measure of dignity and respect for the deceased.
The family or friends in charge of the funeral arrangements determine the next steps. The body can be embalmed for a traditional funeral service or placed in refrigeration if being transported to another state.
If the decedent died while out of town or the family chooses a burial in a different location, arrangements must be made to transport the body to its final resting place. Typically, a funeral provider will make transportation arrangements because of their understanding of the specific requirements for transporting bodies.
If embalming is required or chosen by the family, a licensed embalmer is used to perform the service. In most cases, the funeral director is the licensed embalmer, which makes organizing these arrangements easier.
Embalming occurs when the staff replaces the body’s blood with chemical preservatives through the circulatory system. There is no state law requiring embalming, although some states may require embalming or refrigeration if the burial doesn’t take place within a certain period.
Refrigeration is often an acceptable alternative to embalming. Some services – such as immediate burial – don’t require embalming.
If a viewing is part of the service, the family will need to select clothing and mementos (such as jewelry and glasses) for the decedent. Anything worn by the decedent during the viewing can be returned to the family before the burial takes place (or left with the deceased). Cosmetics are applied, and the hair is styled according to the family’s wishes.
What happens next depends on the type of funeral performed. Traditional funerals typically include transporting the body to a cemetery or other gravesite. In some cases, an official will perform a graveside service.