5 Essential Differences between a Burial and a Cremation Service

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Whether you are preparing for your own final arrangements or you are responsible for organizing someone else’s, you have probably already discovered that there is more that goes into a respectful memorial than you expected. After all the details are finalized (the casket, the flowers, the burial plot, and more), an average American burial costs between $7,000 and $10,000. Alternatively, a cremation offers less strain on bank accounts, costing between $2,000 and $4,000.

It makes sense that many families are choosing to honor their loved ones’ lives through cremation services, but how do you distinguish a cremation from a burial during a funeral? Read on to find out.

  1. Flexibility of Options
    Traditional funerals (involving a burial) usually have a strict series of events that the bereaved follow, and most funeral directors are not particularly flexible when it comes to altering the schedule or augmenting the service. Although funerals can take place at a number of venues (such as a funeral home, a place of worship or a cemetery), many funerals are not especially dissimilar from one another.

    Of course, there are a number of benefits to such a regimented event. For one, the bereaved need not expend extra time or energy organizing a unique event, which can be agonizing during times of grief. This streamlined process cuts back on costs associated with customization. Funerals are traditional and sacrosanct, and few people regret them.

    In contrast, cremation services are almost entirely do-it-yourself. Individuals can reserve their final wishes with trustworthy cremation providers so loved ones have guidelines regarding respectful rituals.

    Furthermore, loved ones can craft ceremonies that feel comforting and considerate of their needs in mourning. A cremation service can look exactly like a traditional funeral, or it can look more like a party in one’s home. The opportunities for cremation are nearly endless and provide personalized celebration of the deceased’s life.

  2. Time Frame for Service
    Burials happen fast; even waiting two or three weeks to inter a casket is pushing the boundaries of appropriate funeral behavior. Some cultural and religious traditions require that the deceased is committed in his/her final resting place within a day of his/her passing, and most others expect not more than a week to go by before a proper burial takes place. The funeral ceremony must occur before the deceased is laid to rest, which means loved ones have precious little time to plan and prepare for their final goodbyes.

    Cremation services, on the other hand, can occur before or any time after the immolation to better suit loved ones’ busy schedules. Since family and friends tend to spread far and wide, many are forced to forgo funerals due to difficulties associated with work and travel. A flexible timeline for cremation services allows all loved ones to attend and show their respect for the deceased.

  3. Methods of Resting
    A traditional funeral always ends the same way: interment. Whether funeral attendees watch or not, the deceased will be committed to a final resting place underground.

    However, cremation services can incorporate one of any number of ways to lay the deceased’s ashes to rest. Unlike burials, cremations allow loved ones to hold onto their deceased while they conceive of the most reverential way to deposit their cremains. Here are a handful of the most popular methods:

  • Burial: Cremains can be placed in the ground easier than full caskets, and burial allows loved ones to visit a place to remember the deceased.
  • Columbarium: Like a shared mausoleum, a columbarium is a building filled with niches where cremation urns can be safely stored. There are also outside columbaria more commonly called urn gardens.
  • Scattering: Spreading the ashes into the world is a way many bereaved loved ones find closure.
  1. Methods of Memorialization
    Cemeteries are becoming stricter regarding the memorialization of those interred. The giant, elaborate gravestone monuments in the oldest and most prestigious cemeteries are no longer allowed to commemorate the modern deceased. Instead, simple, in-ground headstones are the only appropriate memorial markers permitted in most graveyards.

    Fortunately, cremation allows for a wide array of methods of memorialization. Urns to hold cremains come in all shapes and sizes, and a loved one’s ashes can be held in a decorative vessel that perfectly matches his or her personality. A memorial bench in favorite place is a popular request, and loved ones can even commission jewelry to carry their beloved deceased fashionably and comfortably wherever they go.

  2. Ways to Grieve
    Graves in cemeteries offer bereaved loved ones a place to visit their deceased during times of mourning. Many people falsely assume that cremation prevents this outlet for grief and remembrance. However, cremated loved ones can be grieved and remembered wherever their cremains lie—or wherever loved ones feel the deceased’s spirit strongest. Cremation does not prevent or obscure grief; instead, it allows survivors to experience their mourning in more personal ways.

Cher Zavala has worked in various industries and written many helpful articles that have been featured on a number of high quality sites. She enjoys sharing her experiences and knowledge with the blogging community.

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6 Comments

My mother suffered from dementia and has recently passed this was and is very hard on our family. As we were helping my father make funeral arrangements we all had sticker shock at the cost. Our first questions was how can people possibly pay for funerals. the answer was alot of people pre-plan/pay, those that don't have to pay in full before the service can be performed. We are a very close family and we knew what our mother would have wanted which made the decisions easier. but I will tell you there were alot of decisions to make, and when your grieving over a loved one some of those decisions can be very costly. The experience prompted my father to make arrangements regarding his own. and to start his own pre-planned funeral arrangements. This also means he can start making monthly payments now. Otherwise the funeral home will expect the full payment before your loved can be buried. I strongly encourage looking into all of that now and discussing your wishes with your family. Unfortunetly this is one of those subjects no one likes to discuss, but not having a plan can cost you big money. You should also ask about plots, they will convince you to buy two plots but you can bury up to three per plot, this cuts down on the cost as well. Also keep in mind if you are a veteran or spouse of a veteran you can be buried in a VA cemetary at no cost for the funeral, the only cost is the casket, flowers. There are alot of questions to ask and why it is important to talk about this now and not when emotions can judge your decisions.
Most folks don't know that embalming is not required for a burial. It IS for a viewing or what folks refer to as a wake. I have written pre-need contracts where a ground burial is the same price as a cremation/visitation/memorial service. We find cremations do not always give closure. It's recent popularity has proven to inflate pricing dramatically. (I had nine years in the business, Community Services Director and Family Services Counselor for two of the largest providers in the industry.) #4 above is not true. They are comparing a general garden to a private estate. #5 is too vague. Modern memorial parks have cremation gardens and ossuaries (burial for modest means) for cremains, complete with name plates, etc. It's when a loved one has what's called a Direct Cremation, and people bring the urn home that there can be complications in the future: granddaughters with five to seven urns they lug around when moving, etc. It can be a burden. Something to think about.

I just buried my husband 5 weeks ago after a long illness. He was a veteran and we had already decided because of cost we both wanted to be cremated. Even with that there was a bill of over $3000.00. He was buried in a National Veteran'S Cemetery in a niche in the Columbarium. The VA supplied the plot, the headstone, the entire service including a Gun salute, minister , flowers and a memorial flag. We paid for the cremation, transport from the house to the funeral home as he passed away at home, and transport of the urn to the cemetery for the service, as well as the urn, small vials for his ashes as our children wanted some of those, and certified death certificates. We can apply to the VA for reimbursement of some of the funeral costs. I must say that when I opened the check book, the funeral director asked if we had insurance. When I said yes, he said not to worry about money until the insurance paid. How people who have no insurance could ever afford a funeral, but the cost of the creamtion is definitely less expensive.There was a book of caskets and urns and some of the caskets were sevseral thousand dollars!!!