Burial Options Guide: Which Is Best For You?
There was a time when we didn’t need to think too much about burial.
We had a traditional service, bought an underground cemetery plot, and built a simple headstone.
But today, with so many options available, it’s not so simple.
Do you want something traditional? Maybe a natural burial that is more environmentally friendly?
In this guide, I will go through all your options when it comes to burial.
I will also give you some alternatives to burial, if you’re interested.
Types of Burials
Traditional Below Ground Burial
Traditional burial means putting the body underground in a casket. The grave is marked by some kind of stone or monument.
Most traditional burials are preceded by a graveside memorial service or funeral.
Typical burial process
The body is displayed in a casket, which is used for the burial too.
The gravesite is first prepared by opening the ground to receive the body. The grave is then back-filled (closed) and landscaped to restore its appearance.
The casket is enclosed within a vault which forms a concrete protective lining for the remains after burial.
Who it’s suited for
Below-ground burial is a deeply rooted tradition in some families. It allows you to connect with these roots and even to be buried alongside your beloved family members.
Having a set location with a grave marker to visit can be comforting. Such a memorial can last for many generations, making it easy for people to visit and remember you for many years.
If you love tradition and want to share your final resting place with parents, spouse or siblings, this is the perfect option for you.
There are several disadvantages to this type of burial.
For one thing, it’s very expensive.
A traditional burial entails the purchase of a casket, opening and closing the grave, burial clothes, a plot, and a grave marker. All of these costs can really add up.
Besides that, as society becomes increasingly mobile, there’s a good chance of family members moving and being unable to visit.
In addition, soil burial may be difficult or impossible in the winter, for some parts of the world.
Options to consider
There are a few choices to consider if you want to opt for below ground burial.
One of these is embalming. This may be required if the body is crossing state lines, but in most cases, it is perfectly legal to bury remains without embalming. In fact, this is much better for the environment.
Another important choice is what you want to use for a casket. Generally, most cemeteries require some kind of container for the body.
Above Ground Burial In a Community Mausoleum
If the idea of soil burial doesn’t appeal to you, a community mausoleum may be a great alternative.
Here’s everything you need to know
A public/community mausoleum is an above ground structure built to hold the remains of multiple people.
Secure, clean and dry, a mausoleum protects the casket and the body from ever coming in contact with the soil or with bad weather.
Some community mausoleums are popular tourist attractions. These include the Egyptian Pyramids, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Westminster Abbey.
How it works
After choosing a location, a crypt plate is then installed on the mausoleum. This is a flat memorial bearing personal information about the deceased person.
Next, you must decide on the level of the crypt. Most families opt for eye-level.
Then you will need to specify whether the crypt is for one person or multiple people.
As with underground burial, a casket is required, as well as a fee for opening and closing.
However, a burial vault and a headstone are not necessary with this type of burial.
Who is it suited for
The best thing about an above ground mausoleum is that loved ones can comfortably visit in any kind of weather.
Like soil burial, there is a set location to pay one’s respects.
Besides that, burial in a mausoleum conveys a certain amount of prestige which may be appealing to some.
The cost of burial in a public mausoleum is very similar to those associated with ground burial: starting at about $4000.
The price varies from state to state, so it’s smart to do your research.
You can find out more exact costs by contacting individual cemeteries.
Above Ground Burial In a Private Mausoleum
Do you want a mausoleum with maximum privacy and prestige?
If so, a private mausoleum may be the answer.
In some cases, a mausoleum may be privately built at an individual’s request.
Typically, these are designed to hold the remains of multiple members of the same family.
Highly personal, such mausoleums are built to give each family a comfortable, secure place to visit deceased loved ones.
They are often constructed with elements of granite, bronze and even stained glass.
How it works
The crypt is opened and closed to allow the placement of a casket containing the remains.
Vaults and memorials are not required for this process.
Who is it suited for
This option is suited for affluent and traditional people who value their privacy.
This type of burial carries all the same benefits as a community mausoleum. It is clean, dry and secure.
You also have total privacy and the freedom to decorate the space any way you want.
It gives you a warm, dry space to visit in bad weather while at the same time conveying a sense of family prestige.
Family mausoleums can be designed with all kinds of special features such as colored stones, multiple chambers/crypts, shelving, sconces, and/or a seating area.
Some private mausoleums even have couches to sit on and music in the background for optimum comfort during visits.
A variety of factors can affect the cost of a private mausoleum.
Size, features and location all have an impact on the price.
It also depends on the cemetery that you choose, as they all have different prices.
Generally, you can expect to pay thousands of dollars to entomb someone you love in a private mausoleum.
Above Ground Lawn Crypts
If you want to combine some of the benefits of burial with those of a mausoleum, a lawn crypt is a great choice.
A lawn crypt is a special burial vault which protects the casket from the elements.
Made of concrete and steel, the vault is installed underground. It’s kind of like a buried mausoleum.
Some cemeteries use lawn crypts throughout instead of less durable options like grave liners.
Who is it suited for
A lawn crypt burial is ideal if you like the idea of being buried in a cemetery but want your remains to rest in a dry, secure space.
It’s also a great choice if you wish to be memorialized alongside a spouse, partner or other family member.
As with traditional burial, your family has the comforting permanence of a grave marker they can visit.
How it works
A lawn crypt is typically installed with a drainage system and solid, shared walls.
Because it is usually installed with other large sections, it’s protected from natural disasters like floods.
Unlike traditional graves, a lawn crypt can be accessed even in the winter.
There is a wide range of possible prices for burial in a lawn crypt. This is because of various design options and different state requirements.
The average cost of a lawn crypt is around $1600. However in some cases the price may be as much as $6000 for a single crypt and $10,000 for a double.
This is a non-traditional burial option which is becoming increasingly popular lately.
There are many reasons to choose a natural burial. Most notably, it’s kinder to the environment.
In a natural burial, there is no embalming or burial vault.
Only biodegradable caskets and shrouds are used. Sometimes, the body is placed directly into the earth to decompose.
Graves are dug by hand instead of with machinery.
All of this makes natural burial much better for the environment than are traditional burials.
Who is it suited for
People choose natural burial for a variety of reasons.
Often, they are motivated by concern for the earth and the environment.
Or they may simply want to break out of old traditions and do something different.
How it works
If you’re interested in natural burial, you will first need to decide what kind of burial ground you want.
Some cemeteries have areas set aside for natural burial. Other possibilities are a certified green burial cemetery or a recomposition facility.
Next, you may want to purchase a biodegradable casket or a shroud.
Then plan a ceremony. This can be something formal that includes an officiant, or something much more casual.
Finally, the remains are laid to rest in a hand-dug grave. In a green burial, they are typically interred nearer the surface, about 3-4 feet deep to allow for quicker decomposition.
The cost of a natural burial is roughly the same (in most cases) as that of a traditional burial.
Digging a grave by hand is more expensive than using machinery; however, the fact that you can eliminate the cost of embalming and of a burial vault offsets this additional cost.
Depending on where you live, the average cost of a green burial is between $5000-$6000.
Because of rising costs and scarcity of land, cremation has become a very popular choice over burial.
However, there are many options for keeping or disposing of cremated remains. Burial is one of them.
How it works
After cremation, the remains can be placed in an urn and then buried in a traditional grave site.
They can also be placed in a columbarium or a mausoleum.
Burial at sea, through the use of a biodegradable urn, is another way to memorialize a loved one after cremation.
Who is it suited for
Cremation is by far the most affordable end-of-life option out there. So if you’re budget-conscious, it’s definitely the way to go.
In addition, cremation means that your remains are above ground and can be close to your loved ones wherever they go.
This option also appeals to those who appreciate a non-traditional location to visit, such as a scattering garden, instead of a cemetery.
A direct cremation (simply cremation with no funeral or memorial service) is the least expensive post-death option.
After the cremation, you may choose to display the remains in an urn in your home.
You can also bury them or scatter them.
Scattering can take place on the ocean, in a public park, in a scattering garden or even at your own home.
The national average for a direct cremation is $650. The cost of purchasing a burial plot, along with fees for opening and closing the grave, usually come to around $2500.
A cremation urn typically costs about $273.
These costs differ from state to state. It’s worth checking with local crematoriums and funeral homes to get an accurate idea of price.
Burial Vs. Cremation
The choice to bury a loved one’s body or cremate it is highly personal.
Many factors will influence this choice including budget and religious beliefs.
A burial has the advantage of providing a place where friends and family members may visit. It can be immensely comforting to remember your loved one in the presence of a permanent grave marker in a cemetery.
Some people feel that burial is a more natural option than cremation, as it allows the body to become part of the earth. In addition, there are some religions that require burial instead of cremation.
However, burial is also very expensive and it is difficult for loved ones to visit if they live far away.
On the flip side, cremation still allows you all the end-of-life rituals of a funeral or memorial service at a significantly lower price. It can also be accomplished much more quickly than a burial.
But cremation does violate certain religious beliefs. It’s also a decision that cannot be reversed, unlike burial, in which the body can be exhumed at a later date.
Can a Body Be Buried Without Embalming?
The answer is yes. Although it depends on what state you live in, embalming is rarely a requirement..
Can a Body Be Buried With No Casket?
Most states do require bodies to be buried in some kind of container. This could be a coffin, vault or anything else that meets state requirements.
Can You Bury On Private Property?
Individual states have their own regulations about burial on private land. For that reason, some research will be necessary.
Even if burial on private property is allowed, there may be certain requirements, such as prior notification of the burial, as well as assurances that you will follow all state laws.
How Long Do You Own a Cemetery Plot?
The short answer is: forever. Once you buy a cemetery plot, the ownership never expires.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind. True ownership of the land belongs to the cemetery; you have simply purchased the right to use a plot there.
In some cases, cemetery land can be reclaimed by the United States if there is no activity or maintenance there over an extended period of time.
The cemetery you choose will explain its policies and regulations about ownership in more detail, as each cemetery is different.
Alternatives To Burial
After all this, you may think that burial is not really your scene. But what to do instead?
Not to worry. Because it’s the 21st century, creativity reigns and nothing is off the table.
Here are a few ideas.
The body is taken to a funeral home or a crematorium shortly after death. It is then placed inside a cremation chamber and subjected to temperatures high enough to vaporize muscles and tissue and to incinerate bones.
The ashes are then collected by the family who may choose to scatter them, bury them, or display them in an urn.
Also known as resomation or bio cremation, this process involves placing the body in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide and subjecting it to high heat.
This process completely dissolves tissue and muscle mass, leaving only bones.
How about living on forever…as a beautiful tree?
Your cremated remains can be placed within a cremation pod and buried. As a tree grows, its roots connect with your ashes. It’s a wonderful way to continue the cycle of death and rebirth.
Another way to live on forever? Transform cremation ash into a stunning diamond necklace, ring or bracelet.
Scientists have learned how to create diamonds from cremation ash by isolating the carbon and recreating the heat and pressure that causes natural diamonds to grow.
There are a number of skilled artisans throughout the U.S. who can make cremation ash into gorgeous glass art.
They create blown glass with swirls of vivid color and fine dust-like ash within it. The result is beautiful enough to display on a desk, mantle or patio forever.