If you’ve read some of our other articles, you’ll know that we strongly recommend pre-planning.
So with more people choosing cremation, we thought it’s important to cover everything about pre-planning a cremation service.
This guide will take you through all the important things to consider such as the different options, costs, benefits, most common questions, and much more.
Different Types of Cremation Funeral Services
If you do choose cremation for yourself or a loved one, there are still many decisions to be made.
All of these decisions, large and small, will have an impact on end-of-life costs.
Here is a thorough breakdown of your options.
A Traditional Funeral Service
Even if you choose cremation, you do not have to forego a traditional funeral service.
You can arrange to have a funeral before cremation, in a funeral home or a place of worship.
A traditional funeral before cremation allows a viewing, readings and/or a eulogy.
Of course, there are different costs associated with each of these choices.
You can buy a casket that can also hold the remains during the cremation process. Or you can simply rent one and use some other kind of container during cremation.
If you want a viewing, there will be costs associated with embalming.
This is the least expensive cremation option, cutting out the cost of a casket, embalming and a funeral service.
The remains can be cremated within a few days after death. The ashes are then returned directly to the family.
After, you might choose to buy a cremation urn or even a piece of jewelry created for that purpose.
Memorial service after cremation
At a memorial service, the remains are not present.
Loved ones can remember the deceased with stories, readings, songs and/or photograph displays.
The service can take place in a church, a private home, a funeral parlor, at the gravesite or even outdoors at a beach or public park.
This option does allow you to bypass many end-of-life costs while still giving your loved one a meaningful send-off.
Here is a brief breakdown of some of the most significant costs. If you’re looking for a complete breakdown, here is our recently updated cremation costs guide.
Keep in mind that these may vary from one region to the other.
- Crematory services: $800-$3000
- Cremation urn or box: $50-$1000
- Flowers (if you choose to have a funeral): $200-$1000
- Embalming (for a viewing): $100-$800
- Cremation casket: $500-$600
- Rental casket: $400-$600
How to Pre-Plan a Cremation Service
Pre-planning your end-of-life service is simple and cost-effective.
Begin by contacting a local funeral home or crematorium and discuss what they can offer.
Don’t forget to compare prices for the services that you want.
Ask the funeral home to “unbundle” some of their package deals so you can see exactly what you’re getting for the price.
How a Pre-Paid Funeral Works
You can set up a pre-paid funeral directly through a funeral home or purchase a prepaid insurance policy.
The cost of a prepaid funeral can range from $10,000 to $25,000.
You can pay the entire amount up front or set up a payment plan over a period of years.
You also need to plan on some additional administrative and maintenance fees.
The Benefits of a Prepaid Plan
It may seem morbid to some. But the truth is, purchasing a pre-paid funeral just makes sense.
After all, death is one of the few things we can be certain of- and it’s wise to plan for it.
Here are just a few reasons why you should consider a pre-paid plan.
It gives you control
You get to make all the decisions about your funeral arrangements, down to the tiniest detail.
The venue, the music, the flowers, and everything else will be your choice.
This will be a relief to your family, as they won’t be left guessing or possibly arguing about what you would want.
It protects you from inflation
The cost of living keeps going up…and ironically, so does the cost of dying.
There’s no telling how expensive funeral merchandise may be in the future.
But a prepaid plan allows you to lock in today’s prices, saving you and your family from rising costs.
It shields your assets from Medicaid.
Funeral plans are considered to be excludable assets.
So that means purchasing a prepaid plan can make it easier for you to qualify for Medicaid benefits.
Cremation Plans and Packages
There are several different options from which to choose if you want to prepay for cremation services.
You can purchase a no-frills plan (This is Direct Cremation) which gives you just the basics: paperwork, cremation services, transportation and a cardboard container to house the cremains.
This package will run you about $900-$1800
You can knock a little off the price by providing your own container.
At a higher tier, you can purchase a memorial cremation service plan. This includes all the basic services with the addition of an urn and a memorial service in a church or other place of your choosing. Generally, this package costs around $2000+.
Finally, a traditional funeral cremation package can be purchased for upwards of $3000. This includes all the basic services in addition to preparing the body for a viewing and the use of a hearse and a casket.
What to Do With the Ashes
After cremation, you may wonder about the most meaningful way to preserve the ashes.
Nowadays, there are many options to choose from and there’s no one right answer.
It’s a good idea to consider your beliefs, your budget, and what would be most comforting to your loved ones.
If you’re for inspiration, check out our cremation ideas article.
Burying the remains
For the most traditional route, you may consider burial of the remains in a cemetery.
Be sure to check with the cemetery about any regulations they may have.
Burial may require additional expenses, such as the purchase of a vault, burial urn, and a cemetery plot.
One of the benefits of this choice: it gives your loved ones a peaceful spot to visit and to remember you.
Scattering at sea
This is an excellent choice for someone who spent a lot of time enjoying the ocean waves.
The sea gives a wonderful sense of life’s timelessness which can be very comforting.
A scattering ceremony is an intimate occasion for the deceased person’s nearest and dearest.
Be sure to check ahead of time about your state’s regulations for scattering at sea.
Keeping the remains at home
This choice allows family members to feel that their departed loved one is still close by.
They range from traditional ornate vases, to simple boxes, to whimsical creations that reflect a loved one’s unique character.
Remains can even be placed inside a necklace and worn close to the heart.
Keeping ashes in a niche
Most cemeteries now have columbariums. These are similar to mausoleums, except that they are made to house remains in cremation urns.
The urn is placed inside a niche, usually with a bronze plaque on it bearing the name of the deceased.
The price of a columbarium niche can vary greatly depending on your region and the location of the niche.
Common Questions About Cremation
If you are considering cremation as part of a prepaid funeral plan, you are probably curious about it.
Here are the answers to a few common questions.
Is embalming required for cremation?
The answer is no. Embalming is by no means necessary for cremation.
Unless you are planning to have a viewing in which loved ones will see the body before cremation, you can cut out this step entirely.
This can save a sizeable amount from your overall cost.
Is a casket required?
Again, the answer is no.
The only requirement is the use of an “alternative container.” These are generally boxes made of sturdy cardboard or plywood.
If you choose a traditional funeral service before cremation, you may want to rent a casket from the funeral home.
But eliminating the cost of a casket is a huge money-saver.
Should I Choose Burial or Cremation?
Ultimately, there are many factors that go into the deciding between burial or cremation. Here are some of the pros and cons of each.
- Could be considered more natural
- Offers more closure
- May be required by your religion
- Gives the comfort of a place to visit
- No place to visit for family members who move away or live far away
- Less costly
- Relieves overcrowding in cemeteries
- Kinder to the environment
- Provides a portable remembrance that loved ones can keep close to them
- Permanent (unlike burial in which the body can be exhumed if necessary)
- May violate some religious beliefs
What Does the Bible Say About Cremation?
There are no specific chapters or verses in the Bible that address cremation. Historically, the Christian church was opposed to it.
But the real reason that ancient Christians chose burial over cremation was in reaction to Greek and Roman society at the time. These cultures practiced cremation, and Christians believed this was a pagan ritual.
There is no Biblical evidence that cremation interferes with resurrection or will keep you from going to Heaven.
The fact is that the body gets destroyed over time anyway.
Ultimately, the choice is a personal one. But it’s always a good idea to consult with a pastor, priest or minister if you have any doubts.