In an ideal world, everyone will have the chance to pick out where they want their final resting place to be and what it will look like. Except it’s not an ideal world, and oftentimes it’s a loved one that’s responsible for making these decisions during an emotionally-charged time.
If you’re currently in this predicament, you’ll need to think about location, cemetery types, rules and regulations and plot details.
Finding the Right Cemetery Location
The first question when thinking about location should be where you think the deceased would like to be buried. It might be where they currently live, where they grew up, where they were born or somewhere they liked to spend time.
After you consider that, you’ll also want to think about proximity to you and other family members. Finally, you’ll need to think about the type of cemetery, the plot requirements and budget.
Types of Cemeteries
There are actually a number of different cemeteries to consider:
Public Cemeteries – These are for-profit cemeteries owned by an individual or corporation. These are the most common types of cemeteries you’ll find. Since they are for-profit businesses, it’s very easy to look up reviews on others’ experiences with the property. You can easily compare these cemeteries based on cost, location and landscape.
Religious Cemeteries – These are non-profit cemeteries owned by churches, synagogues or mosques. These cemeteries tend to be much smaller. You may be required to be a member of the organization in order to have burial privileges.
District or Municipal Cemeteries – These are non-profit cemeteries owned by the local government, usually a city or county. Space tends to fill up faster here as this is often where people who cannot afford burial services are laid to rest.
National or Veterans’ Cemeteries – These non-profit cemeteries are usually reserved for military personnel, their spouses and sometimes other immediate family members. Prices will be all-inclusive (plot, open and closing of the grave, stone and maintenance) and military honors are given. Military honors include the folding and presenting of the American flag, playing “Taps” and the presence of two military personnel at the burial.
Green Cemeteries – These eco-friendly cemeteries are becoming more popular. They’re also cheaper, as they typically don’t require things like grave liners. These cemeteries may require biodegradable caskets and no embalming fluid used on the deceased.
Another option is home burial. Laws regarding home burial vary by state, but most are fairly permissive. Some states will require a minimum of five acres, paperwork from zoning or health boards or a mandate for a funeral director to witness.
Rules and Regulations to Consider
Cemeteries have rules and you should make sure you’re aware of them before making a decision. For example, there may be rules regarding:
- Religious requirements, especially if you choose a religious cemetery. This often impacts the burial process and procedures.
- Headstone specifications such as size and shape, possibly even density.
- What decorations may be used. Some cemeteries will not allow fake flowers or plants on plots.
- Visiting hours can be good and bad. On one hand, people are not able to wander through whenever they want, but this also limits your time available to spend there.
What to Expect with Cemetery Fees
Cemeteries are not required to give you a full list of all the charges you’ll incur. Make sure that when you get a quote, you ask for immediate and future charges. An itemized breakdown will help you figure out what exactly you’re paying for, making it easier to compare your options.
Choosing a Plot within a Cemetery
Another important part of this process is figuring out the details of the plot.
Earth burials are traditional and the most common, but some cemeteries may offer aboveground entombment options in mausoleums. This option can be much more expensive.
There are four types of plots to consider:
Single – This is simply an individual plot where one person is buried.
Companion – Two people can be laid to rest in the same grave. This option involves the first casket placed seven feet underground and the second casket at standard level. Companion graves may also be side-by-side, but this is more expensive as it’s more labor-intensive.
Family – A family may purchase an area of a cemetery where everyone will be buried. This can be an area with one large headstone and smaller plaques for each individual, or simply a row of plots in a cemetery.
Urn Gardens – These are much smaller plots for cremated remains. They can be actual plots or incorporated into a garden landscape. Some extensive gardens have plots in fountains, benches and statues.
The plot will also need some sort of marker, or headstone. Headstone shapes and sizes may be regulated by the cemetery, so check what your options are. Usually, stones are priced based on density. There are light, medium and dark headstones. Dark headstones have the highest density.
Rules and Regulations for Plots
You may not have realized this, but most caskets aren’t just buried in the ground by themselves. Many cemeteries require grave liners. This is a lightweight material that’s main purpose is to prevent the grave site from sinking in. You can also upgrade from a grave liner to a vault, which will also provide more protection for the caskets. Green cemeteries do not usually require grave liners.
What Plot Fees Can You Expect?
Cemeteries will charge different fees for plots depending on their location and the type of plot. There may also be a fee charged for plot maintenance, so check with the cemetery to find out how this is handled.
Funeral homes typically offer discounts for using affiliated cemeteries, so ask your funeral director what options they have to offer. You can expect to spend anywhere between $600 and $5,000 on cemetery and plot costs.
Although you may be searching during a tough time, remember that proper research will ultimately give you the most peace of mind.
Updated: March 31, 2014