Planning the finals days is unequivocally one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do. But if you don’t want your loved ones to go through financial hardship as they plan your funeral, have to make tough decisions on how you’d be laid to rest, or if you just want your loved ones to grieve without thinking about funeral planning and its complexities, you need to make these decisions while alive.
You also need to make sure that your wishes are laid out in writing and maybe even have some arrangements paid for in advance. Keep in mind that laying out these plans early on will give you control over how you are laid to rest, which makes the whole funeral pre-planning a win-win scenario for all.
One of the things you have to decide is whether you prefer to be cremated or buried in the traditional way.
If you are struggling to decide on one of these two options, you shouldn’t worry. This article will act as a handy comprehensive guide on cremations and burials, helping you make the best decision.
Beyond determining which is cheaper of the two, it will also look at the eco-friendliness of these two options, which of them offers more flexibility and which suits your religious beliefs better.
Just keep in mind that the decision to be buried or cremated is very personal, and it doesn’t just involve your faith, family, or traditions, but also your personal beliefs. Whatever decision you make shouldn’t be taken lightly or judged.
Cremations vs. Burials: A Quick Comparison
The choice between burial and cremation is rather deep, as mentioned above. As you pre-plan your funeral, you’d have to think about all that happens to the body, so it helps if you knew more about cremation vs burial.
To help you understand these two processes and pick the one that best matches your personal beliefs, let’s take a look that the differences between the cremation and burial processes.
The Cremation Process
While the laws on cremation vary depending on the state you live or die in, there are a number of general regulations regarding the decedent’s body preparation and transportation, laws that are consistent throughout the country. Below, we share the general cremation process and what you should know about it before you choose cremation.
- Before Cremation
Even with differences in state laws, the general rule regarding cremation states the funeral directors have to wait for at least 48 hours between the death of an individual and the cremation time. This 48-hour window is important as it allows the officials to complete all the required authorization forms for the decedent while also ensuring that all the necessary permits are completed and also collected.
This is an important time for the family and friends who use this time to say their goodbyes, conduct the funeral service if they want to, or to person the necessary rites of passages. Also, if there is a visitation or funeral service planned, the family uses this time to collect personal possessions and other valuable services.
- Actual Cremation
Cremation is done at any time after the lapse of the initial 48-hour window. The cremations are done individually, but they all start with the staff’s placement of the cremation container or casket into the cremation chamber.
The cremation chamber often reaches high temperatures of between 1,400 and 1,800 degrees. At such high temperatures, all the remains would be processed. Cremation takes 1-3 hours, depending on the weight and the size of the body, and this is followed by cooling. The cooling period allows the staff to be able to handle the remains – the remains often weigh between 3 and 9 pounds – the remains from cremation are white.
- After Cremation
Once the process is complete, the urn or the cremation container chosen is then returned to the family or, in other cases, the designated funeral home or cemetery.
When deciding about the final resting place of the remains, some options considered include:
- Placement of the urn in an outdoor or an indoor mausoleum
- Burying the urn in the cemetery urn garden or family’s burial plot
- Scattering the ashes in a specific place, specified by the deceased
- Keeping the urn with the ashes in the deceased’s home or the home of a loved one, also specified by the deceased.
The Burial Process
There are different burial processes that you may choose, but regardless of the burial service selected, the first step taken in the burial process is the bath and the disinfection of the body. This is often done to protect the visiting friends, the funeral home’s staff, and the family of the deceased while also offering the deceased some measure of respect and dignity.
- Before the Burial
Family and friends that are in charge of the funeral arrangements (left by the deceased or created by the family) ensure that the body is taken to the selected funeral home. The body could be embalmed for the traditional burial/ funeral service or refrigerated for transportation if the body is being transported to a different state.
Plans to transport the body to its final resting place are also made if the decedent passed away while they were out of town. In most cases, however, transportation arrangements will be facilitated by the chosen funeral home/provider because these professionals understand the different transportation requirements for bodies.
Before the burial, the following steps are taken.
In most cases, embalming is done by a licensed embalmer, but there are cases where embalming isn’t done – this is the case when the deceased wished for a green funeral/burial (in writing). The good news is that most of the funeral directors are also licensed embalmers, meaning that your family members won’t have to agonize over such processes.
Generally, embalming involves the replacement of the body’s blood and fluids with chemical preservatives via the circulatory system. This is done by the funeral home’s staff. Note that while there are no state laws that require embalming, some states require that embalming is done or, in other cases, refrigeration, especially when the burial isn’t scheduled to take place within a specific duration. Yes, refrigeration is often the acceptable alternative to embalming. That said, embalming isn’t a requirement where immediate burial is done.
- During the Burial Planning
The other thing that needs to be considered is viewing. If this is something you’d like to be part of your burial plan, you (or your family) would have to choose the clothing and also the mementos that the decedent will have on. Often, these clothes and accessories are left with the deceased, or they could be returned to the family before the burial. Cosmetics and hairstyling are to be done to the family’s preferences/ wishes.
- After Burial Service
What happens after the funeral service often depends on the type of funeral that was performed. For a traditional funeral, the body is transported to the burial site – gravesite or cemetery. There are many cases where the burial service is done by the graveside.
Which Is Cheaper – Cremation or Burial?
Many factors and elements will determine which of these two is a cheaper option, but overall, cremation is a cheaper option that’s becoming quite popular because of the lower cost. The NFDA (National Funeral Directors Association) reported an increase in cremation and the association projects that the rate of cremations could reach a whopping 805 by 2040.
That said, the cost of cremation could be higher or lower depending on the services and products requested.
Overall, cremation with a funeral and viewing will cost about $6,260. This cost can be broken down into embalming at between $700 and $1800, $500 for the use of the funeral home for the funeral service, $420 for using the funeral home to view the body, $250 for the preparation of the body for viewing, and the cremation urns which would cost between $280 and $5000.
On the other hand, funerals costs (with the cost of the vault and the entire funeral service) would cost about $8,755 or higher. This amount can be broken down into $700-$1800 for embalming, $500 for using the funeral home for the funeral service, $250 to prepare the body for viewing, at least $2,400 for the casket, $1300 for the vault, at least $2,500 for the headstone and the grave, $275 as rental fees for the hearse, $500 for the use of the funeral home for the body’s viewing.
Comparing these costs show that cremation is relatively cheaper, and the costs associated with traditional burials being considerably high.
In most cases, the cost of cremation is, on average, only a fraction of the associated costs for traditional funerals or burials. The reason for this is because there are fewer processes and services involved in the cremations; also, cremation costs vary by state, meaning that the overall cremation costs could be significantly lower in some states than others.
Traditional funerals and burials are often expensive, and the only time when this isn’t the case is where one opts for natural burial or immediate burial. In the former, there is no embalming, vaults, caskets, headstones, clothes, etc., and the service is cheaper and takes less time.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Burial vs. Cremation
As you weigh your options and as you wonder about these two options and whether to choose burial or cremation, there are considerations that you should keep in mind.
This is because, in as much as you have some wishes that you’d like honored, you need to remember that holding a funeral/ burial memorial service isn’t about you but your loved ones – it gives them the perfect opportunity to celebrate your life. The service also gives them a great sense of comfort and closure.
Which factors should you consider when choosing between a burial and a funeral?
There are different religious beliefs and traditions that must be considered when choosing between a traditional burial and being cremated.
- Catholicism – According to the catholic church, the deceased is to be laid to rest in the cemetery, and if you choose cremation, your remains would have to be placed or buried in a columbarium or a mausoleum and not kept at home or scattered. Some catholic churches offer cemetery gardens or even mausoleums that have been consecrated, and these are considered sacred grounds as a result.
- Protestantism – Protestants allow different funeral service options, as well as disposition options. For the protestants, the deceased could be interred in the ground, or they may be entombed in the mausoleum. If the body is cremated, the remains could be scattered, placed in the church columbarium, or buried in the cemetery.
- Greek Orthodoxy – According to the Greek Orthodox Church, cremation leads to the desecration of the body, and for them, the deceased has to be buried deep in the ground, and embalming is also necessary. But this church also allows autopsies and organ donations.
- Judaism – This is a Jewish faith that prioritizes the return of the body down to earth rather promptly. Though cremation is entirely contrary to Jewish traditions and beliefs, it’s interesting to note that many contemporary Jewish families are becoming increasingly open to cremation practices. If you’d like to go the traditional burial way, then you’d be laid down in a rather simple wooden casket that could have holes at the bottom – the holes at the bottom apply to the use of vaults too.
- Islam – According to Islamic laws, the way a member of the Muslim faith is laid to rest is quite specific – it starts with the ritualistic washing of the body. Cremation isn’t acceptable to Muslims, and the directions for the burial are quite specific – the directions are to be followed to the latter, and the deceased buried in either a Muslim cemetery or special section of the community cemetery.
- Hinduism – According to Hindu beliefs, cremation liberates the deceased’s soul while it could linger if the body is left intact. So, Hindus cremate their bodies, and cremation is done within 24 hours of death.
- Buddhism – Buddhists will mostly choose cremation, but some Buddhist families opt for full-body burials.
Impact on the Environment
If you worry about causing more damage to the environment, the decision between cremation and burial can get a little more complicated.
While traditional cremation uses up to 285kW of gas or an average of 15kWh of electricity, alkaline hydrolysis takes less energy and result in less waste, making it a viable option for most people. But cremation still comes with the risk of Mercury emissions from the dental fillings – when done traditionally, but not through alkaline hydrolysis where these components are carefully removed for recycling.
Burial, on the other hand, involves the use of a very limited resource and the toxic carcinogen formaldehyde. So, unless you are going for the natural burial, cremation may have less effect on the environment.
Cemetery Property and Other Costs
Beyond the costs mentioned above, the other important costs to be considered include the cost of the memorial service. This cost is influenced by the families.
It’s important to remember that the costs incurred in funerals will depend on these two elements:
The type of funeral service you opt for – Simple committal services cost less than the elaborate life celebration services that include catered receptions and other events to celebrate the life of the deceased.
Lasting remembrance, for example, a big headstone, a pedestal, family estate, benches, or a custom-built memorial, mausoleums, etc., are quite costly, and these would drive up the cost of the funeral.
Is Cremation or Burial More Flexible?
Cremation offers a greater deal of flexibility compared to a traditional burial or any other type of funeral, which that although you get to choose whether to hold the service at the crematorium or later on at home or cemetery or by a river with the ashes, the flexibility offered by cremation is unmatched. You could also choose to have the cremation done soon after death and the service slotted for later on after your loved ones that live far away arrive.
The flexibility further extends to what you could do with the ashes – scattered, buried, kept at home, worn in jewelry, put in fireworks, etc. Your options are limitless. In some cases, your family has to option of sharing the ashes between themselves.
Benefits of Cremation
- It’s a more affordable option
- No actual time restraints
- More flexibility
- A safer option for the environment
- Cremation can be done anywhere
- Transportation of the ashes is easier
Benefits of Burials
- Loved ones get a place to visit the remains
- Most people find it to be a more comfortable option
- It allows family members a more personalized way of saying goodbye
So, if you weren’t sure about whether to choose cremation or burial, we hope that this guide helps you make the right choice for you. Ultimately, cremation is a good option if you are looking for a cheap, flexible, and eco-friendly approach.