Traditionally, a burial service involves a visitation and is followed by a funeral service. While the casket is typically present at both of these events, it is your decision whether to have the casket open or closed. You then have a number of options for interment. Decisions also need to be made about embalming, type of casket, cemetery, and marker for the grave.
Monumental cemetery: A monumental cemetery is the traditional style of cemetery where headstones or other monuments made of marble or granite rise vertically above the ground. There are countless different types of designs for headstones, ranging from very simple, to large and ornate.
Memorial cemetery: A memorial cemetery is where each grave is marked with a small commemorative plaque that is placed horizontally at the end of the grave at ground-level. Families care involved in choosing the design and the information contained on the marker, but in most cases the marker is of a fairly standard design.
Mausoleum: A mausoleum is a building constructed to provide interment space or a burial chamber for a deceased person. A mausoleum may be utilized for a full size casket or for cremated remains.
Columbarium: Columbarium walls are reserved for cremated remains. While cremated remains can be kept at home by families, or scattered in a place that has significance to the family, the deceased, or both, a columbarium provides friends and family a place to visit.
Natural cemeteries: Natural cemeteries, also known as green cemeteries, are a new style of cemetery set aside for natural burials. Natural burials are motivated by the desire to be environmentally conscious. Green burials are usually done in a natural woodland area, a cemetery dedicated to green burials, or a designated area. Conventional markers, such as headstones, are generally replaced with a tree, bush, or the placement of a natural stone.
What is opening and closing, and why are there fees for it?
Opening and closing fees can include up to and beyond 50 separate services provided by the cemetery. Typically, the opening and closing fees include administration and permanent record keeping (determining ownership, obtaining permission, and the completion of other documentation which may be required, entering the interment particulars in the interment register, maintaining all legal files), opening and closing the grave (locating the grave and laying out the boundaries, excavating and filling the interment space), installation and removal of the lowering device, placement and removal of artificial grass at the grave site, leveling, tamping, re-grading and sodding the grave site, and leveling and re-sodding the grave if the earth settles.
Can we dig our own grave to avoid the charge for opening and closing?
The actual opening and closing of the grave is just one component of the opening and closing fee. Due to safety issues which arise around the use of machinery on cemetery property, and the protection of other gravesites, the actual opening and closing of the grave is conducted by cemetery grounds personnel only.
Why is having a place to visit so important?
To remember, and to be remembered. A permanent memorial in a cemetery provides a focal point for remembrance and memorializing the deceased. Memorialization of the dead is important in almost every culture. Psychologists say that remembrance practices serve an important emotional function for survivors by helping them have closure, which allows the healing process to begin. The provision of a permanent resting place is an important part of this process.
What happens when a cemetery runs out of land?
When a cemetery runs out of land, it will continue to operate and serve the community. Most cemeteries allow cremated remains to be placed on a grave with one other individual (either a full burial with a casket or cremated remains). Many cemeteries have crematoriums, and some historic cemeteries even offer guided tours.
In a hundred years, will this cemetery still be there?
We think of cemetery lands as being in perpetuity. There are cemeteries throughout the world that have been in existence for hundreds of years, and many states require "perpetual care funds" so cemeteries can continue to be maintained for many years.
How soon after a death must an individual be buried?
There is no law that states a specific time-span for burial. Considerations that will affect the timeline include: the need to secure all permits and authorizations; notification of family and friends; preparation of cemetery site, and religious considerations. Public heath laws may limit the maximum amount of time allowed to pass prior to final disposition. Contact your local funeral provider for more details.
Does a body have to be embalmed before it is buried?
No. Embalming is generally a choice which depends on choices which may include an open casket with viewing of the body, or if there will be an extended time between death and internment. Public health laws may require embalming if the body is going to be transported by common carrier.
What options are available besides ground burial?
In addition to ground burial, some cemeteries offer interment in lawn crypts or entombment in mausoleums. In addition, most cemeteries provide options for those who have selected cremation. These often include placement of cremated remains in a niche, a columbarium, or interment in an urn space.
What are burial vaults and grave liners?
These are the outside containers into which a casket is placed. Burial vaults are designed to protect the casket and may be made of a variety of materials, including concrete, stainless steel, galvanized steel, copper, bronze, plastic, or fiberglass. A grave liner is a lightweight version of a vault which keeps the grave surface from sinking in.
Must I purchase a burial vault?
Most active cemeteries have regulations that require the use of a basic grave liner for maintenance and safety purposes. Either a grave liner or a burial vault will satisfy these requirements. Some smaller, rural, or church cemeteries do not require use of a container to surround the casket in the grave.
There are alternatives to burial. See Cremation Services