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All You Need to Know About Cremation Costs and Services

All You Need to Know About Cremation Costs and Services

Cremation is fast becoming the “new normal” when it comes to funeral care in the U.S. Current statistics for the year estimate cremation rates of 53.5% versus a burial rate of 40.5%, which clearly shows the rising trend of more consumers choosing cremation.

But what is cremation, anyway, and how much does it cost? To better understand the basics, we’ve compiled this short, helpful guide on cremation costs and services.

What Is Cremation?

The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) defines cremation as a mechanical, thermal, or other dissolution process that reduces human remains to bone fragments. These bone fragments are further processed into cremated ashes, which is what most consumers consider to be the end product.

In the U.S., the two main cremation methods offered are:

Flame-Based Cremation

The most common type of cremation, this process uses heat and flame to reduce human remains into bone fragments. The process takes place in a machine called a crematory, and takes approximately 1-2 hours to complete. The bone fragments are allowed to cool before the final step when they are processed into cremated ashes.

Learn more about exactly how flame-based cremation works here.

Alkaline Hydrolysis

Also known as water cremation, aqua cremation, and resomation, alkaline hydrolysis uses a water-based dissolution process instead of flame. It takes about 2-4 hours to complete, and uses heat, pressure, and alkali chemicals to break the body down into its chemical compounds. Bone fragments are then turned into cremated ashes.
Alkaline hydrolysis is a newer technology and is currently available in only a few states, but it’s becoming more accessible as consumers demand cremation alternatives. This is also considered to be the “green” cremation option, as it uses less fuel and energy, and emits fewer emissions than standard cremation.

Types of Cremation Services

Types of Cremation Services

Most funeral homes offer a range of cremation services, allowing families to pick and choose the options that work best for them. When it comes to cremation, “one size does not fit all” and each type of cremation service can be easily customized according to individual preferences and budgets. There are three main types of cremation services:

Direct Cremation

A direct cremation, also known as simple cremation, occurs when the body is cremated immediately after death without a funeral service. A direct cremation tends to be the least expensive type of cremation.

The basic steps involve transporting the body from the place of death to the crematory, finalizing the death certificate, and cremating the deceased without a funeral or memorial ceremony. After the direct cremation is finished, the cremated ashes are then returned to the family.

Full-Service Cremation

With a full-service cremation service, the body is present at the visitation and/or funeral service before the actual cremation occurs. A full-service cremation is similar to a traditional funeral service in that friends and family are able to come together to say goodbye to their loved one before the cremation takes place.

Embalming is often recommended for full-service cremations, and in some cases, the family is allowed to witness the actual cremation. The family then receives the cremated ashes and chooses the final disposition method.

Cremation with a Memorial Service

A cremation with a memorial service is held after the cremation process is over. As such, the body is not present at the memorial ceremony, but the urn containing the cremated ashes is usually on display. This type of cremation gives the family time to arrange a ceremonial event to honor the deceased and pay their last respects.

What to Do with Cremated Ashes

What to Do with Cremated Ashes

As more people choose cremation over burial, the question of what to do with the cremated ashes is becoming an important conversation. There are numerous creative options available for the final disposition of cremated remains. Some families prefer to store ashes in a special place at home, and there are hundreds of decorative urns specifically designed for this purpose.
Cremated ashes can also be buried in graves, mausoleums, or in columbarium niches. Scattering ashes in a meaningful location on land or sea is also a popular option (be sure to seek permission first), and cemetery scatter gardens are becoming more commonplace.
There are other alternative options for cremated ashes. It isn’t unheard of to mix a small amount of ashes with ink for a cremation tattoo, or to launch cremated remains into space. These creative ideas vary in price and complexity, but they are worth investigating for those interested in unique final disposition choices.

How Much Does Cremation Cost?

Cremation costs depend on a variety of factors, such as the type, service, additional requests, and customizations. There isn’t a set price in general, and different providers offer competitive pricing, based on location and services requested.

In the U.S., direct cremation costs can be as low as $595. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the median cost of a full-service cremation was $6,260 in 2017. This amount included the following median prices:

Funeral Director Services

The basic services provided by the funeral director are non-declinable. They include filing the death certificate, procuring permits, arranging the funeral service, ensuring safe handling of the remains during transportation, and general overhead expenses. Cost: $2,100 or more.

Removal of Remains

The costs of transferring the body from place of death to the funeral home. Cost: $325

Embalming Process

Although strongly recommended for viewings/wakes, embalming is not a legal requirement if the body is immediately cremated. Cost: $725

Body Preparation

This includes services such as clothing, doing makeup, styling hair, and washing the body. Cost: $250-$500

Viewing & Ceremony Facility Usage

Includes rental charges for the funeral home venue and staff labor costs for the viewing and the funeral service. Cost: $925

Transportation

Involves a service vehicle, such as a car or van. Cost: $150

Memorial Print Package

Basic funeral programs, memorial cards, printed keepsakes, etc. Cost: $160
Cremation Fee
If a funeral home uses a crematory other than their own. Cost: $350

Cremation Casket

The body must be placed in a casket or other cremation container before entering a cremation machine. Cost: $1,000

Urn or Other Receptacle

Cremated ashes are returned to the family in an urn. Cost $275

Learn More About Cremation Planning

Are you thinking about including cremation in your end of life plan? Get more information on how to plan a cremation with our expert guides and information.

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Your Essential Guide to Funeral Etiquette

Your Essential Guide to Funeral Etiquette - Funeralocity

Attending a funeral is simply one of life’s unavoidable milestones. But because people rarely ever talk about funerals, it’s hard to know what to expect. What exactly are you supposed to do? What do you say? How should you dress? This essential guide to funeral etiquette do’s and don’ts can help you figure it all out.

A funeral doesn’t always need to be a sad occasion but it’s certainly an opportunity to honor the deceased, pay last respects, and support the grieving family. To help you understand general funeral etiquette rules, Funeralocity has compiled a list of “do’s and don’ts” to guide you through this difficult time.

What to Say to the Family

It can be hard to find the right words when consoling the bereaved family, but try to stay away from meaningless cliches. Speak from the heart by discussing your relationship to the deceased, or by sharing a happy memory. If you really don’t know what to say, a simple “I’m sorry for your loss,” or “Please accept my sincere condolences” will still be appreciated.

What to Bring to the Funeral Service

A gift is not expected or required but if you feel the need to give something, sympathy flowers or cards are usually appropriate. Sometimes only immediate family or close friends are allowed to bring funeral flowers or wreaths for the casket, so it’s best to check with the funeral director before buying a large bouquet.

Many families request donations in lieu of flowers. In this case, you should make a contribution to the chosen charity as directed. If you still want to send flowers, send them to the funeral home or to home of the bereaved family, along with a note or card.

Food is another popular gift, but choose the right moment to share this with the family. During a visitation or at the funeral itself is far from practical, so present your special dish after the service.

What to Wear to a Funeral or Memorial Service

These days, it’s not necessary to wear black to a funeral. Your attire depends on the type of funeral and the cultural traditions of the deceased. Avoid outfits that draw attention to yourself or are too revealing and go one step above casual wear – flip flops or torn jeans are not suitable for a funeral service.

At celebration of life services, guests may be asked to wear outfits reflecting the deceased’s favorite sports team, music band, or personal cause. Honor this request and support the grieving family if you can.

When to Arrive and How Long to Stay

When to Arrive and How Long to Stay at a Funeral

When you go to the funeral, arrive on time and stay until the service ends. If you have to leave early, sit near an exit or close to the back for a quiet departure. Funeral viewings/wakes are scheduled on a specific date before the funeral service, but you are not required to stay for the entire visitation.

Where to Sit at a Funeral

There are no steadfast rules on seating at a funeral, although the front rows tend to be reserved for family members and close friends of the deceased. At a graveside service, any chairs placed next to the grave are intended only for family members.

Cell Phone Use and Taking Photos at a Funeral Service

Ensure that your cell phone is turned off during the funeral service. If you forget – and your phone rings – do not answer it. This might seem like obvious funeral etiquette, but it happens all the time these days. It should go without saying, but taking pictures at a funeral is highly discouraged. Do not take a selfie with the deceased and post it on social media!

Can I Bring Children to a Funeral?

Bringing children to a funeral can help them understand the nature of death while grieving along with everyone else. Talk to your child about what happens at a funeral in advance so she/he knows what to expect, and try to answer their questions sincerely and honestly. Toddlers and babies can also attend a funeral, but sit near the back so you can leave quietly if they start to get fussy.

Should I Attend a Funeral?

If you knew the deceased or are acquainted with the bereaved family, you should attend the funeral if you can. Your presence is a supportive gesture, and being present at the funeral also provides the opportunity for a final goodbye.

Estranged Family

Ex-spouses, ex-family, or people with strained familial ties often wonder if they should attend a funeral. Use your best judgment to determine how your presence will be received. If you maintain a cordial relationship with the bereaved and simply want to pay your respects, attending the funeral is likely acceptable. If you think the family will be upset, it might be better to avoid going to the funeral.

Remember: A funeral is not a place to bring up old grudges or resentments. Do not speak ill of the dead and be respectful throughout the service.

What to Do After a Funeral

If invited to the graveside service after the funeral, you can attend and continue to encourage the grieving family. Follow the lead vehicle in the funeral procession to the location of interment, park as directed, and make your way to the assigned location (try not to step on flat grave markers or climb over headstones in a cemetery). Leave quietly once the service is over.

There may also be a reception after the funeral and/or graveside services. If you can’t make the reception, remember that you can still check in with the family in the following weeks and months.

Want to learn more about funerals? Check out the 4 types of funeral services on Funeralocity.com.

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Everything You Need to Know About Pre-Planning a Funeral

Everything You Need to Know About Pre-Planning a Funeral- Funeralocity

Thinking about pre-planning a funeral but don’t know where to start? Like most people, you probably have lots of questions about how funerals work and need answers quickly. Unlike most most people though, you’re ahead of the curve by taking the first steps in the funeral planning journey.

As with with anything in life, timing is everything, and choice certainly matters. Arranging your funeral in advance allows you to create a customized plan for exactly how you want things done after you die. Though the process may seem overwhelming at first (what with all the services, options, and costs involved), we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about pre-planning a funeral.

The Big Decision: Burial or Cremation?

First things first, you need to decide between burial or cremation. This may seem like the final step in the end of life process, but this decision has a significant impact on the type of funeral service or cremation service that’s arranged.

If you like the idea of family and friends coming together to say their last goodbyes, followed by a graveside burial, a traditional funeral service is a great option. If cremation is a personal desire, you can still plan a full-service cremation ceremony, which is simply a traditional funeral service without burial.

How to Pre-Plan a Traditional Funeral Service

A traditional funeral service should include the following elements:

    • Viewing/Visitation – Also known as a wake, the viewing is usually held in a funeral home, and the body of the deceased may be presented in an open or closed casket. If you want an open casket viewing, embalming is strongly recommended. Selecting your burial clothes (including jewelry and shoes), should be made in advance.
    • Funeral Service – This generally occurs in a funeral home, but may also take place in a church, private home, outdoor space, etc. Choose a ceremony officiant and include these service details depending on your individual preferences: religious customs, military/veteran rites, eulogy reading, special speakers, prayers/readings, songs/music, funeral flowers and decor, or donations in lieu of flowers.
    • Graveside Service – Where would you like to be buried? If you choose a cemetery, purchase the grave in advance for a preferred spot. If you already have a family plot set aside – or plan on a private burial at home – save the necessary permits and documents with your funeral pre-planning paperwork.
    • Post-Funeral Reception – Friends and family often gather after the funeral to share stories and memories, as well as to support each other as they mourn the loss of a loved one. The funeral reception can be a casual get together in the family home, or a catered function in a formal setting.

How To Pre-Plan a Cremation

Cremation continues to grow in popularity in the United States. You can pre-plan a direct cremation or a full-service cremation, according to your preferences.

  • Direct Cremation – This occurs when the body is cremated immediately after death. It is common to plan a memorial service after the fact, and display the cremated ashes in an urn.
  • Full-Service Cremation – With this option, you can include a viewing and a funeral service before the cremation takes place (with or without the body present). Some crematories also allow families to witness the cremation itself.
  • Graveside/Committal Ceremony – Cremated ashes can be buried in a grave, placed in a mausoleum, or put in a columbarium niche (an above-ground structure designed to hold urns in separate spaces). A graveside/committal ceremony can be held before interment on the cremated remains. Alternatively, if you prefer to have your ashes scattered, you can make arrangements for a scattering ceremony to be held in a meaningful location.

There are a variety of options for the disposition of cremated ashes. You can leave the final decision up to a chosen family member, so they may keep the ashes stored in an urn in a home, bury them in a cemetery, inter them in an above-ground niche, or something else altogether (a space launch, perhaps?). Alternatively, you can arrange for your family to scatter the ashes in a specific place on land or in a body of water (permission may be required depending on the location).

Obituary

Obituary - Funeralocity

Do you want to publish an obituary or death notice? If so, think about who you’d like to write your obituary or consider writing it yourself. This can certainly apply to the eulogy, too. It’s important to remember that newspapers charge a fee to publish an obituary, so set aside funds as required or consider a different form of communication (eg. social media).

Funeral Service Roles

Pre-planning your funeral allows you to organize the ceremony and assign specific roles and responsibilities to family members or close friends.This gives them an opportunity to participate in the funeral service in a special way. Your funeral arrangements should define the following roles:

  • Ceremony Officiant
  • Pallbearers
  • Eulogy Reader(s)
  • Special Guest(s)/Speaker(s)
  • Singers/Musicians
  • Attendees (Individuals, Groups, Organizations, etc.)

In addition, select a funeral home, crematory, or other funeral professional to assist with the final arrangements at the time of death. These services include transportation of the body, obtaining the death certificate, and ensuring that your funeral plans are in accordance with state regulations.

The Bottom Line: Funeral Costs

Total funeral costs depend of course on the specific options and services you choose. That said, a major part of your pre-planned funeral arrangements should detail how you will pay for the funeral service and burial/cremation expenses:

  • Removal of Remains – Transferring the body from place of death to the funeral location.
  • Viewing/Visitation – Rental costs for the venue, as well as casket and embalming fees.
  • Funeral/Cremation Service – Venue and staffing costs plus expenses for food, flowers, music, etc.
  • Cremation fee – Include additional funds for an urn.
  • Transportation – Charges for a hearse or other service vehicle(s).
  • Printing costs – Funeral programs, memorial keepsakes, etc.
  • Cemetery plot purchase – Include funds to purchase a burial vault if required.
  • Interment fees – Opening and closing of the grave.
  • Headstone or Grave Marker – Add funds for inscription costs.

A funeral insurance policy may cover all the above costs, so it may be beneficial to look into getting a prepaid/preneed funeral contract to lock in today’s prices. Clearly document how you will pay for the funeral, and inform your family of your plans in advance so they don’t inadvertently spend money on funeral items already purchased.

Make Funeral Plans Now

If you have the ability to pre-plan your funeral, act now and get it done sooner rather than later. It’s a thoughtful gift to leave behind for your family and it gives you peace of mind to know that your final wishes will be carried out to the letter.

Remember, you don’t have to understand all the requirements for planning a funeral – that’s what funeral directors are for. A funeral director knows everything about funeral arrangements, and they can help you decide what services to select based on your overall preferences.

Click here to find a funeral home near you and start pre-planning your funeral today.