Whether final disposition is burial or cremation, there are many different types of service to honor your loved one.
In this article, we will discuss typical service arrangements before and after cremation. Read more to see which type of service works best for you and your loved one.
Cremation Services – on the Rise
According to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) more people are choosing cremation every year. By 2023, it is estimated that 60% of bodies will be cremated and could reach 70% as early as 2030.
One reason for this escalating trend are the increasing costs of in-ground burial. Another explanation is that cremation is becoming more accepted across different religions and cultures. Lastly, there may be an environmental considerations.
What Are My Options For a Cremation Service?
Many people assume that there is no funeral service when the body is cremated. This is a common misconception and couldn’t be further from the truth.
Funeral or Memorial Service
The key difference between a funeral service and memorial service is whether or not the body is present. This is why there are actually more options when cremation is part of the process.
- With viewing of the body (in casket – cremation performed later)
- Without viewing of the body (in casket – cremation performed later)
- At funeral home (no body present)
- Alternative location (no body present)
- Interment of ashes – (burial)
- Interment of ashes – (placed in a columbarium)
- Scattering of ashes
Cremation does not limit the different ways to honor your loved one. Each service choice has different elements to consider including cost and preference.
Cremation Funeral Service
A cremation funeral service is similar to a traditional funeral where the body is present for viewing. However, instead of ending the service with a burial, the deceased is sent to be cremated instead.
This kind of service is a good option if you want the traditional ceremony commemorating the life of your loved one and feel that a viewing will help in the healing process.
What Does a Cremation Funeral Look Like?
A funeral service with cremation may be open to the public or only for the closest friends and family. The viewing may be an open or closed casket, depending on the preference of the family. Consider renting a casket to save money and protect the environment.
This type of service may be held in a chapel, a funeral home, a place of worship, or a place significant to your loved one.
During this service, a funeral celebrant or officiant will lead the ceremony. The officiant may be a religious leader, a funeral director, or even a friend or family member.
A funeral service may include readings, prayers, and eulogies. Musicians may also perform. Usually, there could be photo slideshows and video tributes for the deceased as well.
How Much Does a Funeral Service Cost?
A funeral service is the most expensive type of service overall. This is because of the costs associated with preparing and handling the body. For a traditional cremation service (funeral) the body is present and must be embalmed, prepared, dressed and presented in a casket.
According to the National Funeral Director’s Association (NFDA), the median price for a cremation funeral service with casket and urn was $6,590 in 2019.
The timeline of events looks something like this:
- Body is at the hospital or morgue
- Body is transported to funeral home
- Body prepared for viewing, embalming, and dressed for viewing
- Funeral service takes place
- Body is transported to crematorium to be cremated
- Family is presented with cremains
When cremation is the final disposition you may consider using a rental casket during the funeral service to lower cost.
In addition to the funeral service costs, there are also the costs of the cremation itself. The body must be in a combustible container for cremation and usually requires purchasing a cremation casket.
This figure can still vary depending on many factors such as location, your choice of flowers or casket spray, the inclusions of your package, and most importantly, your cremation service provider.
It is best to check with the cremation service provider about what they offer so you have a comprehensive understanding of what you’re paying for. We recommend asking for a complete list of costs. This way you won’t be surprised by any additional charges, and will have the opportunity to plan, and set your expectations.
“Funeral homes should provide an itemized list that includes the costs of the services and products offered.”National Funeral Directors Association
Cultural or Religious Customs
In addition to extra costs associated with having the body present, there are personal preferences that may come in to play as well.
Certain cultures and religions, Jewish for example, forbid embalming and cremation. In the Jewish faith it is common practice to have the body buried as soon as possible.
Cremation Memorial Service
If there is no funeral service planned it is called direct cremation.
Here is the series of events for a direct cremation:
- Body is moved from hospital or morgue to the crematorium
- Cremation takes place immediately
- Remains are returned to the family
In the case the body does not need to be prepared for viewing. This avoids many of the costs associated with preparing and transporting the body. Not to mention caskets, flowers, etc. In addition, for those with an aversion to the embalming process, there is no issue.
In this type of service, the family has the flexibility to decide when to cremate the body and hold the service. This is a good option if your loved one died in a different place and you need more time to gather your friends and family.
How Much Does Direct Cremation Cost?
Direct cremation costs vary widely depending on location and other variables. You can expect a range of $395-$3000. Lincoln Heritage has compiled comprehensive cremation costs for any given region.
For the sake of planning there is a another cremation option that is actually free.
You may choose to donate your body to science. After it serves its purpose, the body will be cremated free of charge and the ashes will be returned to the family.
How the body could be used:
- Studying decay for crime investigations
- Testing surgical procedures and equipment
- Practice for medical students
- Devising new tools and medicine
If there is a teaching hospital or medical facility in your area they can provide information on how the process works.
What Does a Memorial Service After Cremation Look Like?
This gathering may look like a funeral service explained earlier, only that the body is not present. Instead of a casket, the focal point of the service may be an urn, a picture, or a floral arrangement.
Similar to a funeral, a memorial service may be held in a funeral home, a place of worship, a crematory chapel, or a place significant to the deceased.
One option is to hold a memorial service at a funeral home after cremation. Typically this will involve the same choices as a funeral service. Instead of the casket you may choose to focus on any combination of urn, pictures, flowers, and other sentimental objects.
Alternatively, you may opt to hold the service in a crematorium.
Many crematoriums offer service packages and are usually well-equipped with available facilities for holding services and ceremonies.
The advantage of arranging the funeral or memorial service in a crematorium is that they usually offer cheaper packages than funeral homes.
Also, your memorial and cremation service can be combined into one event, where the cremation takes place before, during (see the Witnessed Cremation section below), or immediately after the service.
Other Options for Cremation Services
You may have other ideas for a cremation service or funeral, and you can always personalize how you want to commemorate the life of your loved one. Take inspiration from their life. Here are a few less common options to consider:
Some crematoriums may allow you to witness the cremation, but this may be limited to closest family members and friends. In a witnessed cremation, you will be nearby the body as it enters the cremator. This will allow you to make your final goodbyes to your loved one.
During a witnessed cremation, generally a family member can begin the process themself (usually by pressing a button).
Often the cremation process takes over an hour.
Ash Scattering Service
An ash scattering ceremony may follow the funeral or memorial service. However, this can also be a stand-alone service after the deceased has been cremated.
This will be held in your chosen location. There can be the elements of prayers, eulogies, and readings during this ceremony. After these, the ashes are finally released either into the water or land.
You may also conduct a graveside service if you are interring the cremated remains in a cemetery, columbarium niche, or private land.
Just like any service, you have the freedom to customize the ceremony. Graveside services are typically shorter than funeral or memorial services. It usually includes the procession to the gravesite, reciting readings and prayers, interring the ashes, and blessing the grave.
In a funeral service, the body will be present (possibly for viewing) so the cremation takes place after the service. In a memorial service, the body is not present, so the cremation may take place before or after the service.
There are many different types of cremation service. Final cost will depend on the service, location, and provider. Using the data from the NFDA, an average funeral service may cost $6,600. A traditional funeral service (with body) is generally the most expensive because it typically includes a casket, embalming, use of facilities, and more.
A memorial service is slightly less expensive at around $4,100. The lower cost is because the body is not present which avoids associated costs.
A funeral service (cremation) is similar to a traditional funeral accept that it is not followed by burial. An officiant will lead the service which typically has the elements of readings and prayers, delivering eulogies, music, and presentations.
A memorial service may take place later to inter the ashes.
If you are going to have a funeral service, embalming is required since the body will be open for viewing. If you’re going to hold a memorial service where the body is not present or will be immediately cremated, then embalming will not be required.
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