Burial vs. Cremation: An Overview

Author: Michelle Allende

In the past few years, the number of cremations has risen, a disruption to the burial process that has dominated for centuries. Tradition evolves with time, and cremation has become a part of current and newer customs. This is not to say that cremations will completely take over and burial processes will cease to exist; however, people have options that they should consider before they pass away.


Cremation is the process of burning a person’s body into ashes, the remains being placed into an urn to either be buried, placed into a mausoleum, showcased within a family member’s home, or scattered in a specified location. This process typically occurs after a funeral service, but does not always have to be preceded by one. Contrarily, burials keep the body intact and require embalming to slow the process of natural decomposition in order to have a wake with an open casket, a funeral service, and a burial for family members to attend. Although people have the choice of either or, it is important to take multiple aspects of each procession into consideration.

Certain religions, such as Judaism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Islam, do not allow cremation, as they view it as destroying a body that is to be returned to the earth. Catholicism calls for its members to be laid to rest in a cemetery, allowing for more open interpretations where believers can be cremated with their remains being buried. Many religions, on the other hand, do not provide specific instructions and are open to their followers making their own personal choices. Cost is another factor. Burial costs can be very expensive averaging about $8,000-$9,000 due to the service, embalming, casket, plot, etc. Cremation can cut costs in half, or even more, depending on the urn, processions, etc., making it a more viable option for families if a sudden death occurs with no prior planning or if they cannot afford a burial at all. Moreover, direct cremations, where the body is burned right after someone has died, costs even less than a typical cremation (less than $1,000 in some states and locations).


Cemetery locations can also play a role in the choice between a burial or a cremation. Certain family members may not live near a cemetery and may not be able to visit a plot as much as they desire, nor will they have the opportunity to do so if they move, frequently or not. Cremations allow for flexibility, wherein the deceased can be easily transported and placed in a new location. Burials do not allow for such a luxury, a fact that should be taken into consideration.

Overall, there are pros and cons to each process, and the choice is ultimately up to the person, should they plan in advance. It is important to note that cremation is a permanent process, whereas a burial is not and can be changed if desired. One must weigh their options before specifying instructions to their family members.

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