How to Plan a Burial Service
Burial services in one form or another have been a part of human communities for millennia. If you scan our history, it really doesn't matter "when" or "where" you look, burial practices can be found. Graveside services can be seen in hundreds of Hollywood films and television productions; some are uplifting, others are humorous; and some merely attempt to convey the emotional weight carried by the characters involved. Because of these cinematic efforts, most are familiar with the appearance and traditional ceremonial format of a burial service. But when it comes time to make arrangements for a graveside service on behalf of a deceased family member, it can be challenging to turn what is only vaguely familiar into a truly meaningful, deeply personal event. This graveside service planning guide outlines the major steps involved and identifies the primary "talking points" when meeting with the funeral director. If you have questions about what you read here, please call us at (301) 475-8500. A member of our staff is available, ready with the answers you need.
Reasons to Hold a Burial Service
When it comes time for you to make final care arrangements on behalf of a deceased family member you may be surprised to learn of the benefits of well-crafted burial services. During the arrangement conference with a funeral director you'll have the opportunity to discuss the features and benefits of graveside services and look at the top three reasons why families choose a graveside service:
Simplicity: Many people today hunger for greater simplicity in their lives; a natural, uncluttered, uncomplicated life. This is a desire which is nothing new to the human heart. Consider the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Quaker religious orders who continue to strive for a simple, sincere approach to life. We've long wanted to focus on what is most important, and the simplicity of graveside services does just that.
The Natural Setting: What better place to celebrate the life of a loved one than under the open sky, beneath trees, or beside flowers? No matter the type of cemetery that your loved one's burial services is held at, the emotional and spiritual comforts of the natural surroundings will be keenly felt.
Religious Requirements: There are profound religious reasons families choose burial services over any other final care option. For example, the Christian concept of resurrection of the body is deeply held by many and makes burial an act of religious ceremony. Jewish families and those practicing Islamic traditions also have strong religious and social commitments to burial.
The Importance of Witnessing: As mentioned earlier, human societies of all times and in all places have incorporated burial into their cultural or religious practices. This long-lived social relationship with burial has resulted in a core belief shared among peoples around the globe: burial is an act of respect, made most meaningful when witnessed.
What's Involved in Planning a Burial Service
All reasons aside, let's look at what's involved in planning a burial service. We've broken down the discussion into three areas-of-concern: the selection of cemetery and burial property, choosing a casket and burial vault; and planning the details of the graveside service.
Selection of Cemetery and Burial Property
Before we get too far into the subject, we should mention that a family member may have already chosen and purchased a burial plot or mausoleum crypt. It's also very possible a distant relative purchased a large section in a local cemetery intended for the future burial of family members. In either of those situations, you'll need to obtain the documents necessary to prove ownership of burial rights and then bring them to the initial meeting with the funeral director.
What if there is no such pre-plan in place? Then you will need to locate a cemetery and select the burial property on your own. And while we know today's consumers are smart and have access to more information about products and services than ever before, we also know that the purchase of cemetery property isn't a commonly-made transaction. For that reason, we offer the following information:
Unlike when you purchase a house (where the structure and the land are yours to do with as you like); when you buy a cemetery property, such as a burial plot, mausoleum crypt or columbarium niche; you are merely buying the right to inter (or bury) an individual (or individuals) in that location. The property you now have the rights over remains the property (and the responsibility) of the cemetery administration.
A stated portion of the money you pay for these interment rights will be contributed to an irrevocable fund used in the on-going care of the cemetery grounds.
The burial, as well as any future commemorative visits you make to the location will be subject to the specific by-laws as written by the cemetery administration.
Just like when you buy a house, the cost of burial property rights range widely in price, depending on the exact location of the plot, crypt or niche. If you have time, you can certainly find resale "deals" on cemetery property; but if you're not shopping far in advance of need, this may not be of help to you.
There are other costs involved with the burial of a loved one, such as the fees charged by the cemetery for the "opening and closing" of the site, the headstone or grave marker and its installation, and the purchase of a casket and burial vault.
Because we have strong working relationships with local cemetery administrators, we want to help you with this part of the process. Simply call us at (301) 475-8500 to get started.
Choosing a Casket and Vault
You'll typically read that the casket is the single most expensive purchase you'll need to make during this time. And while we can't really disagree with that statement, we will tell you that the purchase doesn't have to cost you more than you can afford. We have a wide selection of caskets and burial vaults to choose from, and will work closely with you to keep the cost of your loved one's graveside service within your family's budget.
The cost of a casket aside, the type of casket you select will be based largely on personal preference. Would you prefer a casket of fine hardwood or metal? There are caskets of walnut, cherry, maple, oak, pine and other species of wood. Metal caskets come in varying thicknesses and a wide array of finishes. We don't want you to guess what's best for your situation; instead we'd like you to turn to us for assistance. We've got the experience to guide you in the selection of the most appropriate casket and vault for your needs. Call us at (301) 475-8500, or stop by our office.
Planning the Details of the Graveside Service
The details really depend on your motives and emotional needs. If simplicity is your primary focus, then the burial service we design could look very different from one which is guided by religious doctrine.
And while you could think of your loved one's graveside service as a modified version of a typical funeral, with a member of the clergy leading attendees in standard hymns or prayers; we'd rather you let go of your expectations. That way, we can come to the planning process with no limitations to our creativity. Together we'll determine the best date and time for the burial service, and select the most meaningful readings, songs and activities to be featured in their service.
We'll discuss who you would like to lead the event; it could be your funeral director, a member of the clergy, a celebrant, family member, or close friend. Certainly, the selection of the cemetery and burial plot are practical decisions; but planning the service format is where the heart can take over. Your funeral director will sit with you for as long as it takes to bring love and memories into the event. He or she will explore your loved one's life with you to find the essence of who they were, all in the effort to craft a fitting graveside service.
Are You Ready to Talk "Burial Services"?
We're ready to listen. In fact, that's what we do best: we not only hear the words, we understand the feelings and the familial dynamics behind them. When you call us at (301) 475-8500 for assistance in making the necessary arrangements for a graveside service, you'll discover the value of having an experienced ally committed to serving your family as you would wish to be served.