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Cremation vs Burial: How to Decide Between the Two

Here's everything you need to know about cremation versus burial. By learning about both, you can make an informed decision for yourself.
Cremation vs Burial: How to Decide Between the Two

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About 57 million people die every year. However, there are many people who fail to make a plan beforehand. By making certain decisions for yourself now, you can take the burden off a loved one’s shoulders in the future.

As you begin making your funeral arrangements, you’ll have to decide between cremation vs burial. How do you choose between the two?

We’re here to help. Here’s everything you need to know about cremation versus burial. By learning about both, you can make an informed decision for yourself.

Discover how to choose between cremation and burial with this helpful guide! 

The Process

First, let’s take a look at your options.

Cremation will reduce your body into remains within a few hours. Traditional burial, on the other hand, requires a slow, natural decomposition process.

One way to choose cremation vs burial is to consider the process itself. Are you more comfortable decomposing naturally? Some people view cremation as rushing the process while others think it denotes reverence. 

If you decide on cremation, you’ll need to have the body transported to the crematorium. Then, you’ll need to take care of the proper paperwork, which can include the death certificate and transit permits.

Some states will require you to hire a funeral director to complete these steps. It’s best to look into your state’s requirements beforehand. 

With a burial, on the other hand, the process takes a little longer.

First, you’ll need to have the body transported to the funeral home. The burial itself can involve transportation, hiring staff, flowers, print materials, and grave, and more. 

Then, you’ll need to schedule the burial itself and memorial. 

If you’re trying to choose between cremation and burial for yourself, consider who will handle this process for you. Are they able to schedule a burial and memorial? If not, you might want to consider cremation instead. 


More people are beginning to opt for the cremation process. In fact, it’s anticipated that in the next 20 years, 80% of the population will choose cremation over burial.

Cost is often one of the driving factors. As funeral costs continue to increase, the cost for funeral plots and incidentals does as well. Some cemeteries also require grave liners, adding to the bill. 

In 2016, the median cost for a funeral was about $8,000. Meanwhile, caskets alone can cost between $2,000 and $10,000. The cost continues to increase, too.

One of the benefits of cremation is that it can save you money. In 2016, the cost for a direct cremation was $2,400.

Does your family live in different locations? If so, you might find it’s difficult to plan a funeral. In that case, it’s often ideal for a loved one to schedule the cremation and save the remains for a later memorial.

Breaking Down Costs

When making the decision between cremation vs burial, make sure to consider all the costs involved. Here are a few basic burial services you’ll need to get an estimate for:

  • Basic services
  • Transporting the body to the funeral home
  • Preparing and embalm the body
  • Schedule a car to transport flowers and other items
  • Hiring staff for the viewing and funeral
  • Requesting a Hearse
  • Printing memorial items, including directories, a registration book, and acknowledgment cards
  • Grave plot
  • Burial value
  • Opening and closing fee
  • Headstone

Additional cremation costs, however, usually include the casket rental, urn, and cremation process. 

You can even schedule a direct cremation to save in more money. With a direct cremation:

  • The body is cremated immediately after the death
  • The body is cremated in a simple cardboard container
  • You don’t have to schedule a memorial service
  • There’s no need for embalming
  • There’s no service, viewing, or wake

This process will bypass the expenses involved with the funeral home.

Impact on the Environment

When choosing between cremation versus burial, you might want to consider the environmental consequences. 

For example, cremation exposes major emissions into the air, including:

  • Mercury
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Hydrogen chloride
  • Heavy metals
  • Persistent Organic Pollutants
  • Sulfur dioxide

With that in mind, natural decomposition through burial is usually considered better for the environment. 

However, burial can also cause environmental contaminants. For starters, embalming fluid can end up in our groundwater. These contaminants can include arsenic, formaldehyde, and mercury.

Even coffins cause contamination. 

Meanwhile, you’ll also want to consider how much space a body takes up with a traditional burial. As more people die each year, we’re beginning to run out of space! Larger cities around the world, including Toyko and London, are already looking for alternatives.

Religious Beliefs

You might decide on cremation versus burial based on your religious beliefs. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • The Christain world opposed cremation for a long time before accepting it
  • Judaism is firmly anti-cremation and requires a timely burial
  • Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism prefer open-air cremation
  • Islam forbids cremation and has its own burial traditions
  • Bahai also forbids cremation
  • Zoroastrians prefer a ritual exposure for corpse disposal

You might want to speak with someone at your religious institution for more specifics about your religion’s preference. 

Weighing the Pros and Cons

In order to make your decision, it can help to weigh the pros and cons of each option.

The benefits of cremation can include:

  • You still have the option of having a funeral service and burial after cremation
  • It’s often less costly
  • The process is faster
  • Requires less or no land
  • A loved one can transport ashes if they decide to move
  • Families have more time to make a decision after the cremation

However, the disadvantages of cremation include:

  • It’s sometimes against the deceased’s religion
  • Cremation is a permanent decision
  • Some people find it more difficult to mourn after a cremation
  • Exposes harmful emissions 

Now let’s look at the pros of traditional burial:

  • Family and friends can visit a gravesite
  • It’s sometimes considered more natural
  • Burial is required by many religions
  • The body can be exhumed after the fact
  • It gives family members more closure

Burials are usually more expensive. They can sometimes make it difficult for distance family members to mourn, too. 

Cremation vs Burial: The Choice Is Yours

Now that you knew the pros and cons between cremation vs burial, you can make an informed decision. At the end of the day, however, the choice is yours. You might want to discuss your options with a professional before making your decision. 

Want to discuss your options? Contact our team today.

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Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
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