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Why Extravagantly Expensive Funerals Are Becoming a Thing of the Past

If you are planning a small, simple funeral you’re not alone. Here are four good reasons why big extravagant funerals are becoming less common.
4 Reasons Why There Are Fewer Expensive Funerals
4 Reasons Why There Are Fewer Expensive Funerals

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At one time in American history, the cultural mindset was that the extravagance of the funeral services symbolized how much loved ones cared for the deceased. It was an idea that was perpetuated by many in the funeral home industry that financially benefited from such thinking. 

The truth is, before the modern day funeral industry existed, funeral services were simple affairs for most people, and family members handled almost all of the arrangements themselves. Of course, there were a lot less regulations and laws pertaining to disposition back then, but funerals weren’t expected to be extravagant or expensive. At least not for everyday people. 

Today, the sentiment is shifting back toward that approach. A fair number of families prefer cheap cremation that’s efficient and eco-friendly so they can spend their time, energy and resources on a memorial afterward that honors their loved one. Every family has their own reasoning, but extravagant, expensive funerals are becoming a thing of the past for a number of very good reasons.   

Traditional Funeral Costs Have Gotten Outrageously Expensive

There’s one very practical reason people have pulled back from traditional funerals – they’re extremely expensive. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) publishes an annual report detailing average funeral costs. The total cost for a traditional burial was $8,300 on average in 2023 and traditional cremation was $6,280. However, with traditional burial there are a few other common expenses like cemetery fees and a headstone that aren’t included in the total.  

This is an issue that is only likely to get worse given that funeral expenses have continuously climbed over the years. To put the increase into perspective all you have to do is look at funeral prices from a decade ago. In 2013 the cost of a traditional burial was $6,000 on average. 

Funeral services are a significant expense for the majority of Americans. And only 52% of people have life insurance to help cover the cost of funeral services. That means about half of families have to pay for funeral services out-of-pocket. Even cheap direct cremation that’s around $1,000 is a significant unexpected expense for families without insurance coverage. 

Environmental Costs of Extravagant Traditional Funerals

Traditional funeral services are costly for the environment as well. They are far from a natural process, and more than a decade ago the discussion around the environmental impact of funeral services went mainstream. Stats like 800,000 gallons of toxic embalming fluid going into the ground and 64,500 tons of steel used for caskets. It got millions of Americans thinking about what modern day burials were doing to the planet, and they didn’t like it.  

A decade ago only a small percentage of people were interested in green funeral options. In 2023, the NFDA reports 60% of people said they’d be interested in exploring green funeral services. For many people, when they’re given an eco-friendly option that’s comparable in cost and quality they’ll opt for it. Funeral services are no different. Almost everyone is surprised to find that some eco-friendly funeral services are cheaper than traditional options

Desire for More Personal Funerals

With traditional funerals there’s a very hands off approach for the family and the funeral home takes care of all the arrangements (for a very sizable fee). Everything is done at their facility using their resources as it’s done essentially the same way for all families. 

Over time the impersonal repetitiveness has been registered, and it isn’t favorable with many people. Death is highly personal, and the funeral services should reflect that in some way instead of feeling standard issue from start to finish. 

In our experience, the reports about personalization in the funeral industry are true. More families are forgoing traditional services and coming up with their own unique ways to memorialize a loved one. And nobody’s faulting them for it one bit. There’s been no backlash or public shaming because families choose to do their own thing rather than the norm. 

Funerals Aren’t Public Community Events Anymore

The U.S. Census Bureau has painted a pretty clear picture about migration in America in terms of rural versus urban living. Rural areas outside of cities and suburbs make up 97% of the land in America, yet only 19.3% of Americans live in rural areas. So less than 1 out of every 5 people lives in a rural community today, which on average has about 16,000 residents. 

This is a different living situation compared to years past when big, expensive burials were the norm. For example, in 1970 a quarter of the population lived in rural areas, with that number increasing to around 33% in the south. Right at the time urban sprawl took over around 1960 the rural population was 37% nationwide. 

As the trend moves toward urban living, populations are getting bigger and density is increasing, but people are becoming less connected. They are less likely to know their neighbors and family is more likely to live many miles away in another urban center. Because of that, often funerals aren’t community events where everyone in town probably knew the deceased and is invited to come pay their last respects. Years ago community members would even help the family plan the funeral. In urban areas today most funerals are private, and they aren’t usually publicly announced. Because of this, many families don’t see the need for a big, extravagant funeral that’s going to be attended by a select number of people.  

Today, extravagant funerals make options like cheap cremation followed by a memorial service downright smart for a number of reasons. Whether you’re concerned about cost, eco-conscious or want something more personal, simple funeral services are usually more rewarding. 

Want details about eco-friendly funeral services? Our team can provide information by phone, text or email any hour of the day.

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Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
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