Cremation is a type of final disposition, or the final treatment of a deceased individual’ remains. Cremation is a process through which the body of a deceased individual is reduced to cremated remains through a physical and chemical process involving both combustion and oxidation. The act of cremation occurs in a dedicated facility called a crematory and is overseen by a certified crematory operator and funeral director. Following the act of cremation, the cremated remains are returned to the next-of-kin for final burial, entombment, or inurnment. As of 2018, cremation represents the final disposition choice for approximately 50% of US deaths ( There is substantial regional variation in the rate of cremation based on religious beliefs, cultural traditions, and financial considerations.

Most cremations involve either pre- or post- cremation memorial services. A cremation may be proceeded by a funeral service or followed by a memorial service, and may involve the burial, entombment or inurnment of the cremated remains. The memorialization services which surround cremation may either be religious or secular in nature.

Direct cremation is a specific type of cremation that involves only the act of cremation with no other rites, rituals, remembrances or ceremonies.

Each religion has specific viewpoints and guidelines concerning cremation. For example, cremation is allowed in the Catholic religion so long as the cremated remains are then interred within a Catholic cemetery. In the Protestant faith, cremation is allowed however, burial is preferred when possible. Cremation is the preferred disposition within the Hindu religion. Whereas it is specifically disallowed in both the Jewish and Muslim faiths.

Purpose & Characteristics of Cremation

Cremations may be performed by cremation societies, full-service funeral homes, or stand-alone crematories. Modern crematory facilities may have visitation areas and viewing rooms where the next of kin, family, and friends can gather before the cremation occurs. Some crematories allow those gathered to watch the cremation process begin as the deceased individual is mechanically placed into the retort. The evolution of cremation modern cremation processes is designed to help the community of mourners confront the reality of death, to ensure that the cremation is performed with dignity and care, and the begin the mourning and grieving process.

Types of Cremation Services

• Traditional Funeral Service with Cremation to Follow • Religious Funeral Service with Cremation to Follow • Cremation Followed by Traditional Memorial Service • Cremation Followed by Religious Memorial Service • Direct Cremation (no rites, rituals or ceremonies)

The select of cremation as the form of final disposition does not diminish the importance of the individual’s life nor does cremation lessen or negate the emotional needs of the family and friends at the loss. The selection of cremation must be treated with the same care, concern and dignity as the selection of a traditional casketed burial. Similarly, the cremated remains that are returned to the next-of-kin should be treated with respect and reverence.

Burial Options for Cremated Remains

Cemeteries offer a variety of burial options for cremated remains. Each type of burial provides safety, security and the opportunity for memorialization and remembrance.

In-Ground Burial of Cremated Remains: Cremated remains may be buried in a traditional burial plot. If a full-size plot is used, many cemeteries will allow for the interment (burial) of multiple sets of cremated remains within the same plot. This may be a meaningful option to have loved ones at rest together. It may also lower the cost of the burial since the plot cost can be shared. Modern cemeteries may also offer smaller, cremation specific burial plots, laid out to fit an individual urn (or urn vault) and a memorial.

Above-Ground Entombment of Cremated Remains: Cremated remains can be placed, or entombed, into an above-ground columbarium niche. A columbarium is a structure specifically to house cremated remains. A columbarium may either be part of a larger mausoleum or it may be a free-standing building or wall. Within the columbarium are individual space enclosures that will house individual sets of cremated remains. The individual enclosures, or spaces, are called niches or cremation niches. Niches are typically made from marble, granite or glass and offer unique memorialization options. Alternative niches designs may feature beautify stone mosaics, integrated into waterfalls or fountains, or even arranged to look like books on a bookshelf. When considering the use of niche, the exterior size of the urn must be smaller than the interior dimension of the niche enclosure space so that the cremated remains are able to be placed within. Standard cremation niches are between 10x10x10” and 12x12x12”. Companion cremation niches are intended to serve as the final resting place for more than one individual and vary in size depending on the intended use of the niche space.

Cremation Gardens: Cremated gardens are special places within cemeteries. Cremation gardens are designed to offer a variety burial options for cremated remains in a concentrated area. Most cremation gardens are peaceful, beautiful areas physically differentiated from the surrounding cemetery grounds. Cremation gardens may offer alternative burial, visitation, and memorialization choices including: Cremation Benches that hold the cremated remains within cored holes within the granite foundation and Cremation Memorials that are bronze memorial plaques that have a special canister to allow for the burial of cremated remains directly beneath the memorial.

Cremation Costs

The cost of cremation is determined based on a number of factors and fees including the funeral directors professional service fee, actual cost of cremation, casket, urn, medical examiners permits, death certificates, and cash advance items. This is separate from any cemetery or burial costs which may include the niche or plot, the entombment or committal service. Direct cremations with no additional rites, rituals or services may be under $1,000 whereas more complete services including cremation, memorial, and burial services can be upwards of $5,000+.

While minimizing cost is important, it is equally important to maximize value. As with most things, there is truth to the adage, “you get what you pay for”. When evaluating cremation providers, the lowest cost may not necessarily include all of the required goods and services. Read the article about selecting a cremation provider to learn more.

Ancillary Information about Cremations

In general, there are two types of crematories; stand-alone crematories and crematories that are part of a larger funeral home. Stand-alone crematories typically have smaller facilities, offer fewer services, and employ minimal staff. Conversely, full-service funeral homes that also have in-house cremation capabilities will be able to provide a fuller range of post death care from transportation, to refrigeration, to viewing facilities, and cremation services. The full-service funeral homes may have higher service prices because of higher fixed overhead costs. Whereas, stand-alone crematories may offer lower prices. The selection of a ‘best’ cremation provider will depend on the goods and services that are meaningful and appropriate for the specific individual, next-of-kin, and the community of mourners.

All cremation providers are required to follow the FTC’s set of Funeral Rules, which mandate that a standardized General Price List be presented at the beginning of all arrangement conferences. This is a rule designed to increase transparency and to protect consumers. If a cremation provider does not present the general price list, or GPL, at the beginning of an arrangement conversation it constitutes as a violation of FTC Funeral Rule. Violations of the FTC rule carry penalties in excess of $40,000.