The funeral planning decision process can be broken down into three main components. They are:
Let's look at each of these in detail.
The first and, for many the easiest, choice is what form of final disposition you would like. Final disposition is what you will ultimately do with the human remains of your loved one. Common choices include; burial, cremation, or entombment. Other options might include burial at sea, or donation of the body to science. The choice of final disposition can in some cases represent over half of the total cost incurred.
Burial: The cost for burial can be broken down into two main categories: First is the cost to buy the plot of ground which would include any incidental fees for the recording of the deed, and secondly the cost for the preparing the grave at the time of burial. This fee is commonly called the opening and closing charge.
Another common cost for burial would be an outer burial container, what is more commonly referred to as a burial vault. A burial vault is a container typically made of concrete that the casket is placed into for burial. It is used to hold the form of the grave and prevent the grave from caving in. Although there is no law in Illinois requiring an outer burial container, most cemeteries do require them. When planning a burial it is safe in most circumstances to expect to be required by the cemetery to buy an outer burial container. Therefore, for price comparison, add the cost of an outer burial container to the cemetery cost.
Entombment: Entombment is the placement of a casket in an above ground mausoleum. The costs involved for an entombment are generally strait forward. The costs for the purchase of the space, opening and sealing of the space, and recording of paperwork are typically rolled into one price from the cemetery. It should be noted that there is no need for an outer burial container because the mausoleum acts as the container.
Cremation: Many people consider cremation the least expensive form of final disposition, which it can be, but depending on your plans for the cremated remains, the cost can be close to, or even exceed a casketed burial. You may then choose to scatter the cremated remains (cremains) personally or keep the remains yourself. Either of these choices have no other additional charges. If you choose to have the remains entombed or buried, you would incur most of the charges outlined in those options for a casketed disposition. Many times the purchase cost for the grave or mausoleum space will be less than that for a casketed burial, but not always. If you choose to keep the remains, you may choose to have the remains placed into a permanent urn for display or storage.
Historically, the funeral has involved some form of gathering together of family and friends to show mutual support for each other. It's based on the concept that joy that is shared is thus increased, while sorrow that is shared is grief diminished. These public gatherings have been held in private homes, houses of worship, public meeting halls, or most common in modern times, at funeral homes.
Until the turn of the nineteenth century, funeral gatherings were commonly held at the home of the deceased. Friends and family would come together at the home to offer condolences and support. After World War One, more and more people moved into major metropolitan areas where small homes and apartment buildings were more common. An alternative location became necessary to accommodate this gathering. What was needed was a place that can provide parking, easy access for the visitors and a space large enough for many people. The funeral home idea came from the need to provide a location as a replacement for the deceased's home to have the funeral, a home for the funeral, or funeral home.
When arranging a funeral you have the option of sharing the event with others. Some have chosen an afternoon and/or evening gathering, while others have selected only a short gathering before services, or a gathering after the final disposition, still others have chosen not have any gathering at all. Whichever you choose you should understand that your choice is the right choice for you. You should base this choice on what you feel is right for you, not necessarily on what others may feel is right for you.
If you wish to have a public gathering, you then must decide on how long of a gathering you would like. Traditionally a "wake" or visitation of up to three days was used as a time for family and friends to gather. The extended period was necessary to allow the out of town visitors the opportunity to express their condolences before the burial took place. These wakes would begin almost immediately after the death occurred. Today a three-night visitation is a rarity, and two-night visitations are becoming few and far between. It is commonly felt that a one evening visitation, postponed a day or two after the death, allows sufficient time for friends to gather without putting a significant burden on the family.
Some families select to have a much shorter gathering before the final services. These are often arranged when the family feels that there will be a limited number of people attending the visitation and want to minimize the time spent greeting visitors. Typically in this situation, a one or two hour visitation is followed by a service either at the funeral home, church, or at the graveside. While the one-day visitation/funeral does minimize the time the family must be involved, it can sometimes be a burden on others that feel the need to share time with the family but cannot attend during working hours. Once again, you should base this choice on what you feel is right, not on what others feel is right for you.
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