A Guide to Cremation Costs & Arrangements

Information on arranging a cremation and the costs involved

Last updated: 1 February 2017

Many people choose the cremation process as an alternative to a traditional burial for their loved one. Recent figures suggest that cremation will soon overtake burial as the most popular type of funeral in the U.S.

When deciding between a burial and a cremation, many people will take their loved one’s wishes into account. Cremations have made it possible for people to have their ashes scattered in several places, and more and more people are choosing to do this.

Cost of cremation

Cremations tend to be cheaper than the cost of a burial. A report by insurer Sun Asset estimates that the average cost of a cremation funeral is $6,078. This cost includes the fees paid to the crematorium for their services.

The cremation

Religious ceremonies can take place in a place of worship, or at the crematorium itself. If you choose to have a religious ceremony outside of the crematorium, a short service will take place before the committal of your loved one. Bear in mind that a religious ceremony is not obligatory. As the committal takes place, the coffin is generally obscured by a curtain and you can choose to have a song played.

Mourners are then invited to look at any flowers or notes that have been left for your loved one and the cremation takes place.

You may be allowed to witness the cremation, but this would have to be discussed with the crematorium beforehand.

What to do with ashes after cremation

The spreading or burying of a loved one’s ashes can be an important part of saying goodbye. You may have an idea, or your loved one may have expressed a wish, for their ashes to be scattered in a place of special significance to you. Before you go ahead, it’s important to ensure that it is not prohibited to do so at your chosen spot.

U.S. law allows you to scatter or bury your loved one’s ashes on private land, though you should ask the landowner’s permission if it is not your land. Remember that private land could one day be sold to another owner, potentially making visiting the site difficult for you and your friends and family in the future.

If you wish to spread the ashes on public land, you should check city and county ordinances to make sure this is permitted. To scatter ashes on federal land you must ask permission.

If you want to scatter ashes in a lake or river, you must abide by the Clean Water Act, which may require you to obtain a permit from the state. For scattering ashes at sea, the Clean Water Act also applies and ashes must be scattered at least three nautical miles from land. You must also inform the EPA within 30 days of the scattering.

Some crematoria have an area that is specifically designated for ashes to be scattered or buried, often called a Garden of Remembrance.

Increasingly people are opting for more unusual and personal ways of keeping the ashes of a loved one – some funeral homes offer the service to turn ashes into glass to make a unique memorial, or they can be transformed into cremation jewelry.

Religious beliefs

There are certain religious groups that prefer burial to cremation, including Islam and some types of Judaism. This may influence your choice, depending on your loved one’s religious beliefs.

However, many religious groups have now accepted cremation as an alternative to burial. If you have any questions, be sure to ask a member of the clergy belonging to your loved one’s specific religious group. They will be able to offer advice on what is accepted practice.

Read more about religious funerals.