Choose Your Own Burial Traditions

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National Free Planning Kit

August 27, 2015

Have you ever thought about what your own funeral would be like?  Popular culture seems to indicate that many funeral traditions are giving way to a more personalized experience.

In the 2007 movie “P.S. I Love You” starring Hilary Swank, there is a bar scene where an Irish wake is being held for Swank’s husband. One by one, family and friends fill shot glasses lined up on top of his urn with Irish whisky and drink to a medley of his favorite  songs — and not all tasteful —as the priest sings along.

In the 2009 film “Get Low,” gun-toting hermit played by Robert Duvall comes into town to make arrangements for his own “funeral party” that he wants to throw while still alive.

“I want everybody to come who has got a story to tell about me,” Duvall tells the funeral director played by Bill Murray.

“How do you get people to come tell stories about you that I am guessing that might, you know, get them shot?” Murray asks.

As Duvall begins to walk out, Murray quickly assures him not to worry about it.

“We’ll come up with something. A couple ideas just came to me.”

According to the findings in a 2009 retail report, nearly seven out of 10 people over the age of 50 also would like to have a celebratory event. The funeral industry has been responsive, supplying everything from Harley Davidson motorcycle hearses to viewings with the departed in a standing position.

But regardless of how personalized the funeral services, almost all tend to include one of these five burial traditions:

1. In-Ground Burial

This is the most traditional burial choice, typically involving a casket and marked by a memorial tribute. Below ground burials also are usually preceded by a funeral service.

2. Above-Ground Burial in a Community Mausoleum

A community or public mausoleum is an above-ground building memorializing multiple individuals. Mausoleums offer a secure enclosure to keep the casket and vault from coming in contact with the earth.

3. Above-Ground Burial in a Private Mausoleum

A family mausoleum is a distinct above-ground structure built specifically at the request of an individual or family usually to entomb the members of a single family.

4. Above-Ground Burial in a Lawn Crypt

Two people can be memorialized together in the same space, and the space always remains clean and dry. A water drainage system is installed directly below the area to provide added weather protection.

5. Cremation Services

Cremated remains or “cremains” may be kept in an urn or scattered. Most cemeteries today can accommodate permanent memorialization of cremains either with a traditional burial of the urn or by placing the urn in a mausoleum or columbarium niche. Some cemeteries also have scattering gardens. If considering scattering ashes in a public area, be sure to check with the local jurisdiction for any regulations or prohibitions.