Planning a Funeral in California

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Planning a California funeral in advance allows you to select all your preferred details ahead of time, to ensure your life’s story is told exactly as you’d want it.

Consider the cemetery location, the type of burial (traditional, cremation, in a mausoleum, etc.)the size and text of the memorial marker, the readings or music during the serviceand more. Whatever you want, really, to customize it to how you would want to be remembered.

To help with the process, whether you are planning a California funeral for a loved one, or for yourself years if not decades in advance, this article will outline the details of three key elements: location, weather, and cost.

Type of Burial

A funeral is a personal ceremony that celebrates the life of the deceased. When planning your funeral, or the funeral of a loved one, you should consider the type of burial that best represents what was important to the individual.

There are typically seven different burial options at a cemetery: 

  • In-ground burial 
  • Above ground burial in a community mausoleum 
  • Above ground burial in a lawn crypt 
  • Cremation, with cremains scattered in a scattering garden 
  • Cremation, with cremains placed in an urn in a cremation niche 
  • Above ground burial in a private mausoleum 
  • Natural burial

Each option is unique and can offer meaning to the deceased and their loved ones. For example, people who have led a more traditional life are likely to choose an in-ground burial. This type of burial is what most people typically associate with a funeral. This option allows for the deceased to be buried alongside loved ones, allows their living friends and relatives to visit and leave flowers, and typically includes a grave marker.

A mausoleum is another option for those planning a funeral in CA. You can be buried in a public or private mausoleum. This has the added advantage of being protected from the elements and not requiring a vault or a memorial marker.

A burial should be a reflection of the deceased’s life and values. By selecting a type of burial that is special to you, you are honoring the memory and enhancing the legacy.


Deciding where to have a burial depends chiefly upon what type of burial you seek. Likewise, the type of service you choose will also figure heavily in the location. Here are some common service-burial combinations:

  • Funeral service followed by a burial 
  • Funeral service followed by cremation 
  • Funeral service followed by a graveside service, then burial 
  • Funeral service followed by a crematory service, then cremation 
  • Burial/cremation followed by a memorial service 
  • Religious funeral or cremation ceremony

Some families choose a home funeral or a graveside service. In California, planning a home burial is not an option, as home burials are not legal. This means you must engage the services of an established cemetery or funeral home. You can plan and pre-pay for your funeral and burial at a funeral home, or at any of’s seven beautiful cemeteries in the state.

How to Determine Location

Understanding the type of funeral and burial you prefer will help dictate the location. For example, maybe you want to be cremated and have your cremains scattered in a scattering garden — you will therefore need to ensure that you choose a cemetery with a scattering garden.

Proximity to family may also play into which cemetery location you choose, as well as the cemetery’s appearance, whether you or your loved one is a veteran and there is a special veteran section, or a religious statue that is meaningful to you, or some other important detail. Choosing a location in advance allows you to decide what matters to you, and pre-paying via even allows you to reserve a specific space at the cemetery.

Location Can Determine Weather

When it comes to the weather, it’s near impossible to predict what Mother Nature has in store for you at any given moment. Luckily, there are few parts of California that get snow, outside of the mountainous regions. So unless you’re planning a funeral in California mountains, you won’t have to worry too much about opening a gravesite in winter, when the ground is frozen, or un-plowed roads causing hazardous driving conditions.

If you do wish for a burial in an area of California that can get cold, you may want to consider cremation, or check if the funeral home has storage options in a vault, where remains can be kept until springtime, when it’s far less complicated to dig a burial site.

Additionally, it’s important to take into consideration how you’ll provide cover should there be inclement weather on the day of the service you’re planning. A canopy usually does the trick of providing both shelter from the rare California rain shower or shade from the sun.

Additional Considerations

If you’re planning for someone else and intend to have the burial in California no matter where the person last lived, you’ll need to consider transportation. Although California law does not require embalming, that changes if you’re transporting remains by common carrier. In that case, embalming is indeed required by California Health & Safety Code § 7355 (2018). The law also says the remains must be placed within a “sound casket and enclosed in a transportation case.

Please also note that if you do not engage the services of a funeral director or pre-plan via, California law dictates that a loved one must file the death certificate his or herself. This must be done within eight days and not after the burial. A “burial permit” must also be arranged, which is a service a funeral director or cemetery typically provides.


Finally, there’s the cost to think about when planning a funeral in California. Estimating the cost of funerals and burials can be tricky, simply because there are so many decisions that affect the bottom line. The FTC provides consumer information on funeral costs, but the only exact dollar amount they provide is what a casket may cost (between $2000 and $10,000). The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) collects data on funeral costs and reports that the median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial in 2017 was $8,755, up from a median cost of $8,505 in 2014. They also report that families can save approximately $1,500 by opting for cremation instead of burial.

Like any event where several different types of costs are involved, it’s hard to pin down even a rough estimate of what the total cost will be. At the very least, whether you choose burial or cremation, you’ll need to cover the following expenses, according to the NFDA:

  • Nondeclinable basic services fee 
  • Removal/transfer of remains to funeral home 
  • Reparation of the body 
  • Use of facilities for viewing/funeral 
  • Service car/van 
  • Memorial programs/printed packages 
  • Cremation fee or embalming 
  • Casket, cremation casket, or urn 
  • Memorial marker

Those are only the basics, primarily involving just the service and the burial. On top of these, there are the costs of purchasing a burial site or mausoleum space in a cemetery, the vault or grave liner, and there’s also a fee for opening up and closing the gravesite itself.

And don’t forget the cost of flowers, the obituary, a fee to pay the officiant, and copies of the death certificate. Each of these costs can vary along a wide spectrum of price levels, according to the decisions you make.

What’s important to point out, therefore, is that the sooner you pre-plan and purchase these elements, the more money that is ultimately saved. That’s because purchasing now avoids years or decades of inflation and price increases. You lock in today’s prices, and then get to relax knowing everything is already taken care of for your family.

The Next Step

If you are interested in learning more about planning a California funeral, or the process of pre-planning in general, a representative can help guide you through it. Simply start by selecting a California cemetery.