Can You Be Buried Without a Casket?

If you are considering or are already in the process of planning your burial in advance, it’s possible that you’ve wondered whether you or your loved one can be buried without a casket. It’s a logical question with some conflicting answers online. Here at BurialPlanning.com, we pride ourselves on being the funeral and burial planning experts, and have created this page to help you understand your options. 

So, can you be buried in the ground without a casket? The short answer in most scenarios is no. But those other scenarios is why this question is so complicated. Let’s try to break it down. 

One alternative is a natural burial. Instead of a traditional casket, a person is buried in eco-friendly, biodegradable material. Otherwise, people who choose to be buried without a casket most commonly do so for one for three reasons: religious, financial, or environmental. 

People who choose this avenue for religious reasons tend to do so because the process of embalming may be forbidden by their religious beliefs. Orthodox Jewish and Islamic religions do not allow embalming, for instance.

People who would prefer to forgo a casket due to financial reasons may want to consider cremation instead. Even with the urn and if you choose to have the urn placed in a cremation niche, this form of memorialization avoids the cost of a traditional casket, the vault, and the opening and closing of the vault. This can be a large financial savings.

People who choose to be buried in the ground without a casket for environmental reasons tend to do so because, with nothing separating their bodies from the ground, they can truly become one with the earth, as well as provide nutrients to the earth. It can be considered the ultimate gift to the planet and a very minimally invasive way to be buried. If you want to plan an eco-friendly burial, you should know that there is a difference between a natural burial and a green one. A natural burial is what is described above, it does not involve the traditional embalming process or casket/vault. A green burial means the cemetery in which a person is buried is certified and has met certain standards. To learn more about the differences between a natural burial and a green burial, read our guide to eco-friendly burials.

Can You Legally Be Buried in the Ground Without a Casket?

Laws differ between states, but the majority require that people be buried in a casket. These laws do not typically specify what the casket be made of. This allows for a wide variety of options. A casket can be made of biodegradable material like paper, newspaper, cotton, wood pulp, wicker basket, cardboard container, or a traditional pine box. You can also choose to be buried in a simple cloth shroud. Many cemeteries that require burial with a casket also require a burial vault. We recommend that you speak with a burial planning expert or review your state laws to understand your local burial requirements.

Please be aware that in most states it is illegal to independently bury a body, even if it is on your own property. There are multiple elements to consider, such as local zoning laws. If you do follow the correct procedure, mandated by your local government, including notifying all necessary parties and completing all necessary paperwork, you are still required by law to involve a funeral director. It is also important to note that if the deceased died of a contagious disease, it is required that the body be properly embalmed. 

Do Natural Burials Require a Casket?

A natural burial does not use embalming fluid, a casket, or a burial vault. The deceased is placed directly into the earth. Natural burials allow the deceased to become one with the earth and to give back to nature. Natural burials often don’t have typical headstones or memorial benches. Instead, a popular option is to plant a tree or a garden on the burial site as a living remembrance of the loved once. For more information about natural burials, read Natural Burials: Questions & Burial Options.

Find a Cemetery to Learn About Burial Options Near You

There are so many options to consider when planning or pre-planning your funeral or the funeral of a loved one. You may want a natural burial, green burial, eco-friendly burial, or another alternative burial option such as cremation. If you want to learn more about whether you can be buried in the ground without a casket in your state, click here to contact a cemetery in your area. Talk to a burial planning expert. They will help you to select a burial plan that reflects your values and will leave a lasting legacy. 


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