Choosing a Cemetery: Where to Start

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If you’re planning a burial or helping someone make future plans, there are a few steps you’ll need to take, including choosing the type of burial as well as the memorial. But it’s a good idea to start with choosing the location, meaning choosing your preferred cemetery. Everything else stems from that.

Basic Types of Cemeteries

You’d be forgiven for thinking all cemeteries are the same. But once you start researching, you’ll realize the important differences. Some only offer certain types of burial options, some have mausoleums or scattering gardens while others don’t, some have religious statues or specific areas for children or nature hikes. Some overlook a city or are nestled in far away privacy. It all depends on personal preference.

Although a small percentage of people choose to be buried on their own land, this is illegal in many states, and most people opt for a traditional cemetery. There is also a small but growing movement of people who want yet another choice when choosing a cemetery: a natural burial, where there is no casket or vault, the deceased is instead placed directly into the ground to become one with nature.

You can continue reading to find information on each of these cemetery choices and some guidance on how to make a decision for yourself or a family member.

What to Consider When Choosing a Cemetery

Before you start shopping around or visiting potential cemeteries, it’s helpful to form a general idea of what you want. Maybe it’s an easy choice for you because your family has always been buried in a particular local cemetery, or because you or your loved one is or was a veteran and there is a cemetery near you with a wonderful veterans section.

But maybe it’s not a clear-cut decision to make. Maybe you don’t live near the old family cemetery or maybe there’s no longer any space there. Or perhaps you have something different in mind or you’d like to start a family plot somewhere new.

Whatever your unique situation may be, there are basically four things to consider when choosing a cemetery:

  1. The state where the cemetery is located 
  2. The prices of the various options available at the cemetery 
  3. The rules and requirements of the cemetery 
  4. The type of cemetery and what options it offers

Burial plots, spots in mausoleums, and cremation niches in cemeteries can require a significant investment of money, and you may need to remain happy with your choice years or decades later, so it’s important to explore your options carefully.

1. Location

Where would you like to buried? If you live far from where you grew up, do you want to be buried near where you live now or do you want to return to your home town?

Some people might also want to think about their families or friends who will be visiting their grave. Will the cemetery you choose be convenient for them? And speaking of family, do you want to consider purchasing a series of plots that are located together for other loved ones? Does the cemetery you’re considering have these available?

Once you’re narrowed down a location, there’s still the matter of where in the cemetery you’d like to be buried. Under a tree? Near a water feature? Overlooking a particular view? In a spot where it’s easily accessible by car?

2. Pricing

Every cemetery is different and each has its own terms and prices. Therefore, when choosing a cemetery, you’ll need to ask them directly about their options and costs. If you go through, we will provide all these details for you.

Don’t forget that there are often several individual costs:

  • The cost of the burial plot, columbarium niche, or spot in the mausoleum 
  • The cost of the burial itself: opening the grave, closing of the grave, the memorial marker, etc. 
  • Any general maintenance fees the cemetery grounds may charge – this is sometimes rolled into what can be called “perpetual care”

Sometimes, the cemetery can help families set up an arrangement with grounds crew to maintain their plots for them.

Maintenance typically covers mowing the grass, raking the leaves, and cleaning the grounds. The cemetery crew typically also prunes shrubs and trees that they have placed. These fees do not, however, cover the cost of repairing personal items a family has placed at someone’s grave site (benches, memorials, baskets, vases, etc).

3. Rules

Just as every cemetery has its own price sheet, they all have their own rules and requirements as well. For example, some cemeteries have rules about what types of headstones are allowed, and how large. For example, some cemeteries only allow flat markers, instead of headstones that protrude from the ground.

Most cemeteries are governed by state laws about how burials should take place. Burial without an outer burial container (vault) is usually prohibited, for example (a “vault” prevents a grave from sinking in). Many cemeteries do not allow the scattering of ashes. Cremains must be buried or placed in a columbarium niche.

There are also lots of other types of rules that vary by cemetery (e.g. “no artificial flowers”), so it’s important to ask for a list of rules and requirements from a cemetery where you’re considering being buried.

Some rules are common sense to many people, but they may not be obvious to everyone. For instance, it’s typical for a cemetery to prohibit people from bringing pets onto the grounds. Remember, a cemetery is a semi-public place, so it’s important to respect the feelings of others who are visiting their own loved ones.

4. Cemetery Options

Some people wish for their burial spot to be in a cemetery that has a religious affiliation. Others are interested in other types of affiliations that have cultural meaning to them.

Other questions to ask when choosing a cemetery: if you’re considering cremation, does the cemetery offer a columbarium with niches for urns? Or does it have burial spots for urns or a scattering garden? Are there spots available for green or natural burials? Be sure to find out everything you’ll need to know if you have any type of alternative burial plan in mind.

Start Your Search Now

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about when planning a burial. But simply thinking about these questions is a good first step toward making your decisions

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