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Common services and products used in a funeral are:

Caskets, burial vaults, and urns can be purchased from sources other than from a funeral home or made by family and friends- for substantially less than the average funeral home. If you use a funeral home, it has to accept items purchased or made elsewhere.

For information about obituaries, click here.

NOTE: In addition to traditional cemetery plots, another option is a "green" cemetery. In green cemeteries, the body is not embalmed, is buried in biodegradable caskets or no caskets, in a nature preserve.

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Funerals 101 Obituaries

Caskets: Descriptions And Alternative Places To Purchase

A casket (coffin) is a box for containing the body while at a viewing or ceremony and to move the body. It can also be a means of conveying social and economic status and/or the individuality of the deceased.

Although caskets are commonly used for funerals and internment in the U.S., no state law requires use of a casket.

Caskets vary widely in style and price and are sold primarily for their visual appeal. Typically, caskets are made of wood, fiberboard, fiberglass, metal or plastic.

A casket is often the most expensive item that will be purchased in a traditional funeral. An average casket costs slightly more than $2,000 according to the Federal Trade Commission, but prices increase dramatically if you choose a casket made of a special material, such as mahogany, bronze or copper.

Traditionally, caskets were only sold by funeral homes. Today, showrooms and websites operated by "third party" dealers are also selling caskets. You can buy a casket from a "casket store," discount stores such as Costco, or online retailers. Any of these sources can ship the casket directly to the funeral home. Some of the companies that operate over the internet will guarantee delivery within 24 hours. The Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to agree to use a casket you purchased elsewhere, and doesn't allow the funeral home to charge to a fee for using it.

To locate a casket on the internet, type "casket" in your favorite search engine.

When considering purchasing a casket from other than the funeral home, be sure to add the cost of shipping and handling to the cost of the casket.

When deciding on a casket, keep in mind that NO casket, regardless of its qualities or cost, will preserve a body forever.

Homemade Caskets

Caskets can be made of wood or cardboard by family and/or friends. 

In addition to making the casket, they can decorate it. Making a casket, or decorating it, can help people find closure.

Free plans for caskets can be found on line. In your favorite search engine, type in: "Plans Homemade Coffins" or "Plans Homemade Caskets". One of the sites that provides such plans is Mother Earth News offsite link.

Metal Caskets

Metal caskets frequently are described as "gasketed," "protective" or "sealer caskets." These terms mean that the casket has a rubber gasket or some other feature that is designed to delay the penetration of water into the casket and prevent rust. The Funeral Rule forbids claims that these features help preserve the remains indefinitely because, in fact, they don't. They simply add to the cost of the casket. Most metal caskets are made from rolled steel of varying gauges -- the lower the gauge, the thicker the steel. Some metal caskets come with a warranty for longevity.

Wooden Caskets

Wooden caskets generally are not gasketed and do not have a warranty for longevity. They can be hardwood such as mahogany, walnut, cherry or oak, or softwood such as pine. Pine caskets are generally less expensive than most others. Most funeral homes have pine caskets but rarely display them.

Manufacturers of both wooden and metal caskets usually provide a warranty for both workmanship and materials.

Burial Vaults Or Grave Liners: What They Are, How To Purchase

Burial vaults or grave liners, also known as burial containers, are placed in the ground before burial, and the casket is lowered into it at burial. The purpose is to prevent the ground from caving in as the casket deteriorates over time.

A grave liner is generally made of reinforced concrete, and surrounds the sides and top of a casket when placed in the ground.

A burial vault is more substantial and more expensive than a grave liner. It totally surrounds the casket in concrete or another material and may be sold with a warranty of protective strength.

Neither grave liners nor burial vaults are designed to prevent the eventual decomposition of human remains.

State laws do not require a vault or liner, and it is illegal for a funeral provider to indicate otherwise. Keep in mind, however, that many cemeteries require some type of outer burial container to prevent the grave from sinking in the future. Burial vaults and grave liners generally have to satisfy the rules of the cemetery.

It may be less expensive to buy a burial container from a third-party dealer than from a funeral home or cemetery. If you do purchase a burial vault or liner from a funeral provider, they are required to provide you with a list of prices and descriptions before showing you any of the items.

Embalming: Defined, When It's Necessary

Embalming is a process to preserve a dead body. Embalming is generally not necessary nor is it legally required in most instances where burial or cremation takes place shortly after death.

Embalming may be a practical necessity because of the time delay between death and burial if you are planning a traditional funeral or one with a viewing.

Under the Funeral Rule, a funeral provider may not provide embalming services without permission, and may not state that embalming is required by law if it is not.

A funeral provider may not charge a fee for unauthorized embalming unless it is required by law. As part of the requirement that funeral homes disclose in writing the funeral arrangements you have chosen, they must disclose whether embalming becomes a practical necessity and, if so, what the cost will be.

Embalming dates back to ancient Egypt, yet the United States and Canada are the only countries in the world where embalming takes place regularly.

Oils, Herbs, And Other Special Body Preparations

Oils, herbs, and other body preparations may also be used depending on religious and cultural beliefs.

It is illegal for a funeral provider to indicate that any product or process will preserve the body of a deceased for an unlimited time.

The Federal Trade Commission indicates that no process or products have been devised to preserve a body in a grave indefinitely.


An Urn is a container that is often used to hold the remains after a body is cremated.

  • Urns come in all types and sizes and styles.
  • An Urn may be purchased from a funeral provider, cemetery, third party such as Costco or from an internet provider.

If you are planning on a visitation or viewing prior to cremation ask the funeral provider about renting a casket. For direct cremation, the funeral provider must offer an inexpensive unfinished woodbox or alternative container that is cremated along with the body.