More Americans chose cremation over burial for the first time in 2015, and by 2023, 59% of Americans and 77% of Canadians will choose cremation, according to the Cremation Association of North America.
Along with the rise in cremation, one tradition has remained: the cremation funeral, or cremation memorial. This occasion can be the same as the funeral for a burial—or as dissimilar as you'd like. Whatever shape it takes—from a deeply religious memorial to a joyous celebration of life, an end-of-life ceremony brings people together to say goodbye. It gives friends and family a chance to comfort one another, remember the good times and begin to heal from their loss.
In this article you will learn:
- Why have a funeral service or celebration of life with cremation?
- How much does a funeral cost with cremation?
- Can you have a memorial service without remains present?
Why have a funeral service with cremation?
There’s a misconception that cremation is chosen only when the family does not want to have a funeral or memorial service for a loved one, but that's not usually the case. Families who chose cremation do so for a variety of reasons. Cremation is perceived as simpler and more affordable. Some families choose cremation for environmental reasons or to ensure their remains can fit in available cemetery space. Another reason to choose cremation over burial: flexibility in timing the funeral or memorial.
Cremation funerals serve the same purpose as traditional funerals. Throughout history, funerals have been important rites for all cultures. There's evidence that even Neanderthals used flowers and antlers to decorate the graves of those who died. A funeral brings people together to say goodbye, and that's something people need when grieving. Cremation doesn't change that. In fact, because a cremation funeral can be scheduled at any time, more people are usually able to attend.
This is especially beneficial if there are friends and relatives living in different parts of the country or world. Cremation funerals can be held weeks or months after the actual cremation takes place, allowing people time to take off work, arrange transportation and otherwise plan to be present.
Additionally, cremation funerals can be held in a wide array of places, from modern funeral homes and cemeteries to restaurants, beaches, mountaintops, parks, piers—really any place of significance for the loved one and the family. Many people like the idea of a nontraditional location, and if the family wants the cremated remains (ashes) of the loved one present, that choice is made easier with cremation.
Cremation funerals can be held at places such as the beach
How much does a funeral cost with cremation?
As with the cost of a traditional funeral with burial, or any gathering of people, the cost of a cremation funeral can vary widely depending on personal preferences.
The national median cost of a funeral with a viewing and cremation in 2021 was $6,970. (The national median cost of a traditional funeral with a viewing and burial in 2021 was $7,848, excluding cemetery-related charges.) These costs are expected to rise with inflation.
These prices vary by region. For example, cremation services typically cost more in the Northeast than in other areas of the United States. Your choices, like the size and type of the gathering, food, flowers and merchandise, impact the cost and can range upward of $10,000 for large celebrations to under $1,000 for the most basic options.
Choosing a cremation provider
There is sometimes a perception that cremation is a basic commodity and that choosing a provider doesn't require as much thought as choosing a provider for a traditional burial, but that's not the case. What could be more important than taking a loved one and preparing them for their final disposition?
Mistakes can happen in the cremation process, just as with burial. And unlike burial, errors with cremation are permanent after the process takes place. That's why it's important to choose a provider with a 100% service guarantee that will remember every detail.
To help protect consumers at a vulnerable time, the FTC Funeral Rule specifies that funeral service providers must provide a detailed list of their prices upon request by phone or in person. The Funeral Rule also defines certain services that all providers must include to help families compare providers. Among them:
- funeral planning
- securing permits and copies of a death certificate preparing notices
- sheltering a loved one's remains
- coordinating arrangements with a cemetery or other third parties
Despite these guidelines, understanding cremation funeral pricing can be difficult. Not all funeral providers offer the same services, and it’s sometimes tough to do an apples-to-apples comparison.
A word about low-cost cremation providers
Certain cremation providers advertise low-cost services. Often those providers don’t have brick-and-mortar locations and rely on third parties for use of a crematory. And once that provider passes your loved one to a third party, the provider loses control of the quality of the process and level of care.
When you choose a Dignity Memorial ® provider, we manage the process from start to finish and treat every loved one with respect.
What Affects Funeral and Cremation Costs?
There are hundreds of decisions that must be made when planning a funeral, cremation or memorial service, and making funeral arrangements can often seem confusing or overwhelming. Because there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to planning a funeral or memorial service, there are different costs and expenses to consider. Learn what to expect and get your free Guide to Understanding Funeral and Cremation Costs today.
Can you have a memorial service without a loved one's ashes present?
At a traditional burial funeral, the body of the deceased loved one is almost always present. Cremation allows you the option of having the body present or not. A funeral service before cremation allows the body of the deceased to be present. After cremation, cremated remains may be present in an urn or other container or the family can choose to display a memory portrait of the loved one instead.
Some families may want a loved one's cremated remains placed in a cemetery as soon as possible. Others might opt to hold a scattering during or after the service. Still others may hold onto the urn or cremated remains indefinitely. Cremation offers this flexibility and, with or without the deceased present, a cremation funeral can be a memorable memorial that deeply reflects the life of the person being honored.
An experienced funeral service professional will design an event that respects your wishes, honors your religious or cultural traditions, and provides a fitting tribute. No matter how you plan to memorialize your loved one, we're here for you. To learn more about a Dignity Memorial cremation, download Understanding Cremation—A Complete Guide.