Funeral Basics

Sometime in your life, you may have attended the funeral of a friend or family member.  Most traditional funerals include some type of formal service at a funeral home or the body may be taken to a place of worship than to the cemetery for burial.  You may have even gone to the grave site. 

Today, an increasing number of people are moving away from the traditional type of funeral to more effectively reflect the personality of the deceased and to make the experience more personal for the loved ones left behind. This section includes links that provide information on traditional funeral products and services as well as more the more contemporary choices that may be offered by the funeral homes in your community. 

A funeral home chapel can be the site of a memorial service.
A funeral home chapel can be the site of a memorial service.

Fact Sheet

Did you know:

The primary reasons people select a particular funeral home are because:

  • It previously served their family
  • Is close to their residence
  • It has a good reputation
  • They previously visited their facilities
  • They felt the cost was competitive.

The main sources people turn to  when making final arrangements for loved ones include: 

  • Funeral directors
  • Relatives
  • Friends
  • The Yellow Pages
  • Members of the clergy.

The ways people express their feelings after a death include:

  • Attending the visitation or services
  • Spending time with the survivors
  • Sending flowers
  • Praying for the family
  • Sending cards
  • Going to the cemetery following a service
  • Taking food to the survivors
  • Donating to a charity
  • Helping with arrangements
  • Helping to pay for the funeral
  • Making donations for a mass

The average cost of a funeral in the United States is nearly $6,500.  This cost includes:

  • Casket
  • Embalming
  • Visitation/Viewing
  • Cosmetology
  • Professional charges
  • Transportation

Nine out of 10 people prefer prearrangement to make decisions at the time of need. According to the AARP, 13% of the 72 million people over age 50 have prepaid for their funeral. As “baby boomers” continue to age, the number of people prearranging for their funerals will increase significantly. According to a study conducted for the Funeral and Memorial Information Council, of the people who would choose cremation:

  • 32% would have a traditional service
  • 26% – a private service
  • 25% – a memorial service
  • 11% –  no ceremony
  • 4% – some other type of service

According to the Cremation Association of North America:

  • The U.S. cremation rate is 27.81% and it is expected to reach 35.07% by 2010 and 42.96% by 2025
  • The Canadian cremation rate is 47.30% and it is projected to total approximately 55% by 2020.

According to the Cremation Association of North America, the 10 U.S. states with the highest cremation rates are:

  • Hawaii – 61.26%
  • Nevada – 60.69%
  • Washington – 60.58%
  • Oregon – 59.09%
  • Arizona – 56.47%
  • Alaska – 54.85%
  • Montana – 53.13%
  • Colorado – 50.79%
  • California – 48.45%
  • New Hampshire – 48.34%

According to the Cremation Association of North America, the 5 U.S. states with the lowest cremation rates are:

  • Louisiana – 12.13%
  • Kentucky – 9.05%
  • Mississippi – 7.20%
  • Tennessee – 4.95%
  • Alabama – 4.44%

There are 8 key trends affecting cremation:

  • People are dying older
  • Migration to retirement locations is increasing
  • Cremation is becoming more acceptable
  • Environmental considerations are becoming more important
  • The level of education is rising
  • Ties to tradition are weakening
  • Regional differences are diminishing
  • Religious restrictions are lessening

The Federal Trade Commission has rules in place to protect consumers.  They include:

General Price List (GPL) 

Before arrangement discussions begin, the funeral home must provide a dated price list. Items must be separately itemized, however, package pricing is permitted.

Telephone Price Disclosure
For telephone callers, the funeral home must provide accurate pricing for any item on their general price list.

Casket Price List
Before viewing caskets, the consumer must be shown a printed casket price list. Funeral homes are required to have a dated, printed casket price list that also lists alternative containers.

It is illegal for funeral homes to refuse a casket bought elsewhere or charge a handling fee.

Funeral homes may not embalm without prior consent. The general price list must include a notification to consumers when embalming is not required by law.

Preservation Statements
The funeral home cannot tell you that embalming, sealer caskets or sealer burial vaults will preserve the deceased indefinitely.

Itemized Statements When the arrangement process is complete, the funeral home must provide an itemized statement outlining each product and service chosen.

Funeral Industry Survey Results

Harris Interactive, recently conducted a survey for the National Funeral Directors Association that found:

  • 13% of adults want a very traditional funeral with visitation and a religious service
  • 62% of adults who want funerals want some form of personalization
  • 50% of the people who want personalization want friends to relate stories; 47% want their favorite music played; and 42% want personal photos displayed
  • 73% of adults find the funeral service to be an important part of the grieving and healing process for friends and family members
  • 47% of the people who attended funerals for their  loved ones, found the funerals comforting33% found the funerals helpful
  • 25% found the funerals healing
  • 57% of adults have preplanned or intend to preplan their funerals
  • 43% of the respondents preferred cremation; 40% traditional burial; 14% wanted another form, and 14% were not sure of their preferences