Full Body, Traditional Burial
A traditional, ground burial can be as simple or elaborate as the you want or the budget dictates.
The simplest is to have the funeral home hold the body in cold storage while the death certificate and permit for disposition are prepared. Then they will take the body in the chosen casket to the cemetery for cemetery personnel to bury at their convenience.
This option is called Direct or Immediate Burial; there is no viewing of the body, no graveside services, and embalming is not needed. The family can provide the clothing to be buried in. The casket can be provided by the family, or chosen from the funeral home’s inventory.
The next simplest is to do the above, but have a graveside ceremony at a scheduled time.
Both cemetery and mortuary personnel would be involved in scheduling, as well as the family. You could have seats provided, speakers, and witnessing of the casket being lowered.
Formal Body Viewing
Many people elect to have a formal body viewing time at the funeral home or church, lasting one or several hours, followed by a funeral ceremony with speakers, videos, slides, music, and/or flowers. A reception with food might follow. Then the body would be removed by pallbearers to the funeral hearse to be taken to the cemetery. Friends and family would follow the funeral cortege. Perhaps a police car might be engaged to manage the journey. Another, shorter graveside service may be planned for the graveside.
Your individual religious customs will affect which of the above is selected, as well as the family’s budget.
In any of these options, you need to be prepared for the following minimum costs.
- Death certificate
- Permit for disposition
- Transportation of the body
- Refrigeration of the body
- Perhaps embalming if there will be a time lapse before burial
- Casket and tax
- Right of interment in a plot or crypt
- Outer burial container (liner or vault) and tax
- Opening and closing of the plot or crypt
- Endowment cost of grave upkeep
- Processing fee
Later, you will probably be interested in an inscribed grave marker (size and stone may be dictated by cemetery rules).
Read our brochure on how to read a mortuary’s General Price List to find out how much the bill will add up if you choose to have more services at the funeral home or cemetery. Prices are usually higher on weekends, too.
Some families elect to do some of the care of the body themselves by having a home funeral. They need to assume the responsibilities of a funeral home:
- Enlist family members go to the county Public Health Department to obtain the death certificate and permit for disposition
- Have a van or pick-up to obtain a casket and move the body
- Use dry ice to keep the body cool
- Dress and arrange the body for a viewing
- Plan a home ceremony
- Do everything that a funeral home does—including arranging a time to bring the body and permits to the cemetery
To learn more about home funerals, visit our friends at the Home Funeral Alliance.
Full Body, Green, In-Ground Burials
Green burial is a way to return our bodies directly to the earth so they will biodegrade naturally and become soil. It is a way to manage human remains with as little resource use, energy use, and land disturbance as possible.
Green burial simplifies and detoxifies human burials, using:
- Only simple, biodegradable containers or shrouds for the body
- No embalming
- No concrete grave liners. Grave liners are not required by law, but most cemeteries require them in order to prevent the earth caving in over the decaying coffins and making the lawn difficult to mow. Concrete is a very high energy product, significantly increasing the energy impact of a conventional burial.
- Natural grave markers such as a small local fieldstone or planting a native tree or flowers
To be buried green, request a green burial in your living will and consult www.greenburialcouncil.org for information about green burial cemeteries near you. Our sister Funeral Consumers Alliance for Merced & Stanislaus Counties maintains a list of green burial cemeteries in CA.
Full Body, Burials at Sea
All full body burials off the coast of California require a Burial Permit.
To obtain the permit yourself:
- Bring (1) an original death certificate or (2) an original transit permit from the state of death to the nearest County Office of Vital Records.
- Request a VS-9 Burial Permit that states burial “at sea off the coast of [insert county of disposition here] County.”
There is a nominal fee for the permit. In addition, there are funeral service providers who will obtain the permit for you.
Note: The permit cannot be obtained with a photocopy of a death certificate, even if it is full color.
Veteran Burials at Sea
While anyone can have their remains buried at sea, burial at sea from a U.S. military vessel is limited to:
- active duty military
- retirees and veterans who were honorably discharged
- civilian personnel of the Military Sealift Command
- dependents of active duty members, retirees, and veterans