Cremation recently passed burial as the leading choice of Americans. There are many reasons for this including cremation cost (which is typically much less than a burial) and that families are less traditional than they used to be.
Thousands of cremation service providers operate throughout the U.S. With so many options, finding and selecting the right cremation provider for you and your family can seem like a daunting task, especially since it’s something that you probably don’t deal with too often.
Below we’ve provided some helpful information about the various cremation service provider options, questions you can ask when selecting a provider, and some tips that can help you find the right cremation provider for you and your family.
List of Service Provider Options
There are many types of groups that provide cremation services. The cremation service provider that is a fit with you and your family will depend on the type of cremation you prefer and your budget.
- Funeral Home - funeral homes provide a number of services and can serve as a single point of contact to handle everything related to your loved one who passed. This includes serving as the link to the cremation service provider and handling all of the arrangements. Selecting a funeral home can be a great option if you want somebody else to be in charge of the details – something that can be extremely helpful, especially at your time of grief. Funeral homes can also provide additional services, including but not limited to a viewing, memorial service, urn options, and so on.
- Cremation Service Provider (or Direct Cremation) - cremation service providers only focus on cremation and are not involved with burials. They typically provide much less services than you can get through a funeral home, however can be much more affordable. Working directly with a cremation service provider can cost about five hundred dollars on the low end up to a few thousand dollars. A cremation service provider can transport your loved one after they pass, perform the cremation, and provide the necessary documentation. To find out if this is a fit for you and your family, we recommend asking questions of the provider and meeting with multiple groups to figure out which one may be a good fit.
- Cremation Society - a cremation society is a typically a group that offers memberships and then special discounted pricing to its members. People frequently become members of cremation societies when they’re pre-planning their memorial, however it’s still possible to work with a cremation society when planning a cremation that is at-need. Cremation societies don’t always offer lower prices or more services, so it’s important to ask questions and weigh your options.
- Cemetery - due to the surge in people choosing cremation, a growing number of cemeteries either have a crematorium on-site, or are affiliated with a provider of cremation services. If there’s a cemetery that you, family, or friends had a great experience with in the past, it’s a good idea to ask them if they offer cremation, and if not, who they would recommend for cremation services.
- National Cremation - there are certain organizations that have locations in multiple states and provide cremation services on a national basis. These organizations should be taken into consideration if you or a loved one are pre-planning and if you expect to move away from your local area in the future.
Choosing a Cremation Service Provider
Choosing the right cremation service provider is important. It can be a challenging process for many since there typically isn’t a lot of time for comparison shopping. On top of that, you and your family are going through a difficult time and mourning the loss of a loved one.
Below are some tips to help you select a cremation service provider that’s right for you and your family.
- Referrals - reach out to family, friends, neighbors, or clergy on recommendations they may have for cremation or other funeral providers. This may include one they may have used in the past and had a good experience with. Getting a referral from a trusted source is a great way to find a provider.
- Reach out to two or more local providers and ask questions - funeral homes and cremation service providers typically encourage questions and should want to have you and your family be comfortable with them. If asking questions to a particular funeral home or cremation provider gives you an uneasy feeling, or if the provider is trying to rush you off the phone or get you out of their facility, move on to the next one. A good first step is to reach out to the providers by phone and ask them some questions. It’s always a good idea to inquire about pricing in this initial conversation.
- Check online reviews - online reviews are a good resource to see what a facility’s customers have to say about their level of service. A number of websites like Google, Yelp and others show unbiased reviews from real customers. By reading through these you can get a good information about a provider.
- Check with rating agencies - it’s recommended to check with the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General’s office, or other agencies to find out if any formal complaints have been made about the provider.
- Review their website - does the organization present itself well online and is the information current? Also, is the contact information available? It’s good to make sure that the group you’re speaking with is credible.
- Visit them in person - although this can be time intensive (especially at the time of a loved one’s passing), a visit to the facility and sitting down with a funeral director or other staff is always recommend. After calling a number of providers, it’s a good idea to narrow down your list to 2-4 and visit them in person. Things to consider during an on-site visit: how is the facility – is it clean? How friendly is the staff? Do you have a ‘gut feeling’ about the facility and organization? As this can be a difficult decision, most people have a member of the family of friend go with them on these visits. This person can give you their opinion of the various options and you can compare notes. Having another person present can also be helpful as they may think of questions to ask that you may not have thought of.
- Make a decision - after you’ve reviewed your options and done your homework, make a decision and stick with it (and don’t second guess your decision!). If you’re still not sure about who to choose after reviewing multiple options, involve family in the decision-making process so it is a collective decision when choosing the provider. If there’s something during the process that doesn’t go as planned, don’t blame yourself as you did your best. Rather than dwell on the provider, spend your time and energy reflecting on your loved one and his or her memorial.
Choosing a Cremation Urn and Memorial
In addition to choosing a cremation provider, you also need to decide on what to do with your loved one’s ashes after the cremation is performed. The cremation provider will typically provide you with a basic container made from plastic or other material to hold your loved one’s ashes at no additional charge. However, many families don’t keep their loved one in the container provided and choose a different urn and memorial.
When it comes to cremation urns and memorials, there are a lot of options. You can go the traditional route and get a metal or wood urn that you have filled with your loved one’s ashes and keep in the home. Alternatively, you can go with one of the new memorial options, including a tree burial that grows a living memorial tree in honor of a loved one, scatter ashes of your loved one at that favorite place, bury ashes of your loved one at a cemetery or special place with a burial urn, have some or all of their ashes included in a decorative glass piece, and so on. Many families are even dividing up the ashes of a loved one and having multiple cremation memorials in their honor.
Some people express what they want as a memorial before they pass, however, many others do not. If you or family didn’t have that conversation with your loved one who passed, make their memorial one that honors them in a special way and what you believe they would have wanted.