Tips to Choose a Cremation Service

Moving through the feelings of shock, loss and grief to plan your loved one’s final arrangements may seem like a formidable task but it’s possible with help and support. If you can, make sure you have someone in your corner to rely on during this tough time.

If you’re in the midst of planning a funeral service, you may have decided that cremation is a better option that a traditional burial. Some benefits of cremation include that the costs can be significantly cheaper, you have the choice to take up less space in a cemetery and if keeping the remains of your loved close to you is important, you are able to keep them at your home.

If you have decided to have a funeral service involving cremation, there are resources available to help you select a provider that best fits your needs. Though it may feel like cost shouldn’t be a factor, experts say it is definitely best to consider the most reasonably-priced options to lay your loved one to rest. With cost in mind, you’ll want to make sure that you are asking the right questions when you select someone to handle the arrangements.

First, let’s start off with what a cremation service entails. You can have a direct cremation, where the remains are cremated shortly after death and arrangements are either made for burial or entombment at a later date, the family keeps the remains in an urn or other approved container or the family takes the ashes to scatter them at a favorite or significant location of the deceased. If you select cremation but you still want to have a funeral or memorial service, you can make arrangements to cremate the body after the service as well or have the remains taken care of before you schedule the service.

Below are some tips to choose the best facility to perform the cremation and handle the services, should you choose to have one.

Think About Which Service You Want

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) says that funeral service professionals are battling many preconceived notions about the options available for cremation. Many people may believe that if you cremate the remains, you have to do it right away and don’t allow friends and family the option to see the body or have a service. The reality is, however, that you can still have a traditional service celebrating the life of your loved one even if you opt out of a burial.

It helps to already know what you want as you look for a cremation provider so that you can consider costs early. National Funeral Council.Org gives a comprehensive list of the options available to you related to cremation, which includes:

  • Just Cremation (also called simple or direct cremation) – No viewing or services prior to or after cremation. This service is the simplest of all of the cremation options. Consider whether you will have a lot of friends and family who would want to say goodbye. If the family and friends pool is relatively small, you may want to go with a direct cremation. Remember that having a memorial service doesn’t have to be a formal affair; you can always host something small at someone’s home later.
  • Cremation and Memorial Service – Memorial service may or may not be held at the cremation provider’s facility. Should you decide to go with a memorial service, you do have the option of hosting the event at the funeral home. Keep in mind that hosting the memorial service will incur more costs with the funeral home or whatever facility you decide to use.
  • Viewing with Cremation to Follow – A viewing or wake (private or public) with cremation to follow. You will have to think about costs and arrangements for transporting the remains from the viewing or wake to the crematory or funeral home.
  • Viewing, Cremation, Memorial – A viewing or wake (private or public) with cremation and a memorial service to follow. This option includes many of the elements of a traditional funeral. There is a viewing of the remains, the remains are transported to the crematory or funeral home and then there is a memorial service that may consist of clergy officiating, song selections and other tributes.
  • Viewing, Funeral Service, Cremation – A viewing or wake (private or public), a funeral service with the body present and cremation to follow. Burial or scattering the cremated remains may follow the next day. This option is essentially a traditional full-service funeral, only you handle the remains after the viewing and funeral services are over.

For many people, having a place to visit their loved one is important. If that is true for you, choosing a place to scatter the ashes or burying them is something you may want to consider.

Remember that in New York State, only a licensed funeral director can make arrangements for the care, moving and preparation of the remains for cremation, followed by the necessary preparations to move the body to the crematory. The funeral director also files the death certificate and obtains the cremation permit, says the Division of Cemeteries website.

Consider Whether a Crematory or Funeral Home is Best

Let’s start with some basic definitions. A crematory is simply the facility that has the equipment to cremate a person’s remains. Sometimes the crematory is only able to perform the cremation, but in other cases, the facility also has rooms available for small viewings or memorial services. A funeral home, which is probably most familiar to you, is a facility that is operated by a licensed funeral director and can facilitate the details most commonly associated with a full-service funeral, including caskets, flowers, transportation to the burial site, etc. Sometimes a funeral home doesn’t have a crematory on site, so you may end up working with both types of facilities as you plan your service.

All crematories in New York are regulated by the state, according to the Division of Cemeteries. Of the 47 active crematories, 44 are operated by nonprofit organization, two are operated by municipalities and one is run by a religious organization.

Whether you go with a crematory or funeral home will depend on the type of service you choose. If you’re going with a traditional funeral, a funeral home can probably best handle all of the details surrounding the arrangements. If you are doing a direct cremation and will be holding the memorial service at a later date, you can work with a licensed funeral director to handle the relationship between you and the crematory.

Check the Prices

We can’t stress enough that cost should very much be a factor in how you choose your cremation service. Prices can vary widely so definitely call around or do some research online to help you learn what price range is comfortable for you. Federal laws stipulate that funeral homes must have a price list available to you when you request it, whether by phone or in person.

The cost of embalming is definitely one of the most costly parts of planning any funeral service. In New York, embalming is not required by state law, but the facility you choose may require it if you are planning a memorial or funeral service where your loved one will be on display for viewing.

New York law also doesn’t require that you purchase a casket, which can be another pricey part of funeral planning. However, you must purchase or rent a container that shields the remains from public view while they are being transported. New York regulations state the remains must be “delivered to the crematory in a leak-proof, rigid combustible container that completely encloses the human remains,” the Division of Cemeteries explains. With those standards in mind, be sure to ask about containers to transport the remains besides coffins.

Check the Reviews, On and Offline

Online reviews and Internet searches is the 21st century word-of-mouth. There is no reason not to know about whether the facility of your choosing is up to code on industry standards, has had any brushes with the law or has any sort of trouble. The media can be a wonderful source for investigations or issues so pay attention to any news stories about the facility you’re considering.

If anything seems doesn’t seem right or legal, move on to the next facility. It’s definitely worth your peace of mind to pursue a competent, trustworthy service that will be able to fulfill its duties.

The Bottom Line

Keep in mind that choosing cremation doesn’t mean that your loved one’s final arrangements can’t have a personal touch that reflects his or her personality. The truth is that you can make the service before or after the cremation as unique as your loved one was. When you are planning the service — no matter what you choose — you can personalize with special tributes, photographs, music or displays. You have the options to still make the celebration a lasting way to say goodbye.


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