Ministry to the Bereaved
Part 4 Liturgical Issues

Chapter f47 The Funeral Home

Preliminary Questions



The Funeral Home / Mortuary

How Much Does a Funeral Cost? 

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

Why do you need the services of a funeral home?  How much does this cost?  What is a "pre-arrangement"? 

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Helpful information is provided by the Federal Trade Commission at 


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The Funeral Home / Mortuary

Typical "services" provided by the Funeral Home (Adapted from "" reported in the Washington Post, Saturday, February 16, 2008)1  The basic professional services of engaging the funeral home:  visitation; obituary announcements; preparation of the body, holy cards, music, place for refreshments, etc.

2  Embalming. 

3  The casket.

4  The visitation and service at the funeral home. Use of their chapel, etc.

5  Transfer of the remains. This is the fee for picking up the body and taking it to the funeral home; to the church; to the cemetery.

6  Rental of the funeral coach and driver; and other cars as needed.

(7  Forwarding the body to a second location.)

(8  Cremation)

9  Purchase of the plot in the cemetery or a place in a crypt or mausoleum. 

10 Digging the grave; opening and closing. Tent. Chairs, etc.

11  Reinforcing the grave (concrete vault or grave liner).

12  The headstone. 

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How Much Does a Funeral Cost?

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission: "A traditional funeral, including a casket and vault, costs about $6,000, although 'extras' like flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgment cards or limousines can add thousands of dollars to the bottom line.  Many funerals run well over $10,000.  The cost of the burial is additional.

Here's one example:

Professional and administrative services (embalming, funeral home staff during the visitation, and so on) ... $1,650

Facilities and equipment (preparation room, visitation room, reception room, chapel) ... $850

Transportation (transfer from the place of death, funeral limousine, and cars for the family) ... $450

Merchandise (casket, vault, prayer cards, temporary grave marker) ... $2,515

Cash disbursements (flowers, cemetery plot, obituary, death certificates, honorariums, headstone) ... $1,828

Total (not including taxes) ... $7,293  (from:

Funeral Cost Categories:

"Funeral costs can be divided into three basic categories:

1) Basic service fee: Funeral providers are allowed to charge this, and it can not be declined by consumers. This fee covers services common to all funerals including the use of the home, the services of the funeral director and funeral home attendants, burial arrangement coordination (with a cemetery or other), securing permits, etc.

2) Optional service charges: Some optional services include transporting the body, embalming, times for viewing (or wakes), use of a hearse or limousine, burial container, cremation and interment.

3) Cash disbursements: This covers goods and services that the funeral home buys on your behalf, with your consent. It may include the purchase of flowers, clergy services, obituary."  (see:  )

Typical "expenses" for a funeral: 

Adapted from "" reported in the Washington Post, Saturday, February 16, 20081  The professional service fee. It can range from as little as $695 to as much as nearly $3,000, and you have to pay it -- it's "nondeclinable." Some are higher than others, but the important thing to remember is that your total cost will be this fee plus the cost of the other services that are described below. If you want a simple burial or cremation, choose the home with a low up-front fee. That way you won't subsidize services you don't use. If you want a more elaborate funeral, you'll have to look at the cost of the whole package before judging the up-front fee.  --  You can get a reading on funeral-home prices in your area from one of the more than 150 memorial societies in the U.S. and Canada. Many regularly survey local funeral-home prices and distribute the results. Some even negotiate discounted prices with certain funeral homes. If you contact a funeral home directly, you're entitled to receive a general price list disclosing the professional service fee and charges for all services provided.

2  The casket. You're not looking forward to spending time in a casket showroom, but this is where a lot of your money will be spent or saved. An 18-gauge-steel casket, a common choice, costs an average of about $2,300. A 20-gauge casket, which is lighter weight, sells for a lot less. Because markups of 300% over the wholesale price aren't uncommon, it pays to look around a bit.

3  Embalming. This procedure is usually mandatory for open-casket viewing, when it may be accompanied by charges for hairdressing and cosmetics. Otherwise, embalming isn't generally required unless the body is going to be transported across state lines.

4  The funeral service. If the ceremony is at the funeral home, you'll be charged for use of the chapel and any necessary staff. Thus, it's usually less expensive to have the funeral service at a church rather than a funeral-home chapel.  [But there is a donation to the church and to the priest/minister -- $50 - $100.]

5  Transfer of the remains. This is the fee for picking up the body and taking it to the funeral home.

6  Hearse and driver.

7  Forwarding fees. These come into play if someone dies a long distance from where the burial will be. In this case, you'll be dealing with two funeral homes -- one on each end of the journey. The first home charges a "forwarding" fee, for embalming and transportation. The mortuary that handles the funeral will charge its usual fees.

8  Cremation. One in five Americans chooses cremation instead of burial. Because cremations can be so much simpler, they tend to cost a lot less. This isn't necessarily good for the funeral business, which would like you to spend a lot more. Thus, you'll be offered elaborate and expensive urns, even cremation jewelry, such as a pendant that holds the ashes of a loved one. Be careful or before you know it, you'll be spending almost as much as you would for a traditional burial service.

9  The Cost of Burial:  For a realistic idea of what a funeral costs, you must include burial fees that will vary depending on the type of burial-in-ground burial, interment in a lawn crypt, or entombment in a mausoleum.

10  The plot. The cost ranges from little or nothing in a community or church cemetery to in the thousands at a for-profit cemetery.

11 Digging the grave. You'll pay to open and close the grave, and the cost will vary depending on the time and day. A burial between 9 am and 3 pm on weekdays is the cheapest. Burial after 3 pm could cost twice as much, and a weekend funeral could cost three times the weekday morning rate.

12  Reinforcing the grave. Most cemeteries require a concrete vault or grave liner to prevent the ground from settling. You may have no choice about this, but you needn't buy an expensive one. It does nothing for your loved one, and no one will see it. A simple concrete grave liner will do.

13  The headstone. If you're determined to get a first-class funeral, spend the money on the headstone, rather than on the casket. For the best price, buy the stone directly from the monument company.

14  Crypt in mausoleum (single). The cost will vary depending on the location of the crypt in the mausoleum building. Savings come primarily from what you won't have to buy -- plot, sealer, burial vault, headstone, and grave opening and closing fees.  (Adapted from Kiplinger's Practical Guide to Your Money, by the editors of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine

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To Think About

Why are funerals so expensive?

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© Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 08/12/14 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at