Graveside Service Explained: What is it? How much does it cost?

Losing a loved one is the most stressful, emotional, and difficult time in our lives. We are expected, through the pain, to plan a personalized service that honors our loved one’s life and their wishes while also allowing us to grieve for our tremendous loss. 

We are asked many questions immediately after our loved one’s death and sometimes planning a graveside service or other memorial can seem so overwhelming that we wish someone else could take over the responsibility. This is one time when many of us need someone to tell us what to do. 

So, what do you have to do to plan the best internment services to memorialize the life of your loved one?

What is a graveside service?

A graveside service is not a funeral. They are two separate entities.

A graveside service is different from a memorial and funeral service usually carried out in a funeral home. While it usually happens after a funeral, you can forgo the funeral for a simple graveside service or do both.

Viewing of a body doesn’t have to happen at the gravesite and the use of technology is usually limited to a stereo to play a song or two. You may or may not wish to see your loved one lowered into the ground.

The ceremony can be conducted by a clergy member, military leader (if appropriate), or even a family member or friend. They may read the obituary or give a short eulogy while giving others the right to stand up and speak briefly. 

The casket or urn is usually put in place by the funeral directors before you arrive because it is their goal to make this day as easy as possible for those who are grieving. 

Planning A Graveside Service 

There are many aspects to planning a graveside service if you choose to have one, and many times, you must make these decisions quickly. Asking yourself a few questions first can organize your thinking and give you a sense of direction, which may be exactly what you need.

All religions and ethnic groups have various forms of services, many graveside, to honor their loved ones. Of course, you always have the option of rejecting the idea altogether but creating a unique service that honors the wishes of your loved one can give many people the closure that they desire.

So, how do we begin?

Who is the service really for?

Any requests made by your loved one before their passing should always be considered first, and foremost, when creating the service. Unfortunately, we don’t always know what they would want so there are other things to keep in mind.

These services are for everyone, not just for the person lost. Friends and family may wish to say goodbye, both internally and out loud, and unless the person who passed away specifically said that they did not want one, a service may benefit those of us left behind.

In an ideal situation, a person will make it known what they wish to happen after their death, but this isn’t always possible, leaving their next of kin to build a service that they believe will best fit the personality of the deceased. This is your family and this is your goodbye.

Do you have to speak? 

No one is forced to speak at a funeral and some people just can’t. There is nothing wrong with that. But other people may feel that they need to so that they can move on. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there anything I feel that I need to say to let go and move forward in a stronger emotional position?
  • Has anyone requested to speak about their time with your loved one?
  • Who was your loved one? Ask yourself if you need to assign speakers or not allow the practice at all. This is an emotional time, but also a time for everyone to act appropriately. For example, your ornery grandmother’s arch-nemesis from the neighborhood may not be the best person to honor her memory.
  • How many people will want to speak? Will anyone want to speak?

So in short, no you do not have to speak and as you are creating this experience for others, you can decide who speaks. Remember, the affair usually doesn’t last too long and inviting anyone and everyone to speak will take some time. 

Who should attend?

Many people request that only their closest friends and family be there for their graveside services while others want a party. The nature of the individual’s death, their wishes, and the nature of the people who will attend will guide you towards this answer. 

A person who was shy and reserved in life may expect a small funeral with the family in attendance. A lively person who shared their optimism with the world may want that party and so you can open the services to the public. 

Finally, is there anyone who just shouldn’t be there? In this case, it may be easier to limit attendance to immediate family and special friends if you are worried that someone will show that really shouldn’t as denying one person or family’s entrance may inflame an already sensitive situation.

Speaking of sensitive situations, you may be asking how much this will cost.

Cost of the Service

Many people worry about the cost of funerals and burials, with good reason. They want what is best for their loved ones while staying within the budget they have. A graveside service is much less expensive than a formal funeral and much simpler to plan. Costs may include:

  • A funeral director’s services may cost up to $3,000 for transportation, cemetery services, and embalming, if needed. These costs will fluctuate depending on whether you choose cremation or burial, for example, and the cost will raise if you choose the formal funeral path.
  • A casket alone can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000, but average around $2,500.
  • The cremation process can be close to $1,000, give or take depending on the quality of urn you choose. 
  • A cemetery plot depends on your location but you could be looking at a fee of $1,000 to $4,000.
  • A headstone or grave marker can cost you anywhere between $200 to $10,000, depending on how elaborate it is. 
  • Other fees, such as cosmetics, obituaries, and pamphlets, will vary. 

Some of these costs may be covered by insurance while others will have to be paid in other ways, such as with credit cards, personal savings, or financing through a funeral director. 

The cost can be tailored to what you desire for your memorial process. Costs will be much less for cremation than for traditional casket burial. Choosing a closed casket for the more simple graveside services or choosing to bury an urn will also decrease costs, if that is important to you. 

What if you don’t want graveside services?

Graveside services are not a necessity and you can elect other options, or nothing at all if that suits you and your family.

Just remember that you are now responsible for a memorial that may be significant for many grieving people outside yourself and the purpose of a ceremony is really for those of us dealing with grief and pain of loss. It can give friends and family a time to mourn together, so that you don’t have to do it alone. 

The decisions that you make are all to honor your loved one while giving you closure. How do you want to say goodbye?