Funeral Director Etiquette You Need To Know

Some advice to help you during this difficult time.

At some point, we'll all need to face the uncomfortable task of burying a family member or friend. With so many unknowns, it can be challenging to determine how best to celebrate your loved one with the traditions associated with laying your loved one to rest. Should you get a "protective casket?" How can you plan a heartfelt service on a limited budget? Can you place items inside the casket? The list goes on and on.

Funeral directors can help you sort through these decisions and incorporate your family's traditions into the service. Experts in this field discuss practices that may alleviate some stress associated with paying for a funeral and how their work helps to create a final resting place for your loved one. Here are cost-saving tips, funeral director etiquette, and advice to help you during this difficult time.

Funeral Coffin at Cemetery
RubberBall Productions / Getty Images

Funeral Planning Etiquette To Help During This Difficult Time

Can you find a less expensive casket?

Costco and Sam's Club are known for their bargain bulk buys, but you probably didn't realize that both warehouses also sell coffins. Here is one way to manage the costs of planning a funeral while providing a beautiful resting place for your loved one.

Can you rent a casket?

You can still have a traditional viewing at the service, but renting a casket can save you money as the funeral home will reuse it for another viewing. The caskets, equipped with a removable interior, provide a sanitary solution, and after the service or cremation, the wooden box removes easily.

Can you skip the embalming process?

The fees associated with embalming, preparation, and transportation can add up. As long as you plan the viewing or cremation shortly after your loved one's death, you can request that the body not be embalmed to cut back on costs.

How do funeral directors create peaceful features for the deceased?

"If the usual methods of setting the features aren't sufficient to keep the eyes closed or the mouth shut, superglue is a secret weapon," wrote mortician Caitlin Doughty in the book Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.

In an interview with Mental Floss, funeral director Amy Cunningham of Fitting Tribute Funeral Services said her secret of choice is a hair tie to keep the hands folded. "If you need to keep a deceased person's hands folded neatly at their abdomen, but their arms keep falling down into the sides of the casket, you can gently bind their thumbs with a ponytail tie."

Are "protective" caskets worth the extra expense?

For all of its supposed benefits, caskets with vacuum-sealed rubber gaskets don't reduce decomposition. Mark Harris, the author of the book Grave Matters, suggests that these conditions accelerate decay because of the growth of anaerobic bacteria. The bacteria decompose the body, "turning soft body parts to mush and bloating the corpse with foul-smelling gas."

The trapped gas and moisture sometimes cause the caskets to explode and the doors to blow off the crypts. Harris also spoke with a former cemetery owner in his book. The owner revealed that the protective caskets are "routinely unsealed after the family relieve the inevitable buildup of gases within the casket." So you'll be doing yourself (and your wallet) a favor by not falling for the sales pitch on protective caskets.

Is there such a thing as a low-cost casket?

You probably won't find cheaper options in the display room of the funeral home, but sometimes directors keep the bargain models stored away. Ask if they are and to see the options available.

Is the body required during viewings?

Often there are no viewings, and without the body present, you won't have to pay for the mortician's services. This option is another consideration for your family when planning the funeral services and traditions you want to follow.

Can funeral directors choose your loved one's burial spot to be under a tree?

"A body must be buried at least four feet from a tree to protect its root system," Sarah Wambold, an Austin-based funeral director, told Mental Floss. "It's a bit of an adjustment for people who are committed to the image of being buried under a tree, but that's not always the most green option for the tree."

How are medical devices repurposed?

That replacement hip or knee implant may help improve a family member's life and reduce joint stress. However, once a body is cremated, those spare medical parts and prosthetics are melted down and salvaged for road signs and car parts.

Pacemakers, another medical part, are removed to prevent damage to the cremation chamber.

Is it necessary to buy new clothes?

The funeral home will make your loved one's preferred dress or suit fit perfectly on the body, even if it's a little snug or loose. You can buy something new if you prefer, but this is an option for you and your family to make regarding your loved one.

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