Have you ever noticed how some things in life are difficult to comprehend until it happens to you? For example, you may understand the logistics of childbirth, but you don’t really get it until you go through it yourself. You may think that you know what fame would feel like, but you don’t really understand until you are thrust into the spotlight.
Jump ahead to these sections:
And you won’t understand what it feels like to carry the casket or coffin of a beloved family member until you have to do it. The weight of your loved one’s casket is not merely measured in pounds. There is also an emotional weight that comes with the act when you fully comprehend that your loved one is gone.
Let’s learn about the physical weight of caskets. We will discuss the different types of coffins and how the material they are made of affects the weight. We will also consider whether being a pallbearer is a physically demanding task or not. Finally, we will give suggestions on who to choose for that honor.
Weight of Different Types of Caskets
Unless you have purchased one before, you may not understand that there are many different types of caskets. Let’s discuss the approximate weight of each type.
A wooden casket can weigh 150 to 200 pounds. Pine caskets, like this one, are typically the lightest, and cherry and mahogany caskets, like this one, are the heaviest. You may also choose a lightweight veneer option. These can weigh around 100 pounds.
A 20-gauge steel casket weighs about 180 pounds. A 48-ounce (per square foot) bronze casket weighs about 310 pounds. Gold caskets can be particularly heavy. All of these weights are dependent on a variety of factors. Here are some to consider.
While a basic wooden casket may weigh 150 pounds, it may increase by 50% if heavy metal hardware is attached to the box. Some of the hardware is functional, like the hinges, handles, and rods.
Other metal attachments may be decorative. While such decoration adds to the casket’s attractiveness, it also increases the weight of the box.
Most casket interiors are covered with cloth on the inside. The type of material may vary from heavy velvet to light-weight crepe. Although the fabric weight doesn’t play a significant role in the casket’s weight, it does make a slight difference.
Standard caskets measure about 24 inches wide and 79 inches long on the inside. They typically hold a person who was as tall as 6’5” and as heavy as 350 pounds. There are oversized and child-sized caskets available too. Of course, the weight of the deceased inside of the coffin should also be figured into the equation.
Out-of-the-ordinary caskets may weigh more or less than traditional caskets. For example, if your loved one chose to have a fantasy coffin, which is rather common in Ghana, you may have to make special arrangements for transporting the casket from one place to another. Of course, if the fantasy coffin is shaped like a race car, complete with wheels, this won’t be a problem.
Is Carrying a Coffin Heavy for Pallbearers?
Yes, carrying a coffin can be burdensome for pallbearers. The body, casket, and hardware may weigh 400 pounds. If that weight is divided evenly among six pallbearers, each one is responsible for about 66 pounds.
If a heavier casket was chosen for a large person, the weight that the pallbearers must carry might be as much as 600 pounds. This means six pallbearers would be responsible for 100 pounds each.
While this weight may not sound particularly heavy for a healthy individual, you also need to keep in mind that the weight needs to be shouldered while wearing formal clothing. Pallbearers have the emotional weight to consider as well.
If you are concerned about whether or not the pallbearers can handle the casket’s weight, you may want to talk to the funeral home director about your concerns. They may direct you to lighter-weight casket options that are still sturdy enough to hold the body of your loved one. If you are purchasing the casket through an online retailer, you should see the shipping weight of the casket listed near the casket prices.
Even if you are concerned about your pallbearers’ strength, they may not have to carry the casket very far. Caskets often sit on an aluminum or carbon steel bier with wheels. This makes transporting the coffin across smooth surfaces as simple as pushing it along. Compared with the practice of using catafalques, this makes the job of a pallbearer relatively simple.
It is also helpful to know that people who work in the funeral industry are often known for stepping in when the casket is too heavy for the pallbearers. They may offer additional strength if they see that it is required to move the casket.
If you know that the casket will need to be carried across a great distance of over uneven ground, or if the deceased needs an oversized casket, you need to make sure that the pallbearers have the physical stamina necessary for the task. Avoid choosing children and people with heart conditions or physical impairments. You may also want to have eight pallbearers instead of the traditional six.
Make sure the casket has a railed carrying system instead of handles running along the side if you think the casket is going to be particularly heavy. This will make it easier to add pallbearers for the task.
Alternatives to Heavy Caskets
If you want to avoid heavy caskets altogether, you have several options for doing so. As mentioned above, you could opt for a lightweight pine casket or a biodegradable casket. Not only are these easier to carry, but they're easier on the Earth, too.
If you're opting for cremation over burial, you don't need to invest in a weighty casket at all. You can rent a lightweight casket for the funeral if you want to display the body. Then, you can purchase a simple, cardboard cremation casket.
Burying your loved one in an elaborate (and heavy) casket isn't the only way to honor their remains. Today, you have many options for your or your loved one's final disposition, including green burial or cremation. Whether you keep the ashes at home in an urn, bury them in a bio urn, or transform them into a diamond, the choice is more personal and customizable than ever.
Members of the immediate family are not typically chosen as pallbearers. This is because the physical and emotional weight of the task may be too much for someone who is drained from the experience of losing a loved one.
So, who should you choose to be a pallbearer at your loved one’s funeral? Typically, these are people who were close to the deceased (but not necessarily related), are available to attend the funeral, and are trustworthy enough to arrive on time and act appropriately. Women who are physically up for the task should be considered since pallbearers do not have to be men.
Consider choosing children, grandchildren, adult nephews or nieces, friends, or siblings to serve as pallbearers. If there is an abundance of people up for the task, you may consider assigning six people to do the actual job and to list the other grandchildren or family members as “honorary pallbearers.”
You may not understand the pain of losing a loved one until it happens to you. But when it happens, you realize how important it is to offer support for others who are going through a similar experience.