What Is an Immediate Burial? Definition + Cost


You have a lot of options when planning end-of-life services for a loved one. You could do an immediate burial or "direct" burial. We will discuss what this means, give you an approximate cost for this service, and explain why you may want to choose this option for your situation.

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What Is an Immediate Burial?

An "immediate burial" refers to the practice of placing the body in its final resting place quickly after death. You could compare it to a "direct cremation," which means the body gets cremated soon after death. 

Most of the time, "immediate burial" refers to placing the body in the casket inside of a vault in the ground. It may also refer to the casket inside a crypt in a mausoleum as well. This is typically a more expensive process than burial in a cemetery plot, but it may offer the only burial option in some areas of the country. 

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

Is there a difference between an immediate burial and a direct burial?

Immediate burial and direct burial are synonyms. You can find this option on the price list at every funeral home. 

Before we get into the details about the cost of an immediate burial and why someone would choose one, let's describe a few other options related to direct burials: 

  • Immediate burial without a service: One of the least expensive burial options involves a direct burial without a service. With this option, families transport the body from the place of death to the funeral home. The staff places the unembalmed body inside the casket, which gets transported to the cemetery. The body gets put inside a mausoleum vault with no mourners present and the family may not know when the burial takes place.
  • Immediate burial with a graveside service: Technically, you can't call a burial a "direct burial" or "immediate burial" if it has a graveside service. We have included this in our list because you still pay less than you would at most funeral services. With this option, mourners go to the site during the time before the burial. The family would work with the cemetery staff to discuss graveside service options. The family may also work with the funeral home staff to have a quick peek at the unprepared and unembalmed body before burial. 
  • Immediate burial with a later memorial service: The family can have a memorial service at a later date. The body does not need to be present for a funeral. You can even have a visitation or a time for extended family and friends to meet with you to express condolences after an immediate burial. You can plan a full funeral service as well.

How Much Does an Immediate Burial Cost?

The cost of an immediate burial depends on a variety of factors. No matter where you live, direct or immediate burial offers one of your cheapest options, along with direct cremation. 

You will need to pay the funeral home for basic service fees, which include things like transporting the body to the facility, storing the body for any length of time, making arrangements with the cemetery, and filing the required paperwork.

You will also need to purchase a casket, either from the funeral home or another third-party source. A simple casket often offers the most less costly casket for direct burial, but this still adds to the expense.

You also pay cemetery plot costs and fees. Not only do you need to purchase the plot, but you have to pay to have the grave opened and closed. Most cemeteries require the casket placed inside an underground vault for burial, which helps stabilize the earth over the grave. 

Finally, you may also have to purchase a headstone for the grave. 

With all of these variable costs, it's hard to give an estimate for how much to expect to pay for the immediate burial of your loved one.

You may wonder how a direct burial saves money. Families don't have to pay for an expensive casket, embalming costs, facility rentals, flower arrangements and can save on transportation costs.

Why Do People Choose Immediate Burials?

You might want to choose an immediate burial for your deceased loved one for a number of reasons. 

Families may not have funds available for a funeral

Direct cremations usually cost less than immediate burials. Some people don't like the idea of cremation or other alternative methods of disposition. They may come from a long line of people who chose burial. Some religious groups also discourage the practice.

Out of all the burial options, an immediate burial offers the most affordable option, even though you can see from the previous section, you still need to consider a few costs.

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

Transportation could end up cost-prohibitive

Transporting a dead body across state lines or international borders costs a lot. For this reason, many people choose to have the body directly cremated and then return to the burial or interment site with the cremated remains.

But what happens when a family prefers not to have their loved one cremated? They may decide to bury the body in a cemetery near the place of death.

No one can plan the funeral

Planning a funeral involves a lot of stress. If the next of kin cannot do all the legwork involved with planning a funeral, the family may want to go with an immediate burial. 

The funeral may turn into an uncomfortable or violent affair

Perhaps you suspect that your loved one's funeral will be a tumultuous affair. You may want to avoid having the funeral altogether if you suspect that already-raw emotions may cause a scene. A direct burial eliminates the need for feuding parties from being together. 

The death occurs at an unfortunate time 

What if your grandpa dies days before a family wedding takes place? What if your youngest will graduate from high school and your oldest graduates from college during the week your mother dies? Or maybe a service member needs time to make arrangements to fly back for a loved one's funeral. 

Death sometimes occurs during difficult times. You may find multiple reasons why you would wish to postpone a funeral. 

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

Few mourners would attend the funeral

You might have plenty of funds available and time to hold a funeral for someone who has died, but few mourners might attend the funeral. A direct burial may offer the best choice for someone with no family and few friends. 

The mourners have said goodbye in their own way

Funerals give mourners the opportunity to say a formal goodbye to a loved one while being surrounded by extended family and friends. What if the deceased's immediate family members would rather say goodbye to a loved one in their own unique way?

Some family members may hate being in the spotlight, and the idea of having people hug them and offer awkward phrases of support on the worst day of their life may seem absolutely unbearable. 

If all of the immediate family members agree, they may choose not to have public services for their loved ones. Instead, a direct burial may fit the situation.

The world is in a pandemic

Perhaps the world suffers a worldwide pandemic! In this case, the family may choose a direct burial.

Check with the public health officials in your local area for guidelines. Some places will allow graveside services, but the weather may prohibit this option. 

The family wishes for privacy

Some celebrity families request an immediate burial if they know that their loved one's funeral would cause a newsworthy event. They may wish to eliminate the likelihood of photos taken by paparazzi or news helicopters swarming the funeral. Direct burial remains an option for families who value privacy. 

Create an End-of-Life Plan Now

Perhaps funerals make you uncomfortable and you hate the idea of putting your family through such an event. You could request in your end-of-life plan to not have a funeral. 

Consider putting your plan in motion by visiting your local funeral home, picking out a modest casket, buying a cemetery plot, and picking out your own headstone. Leave instructions for your family through CAKE, so that when you die, your family knows what to do. 

End-of-life plans don't exist just for people who wish to plan their own funeral services. They also include people who prefer not to have a formal service. 

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