Columbarium – Part 2: Funeral Costs and a Columbarium Niche Sales

Cremation is the safest and cheapest way to bury a person. A casket funeral can cost upwards of $15,000 (for the casket, the funeral home, the lot and concrete vault, etc.). That is money that is literally poured into a hole in the ground. Inurning (in a niche) or interring (in the ground) cremains can cost several thousand but it can also be done literally free.

  • For a few thousand dollars: the body can be cremated, placed in an urn, and then in a plot in the ground.
  • For free: the body can be donated to a med school which will cremate it; when they’re finished, they’ll return the ashes to the family who can then scatter the cremains

The cremains are placed in the columbarium in one of three ways:

  • In an urn which is set into a niche
  • Buried in the ground
    • In an urn (usually biodegradable) which is set into the ground and covered with dirt and grass, or
    • In a hole in the ground which is covered with dirt and grass
  • Scattered on the ground and grass

I built a columbarium at one church where we set aside a section of the wall for plaques of people whose ashes were scattered or interred elsewhere. One teen’s ashes were scattered at the beach while another member’s ashes were placed at Arlington National Cemetery near DC. In each case, the family wanted some remembrance of their loved one at the church and we were able to meet that need.

For each of these, we had different pricing levels. We sold niches for singles and spouses (kiddingly referred to as “double-wides”). We sold plaques to memorialize people whose ashes were elsewhere. We also sold interments (placing the ashes in the ground). In all instances, we standardized the wording format on the niche plates and plaques to ensure uniformity. We also sold the urns to be sure they fit inside the niche. I did encourage people with niches to personalize the urns and/or to place personal effects in the niche such as a picture or word tribute (both laminated). Some families did this as part of their communal grieving process.

The columbarium is a part of the family’s grieving and healing. That garden is a place of solace and remembrance.

Lead On!

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