How Do You Plan a Funeral or Memorial Service in Pennsylvania?

A memorial service is similar to a funeral service in many ways. The main difference is that the body is present at a funeral as a focal point for the service, whether in a closed or open casket, whereas, at a memorial service, the body is not. Instead, a framed portrait or an urn serves as the focal point.

When organizing a proper sendoff for those who passed away, you'll also need to be aware of the laws that apply in the state. In this article, we will talk about the Funeral or Memorial Service in Pennsylvania.

How to plan a funeral step-by-step

In Pennsylvania, the law determines how decisions about funeral arrangements are made. If the deceased specifically named someone to handle the details of their memorial service and burial, then these wishes are always honored first. If there is no one named, then the surviving spouse of the deceased is given this responsibility by default. In the event that there is no spouse, the responsibility passes to the next of kin.

When planning a funeral in Pennsylvania, you may be interested in the following questions:

  1. Who can help in the planning process?
  2. Do you need a funeral director or not?
  3. Burial or cremation?
  4. How much will the funeral cost?
  5. Who will pay for the funeral?
  6. Where will the funeral be and when?
  7. Who will you be inviting for the service?

Pennsylvania funeral laws

Home funerals

You must obtain a permit from the local registrar or State Registrar of Vital Statistics before you bury or otherwise dispose of a body. (35 Pennsylvania Statutes § 450.504.) Most of the bodies are buried in established cemeteries, but burial on private property is possible too. Before holding a home burial or buying a family cemetery, check local laws that you must follow. If you choose to bury a body on private land, you must provide a map of burial ground and file it with the property deed so the location will be clear to the others in the future.

Cemeteries and burial plots

According to the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Pennsylvania, there are no rules that govern specific burial or maintenance practices in the state. Private, for-profit cemeteries (there are about 600 out of 10,000) fall under the jurisdiction of the Real Estate Commission because they are involved in the buying and selling of deeds. The other cemeteries, run by churches and fraternal organizations, are exempt from state licensing requirements.

Notably, in a law that has been on the books since about 2006, Pennsylvania allows cemeteries to have three sections – one for humans, one for pets, and one designated for those that would like to be buried alongside their pets.

Cremation and the final disposition of cremation remains

Did you know that the first modern crematory in the USA was built in Pennsylvania by Dr. Julius LeMoyne in 1876? Pennsylvania law requires that you obtain a permit from the local registrar or State Registrar of Vital Statistics before you cremate a body. (35 Pennsylvania Statutes § 450.504.) A certified copy of the death certificate along with a signed cremation authorization from the next of kin stating that this is in fact the deceased’s wish is required before the cremation permit is granted.

There are no state laws controlling where you may keep or scatter the resulting cremated ashes as they can be stored in a crypt, niche, grave, or container at home. If you wish to scatter the ashes instead, the options are endless too.

Cremation diamonds

funeral gathering Cremation diamonds are a fast-growing alternative to traditional burial.

Also known as memorial diamonds, these are diamonds created in a laboratory using human and/or pet ashes that would normally be buried or interred after cremation. The process involves taking the cremains, applying extremely high heat and pressure, and then mimicking the conditions necessary for the natural formation of diamonds in the Earth’s crust. The resulting diamonds are then stored individually as memorabilia or set into jewelry pieces to be worn by the bereaved as a way of eternalizing their deceased loved one’s memory.

There are no specific state laws governing turning ashes into diamonds in Pennsylvania.

The cost of funeral and cremation diamond in Pennsylvania

Planning a funeral is an emotionally overwhelming experience regardless of whether it's your first time or not. Make sure that you rely on friends and family to help you through it.

How much is the average cost of a funeral in Pennsylvania?

A traditional full-service burial includes funeral home basic service fees, embalming and care of the body, a visitation or wake prior to the funeral, a service at either church or funeral home chapel, a funeral procession to the grave site, and a committal service prior to the burial. This costs anywhere between $7,785 and $17,950 and typically includes the average cost of a casket is included.

A full-service Cremation includes a visitation or wake prior to the funeral, a service at either a church or funeral home chapel, and basic cremation services, which include removal of the deceased from the place of death, transfer to the crematory, and cremation services. This costs anywhere between $6,511 and $15,570 and typically includes the average cost of a cremation casket is included.

Direct cremation includes removal of the deceased from the place of death, transfer to the crematory, and the final cremation service. Some providers may have an additional cost for an alternative cremation container. This costs are somewhere between $2,449 and $6,360.

Direct Burial is the burial of a body without embalming or viewing services. It includes a basic service fee and transportation of the body from the place of death straight to the cemetery. The average cost of a basic casket is included, and the funeral typically costs anywhere between $4,066 and $8,980.

How much is the average cost of a cremation diamond in Pennsylvania?

The cost of a cremation diamond in Pennsylvania ranges from $ 1,400 for a 0.25-carat Naturally Amber™ diamond to $ 40,500 for a 3-carat Purely Colourless™ diamond. However, prices may vary depending on your service provider and/or the diamond features you select; particularly cut, carat weight, clarity, and color.

Today, more and more families in Pennsylvania are considering advance planning. This involves arranging and paying for all aspects of a funeral and burial ahead of time, sometimes decades in advance as a way to relieve loved ones of the stress that comes with funeral planning.