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Cremation and Funeral Terms

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When a loved one dies, you suddenly find yourself making all sorts of difficult decisions about things you’ve never given a second thought – cremation or burial? Bury the urn or display it at home? If you bury, do you need an urn vault? What is an urn vault? Is it the same as a mausoleum niche?  

Here is a helpful glossary of cremation terms slightly expanded from the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau’s Consumer Guide to Funeral and Cemetery Purchases:  

Casket/Coffin – A box or chest for burying human remains.

Cemetery Property – A grave, crypt, or niche.

Cemetery Services – Opening and closing graves, crypts, or niches; setting grave liners and vaults; setting markers; and long-term maintenance of cemetery grounds and facilities.

Columbarium – A structure with niches (small spaces) for placement of cremated remains in urns or other approved containers. It may be outdoors or part of a mausoleum.

Cremains – The resulting bone fragments – ‘cremated remains’ – resulting from the cremation process.

Cremation – Exposing human remains and the container holding them to extreme heat and flame and processing the resulting bone fragments to a uniform size and consistency.

Crypt – A space in a mausoleum or other building to hold cremated or whole human remains.

Disposition – The placement of cremated or whole human remains in their final resting place. A Permit for Disposition must be filed with the local registrar before disposition can take place.

Endowment Care Fund – Money collected from cemetery property purchasers and placed in trust for the maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery. The State monitors the fund and establishes the minimum amount that must be collected. However, the cemetery is permitted to collect more than the minimum to build the fund. Only the interest earned by such funds may be used for the care, maintenance, and embellishment of the cemetery.

Entombment – Burial in a mausoleum.

Funeral Ceremony – A service commemorating the deceased with the body present.

Funeral Services – Services provided by a funeral director and staff, which may include consulting with the family on funeral planning; transportation, shelter, refrigeration, and embalming of remains; preparing and filing notices; obtaining authorizations and permits; and coordinating with the cemetery, crematory, or other third parties.

Funeral Society – See Memorial Society, below.

Grave – A space in the ground in a cemetery for the burial of human remains.

Grave Liner or Outer Container – A concrete cover that fits over a casket in a grave. Some liners cover tops and sides of the casket. Other liners (vaults, see below) completely enclose the casket. Grave liners minimize ground settling on the cemetery grounds.

Graveside Service – A service to commemorate the deceased held at the cemetery prior to burial.

Interment – Burial in the ground, inurnment, or entombment.

Inurnment – The placing of cremated remains in an urn.

Mausoleum – A building in which human remains are buried (entombed).

Memorial Service – A ceremony commemorating the deceased without the body present.

Memorial Society – A consumer organization that provides information about funerals and disposition but is not part of the State-regulated funeral industry. May also be called a funeral consumer alliance.

Niche – A space in a columbarium, mausoleum, or niche wall to hold an urn.

Urn – A container to hold cremated human remains. It can be placed in a columbarium or mausoleum, or it can be buried in the ground.

Urn Vault – A grave liner that completely encloses an urn.

Vault – A grave liner that completely encloses a casket.

Water Disposition – The scattering of cremated human remains into the sea. A Permit for Disposition must be filed with the local registrar before disposition can take place.

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1 thought on “Cremation and Funeral Terms

  1. Thanks for compiling different cremation and funeral terms. I actually didn’t know that inurnment refers to cremated remains being placed in an urn. I’m kind of interested to learn if there’s terminology for when the remains are being made or embedded in an object of some kind.

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