How to Choose a Casket

There are several important factors that must be taken into consideration when choosing a casket for a loved one, some practical and some sentimental. Does the casket comply with all necessary regulations? Does it appropriate reflect the memory of the deceased or the aesthetic of the funeral venue? To help simplify these choices, here we provide a breakdown of the three major steps that go into choosing a casket, and the order in which to approach them.

1. Practical Considerations

The choice of a casket can often be limited by the practical considerations of transport and burial. In some cases, if remains will be transported across state lines by air, sea, or train, a gasket (or rubber seal) may be required by state regulations. Gaskets are typically features of metal caskets rather than wood, so determining whether or not a gasket will be required should be the first step in deciding on the most appropriate material for a casket.

However, families should be wary of claims that gaskets will somehow preserve remains indefinitely or stop natural processes — these promises are prohibited by the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule to protect consumers from unnecessary price markups while shopping for caskets.

Another practical consideration may be the wishes or directions stipulated by the deceased. If remains will be cremated rather than interred, a cremation casket may be a necessary choice. Cremation containers must be fully combustible, leak proof, and have no metal parts. But many cremation caskets, made out of corrugated wood or cardboard, are also attractive enough to be used for viewings or services as well.

2. Look and Material

The differences between the various types of caskets types and materials are mostly aesthetic in nature. Once all practical considerations have been met, the choices come down to the wishes of the deceased and the general aesthetic of the funeral service. For example, a more traditional service in a historic church may fit pleasingly with a wood casket, either made of or veneered with oak, cherry, or mahogany. A metal casket may be a better fit for a brighter or more modern venue, or to incorporate bright colors into the service.

The casket can also be customized to reflect the values and personality of the deceased. Liners, memory boxes, and finishes can all be added or altered to hold or reflect memories or personal keepsakes. Families or the deceased may also want to prioritize a green or environmentally friendly casket that is designed to be biodegradable. There are a wide variety of options designed around these needs, including caskets made from non-traditional materials like bamboo, hemp, and banana leaf.

3. Price

Other sources might say that price should be the first consideration when choosing a casket type. So why is it last on our list? While the expensive caskets at funeral homes still dominate the market, it’s easy to find an affordable casket that fits any aesthetic preferences. If a hardwood casket made of oak or cherry is out of a family’s budget, a casket veneered in one of those woods is an excellent option. Those looking for steel caskets can select a slightly thinner gauge to achieve the same visual effect.

Online retailers like Willow and Werth offer very affordable caskets that are expertly crafted and made from sustainable materials. These come in a wide variety of types and materials, and it’s easy for families to select their favorite option online have it shipped for free to the funeral home of their choice. Funeral providers are not permitted to refuse caskets purchased elsewhere, or to charge any additional fees. Families should have the freedom to select the casket they want without having to deal with excessive markups or fees, and newer retailers provide them with that opportunity.