Losing a loved one is a traumatic event like none other. Even if you think you're prepared, being left standing in the wake of a death is tragic and heartbreaking. And if you're the one in charge of taking care of the final arrangements for your loved one, you've got even more to worry about - namely, the costs associated with the funeral.
Let's face it: funeral costs can be high. As a Catholic, you likely already have a Philadelphia-based cemetery in mind, which is a great start. But there is still plenty else to worry about and budget for. Don't worry - we're here to help make sense of it all. If you're wondering what a typical funeral cost in Philadelphia is, especially the cost of a Catholic funeral, we consulted the Catholic Funeral Plan's Funeral Cost Estimator for Pennsylvania to get a baseline on what you may need to pay. Obviously the specific products selected will impact the final cost. Here is what we found.
The Truth About the Cost of a Catholic Funeral in Philadelphia
Let's pull back the curtain on funeral costs. The truth is that there's no hard-and-fast figure we can quote as far as what it's going to cost to put a loved one to rest. This is because there are so many different variables that go into a funeral. While some things are likely to remain the same no matter what - such as having a funerary Mass - other things, such as whether you're opting for a traditional burial versus cremation, for example, have a massive impact on cost. In other words, the cost of a Catholic burial exists in a range.
For example, a high-quality casket is likely going to cost more than a cremation urn. Whether you choose to place the casket within a burial plot or mausoleum will also impact cost, as will the level of memorial, from a flat marker to a robust headstone or even additional sculpted figure. In all likelihood, it will cost a minimum of several thousand dollars to put a Catholic to rest properly in the Philadelphia area. In the event that funerary costs are covered by an insurance policy with a death benefit, choosing how much to spend is relatively easy. If you're footing the bill yourself, or if the deceased had only modest assets set aside for their final arrangements, choosing more frugal funeral costs may become more of a necessity.
Cremation: The Low-Cost End of the Spectrum
First, let's examine the lower-cost end of the spectrum when it comes to funerary costs. This tends to mean cremation over burial. However, it's important to note that not every Catholic is going to find cremation acceptable according to their faith. Modern Catholics can and often are cremated, as long as the procedures follow the Vatican's most recent guidelines. Depending on the specific diocese, a funerary Mass can be provided for someone who has already been cremated, which is often the most financially accessible choice.
In general, the cost of a Catholic funeral with cremation can be as low as $6,500. This includes a basic cremation service prior to a funeral Mass, as well as costs such as a stipend paid to the church. However, a more traditional approach, which includes preparing the body for a funeral Mass and then cremating it afterwards, can be more expensive. In fact, this approach, while often seen as more "proper" by traditionalists, can run in excess of $11,000 or more, depending on materials and customizations. In general, most Catholics opt to follow the Church's recommendation that, even if cremated, the departed's cremains should still be buried within a casket in the ground. That leads us to the next option.
Higher-Cost Catholic Funerals: The Traditional Burial
Catholicism is built upon tradition and ceremony, and nowhere will you find a more dignified way to honor the dead as in the Catholic faith. That said, the costs of preparing a body for burial are much higher than those associated with a standard cremation. This means that the cost of a traditional Catholic funeral is often more than cremation.
In this case, the biggest difference in expense is most certainly everything associated with a casket burial. Even the most modestly-priced casket burial can be around $11,000 or more, based on the need to have the deceased embalmed properly, to have a burial vault prepared, opened, and closed in a Catholic cemetery, and, of course, the cost of the casket itself. In this case, a typical "low cost" burial would include either a casket made from 20-gauge steel or pinewood with veneer finishing and a basic burial vault or grave lining. It is worth noting that even if you choose cremation, the Catholic church requires that the urn be buried. This means you would still need to pay for the casket, vault, opening-and-closing service, as well as a headstone and other additional charges associated with the burial of the urn.
As the quality of the casket and burial vault increases, so does the average cost of the funeral. Intermediate level costs, which often include caskets made from 18-gauge steel or oak with veneer finishing and mid-range burial vaults with sealers, are often $13,000 or more. Meanwhile, high-cost burials, which can easily exceed $16,000 in costs, will typically include either a 16-gauge steel casket or one made from solid oak, cherry, or walnut and a high-quality burial vault with a sealer and a liner. Exclusive burial vaults lined with copper, steel, or bronze are even more costly. Please keep in mind this does not include the plot itself (you can search for a Catholic cemetery near you here), a possibly necessary opening-and-closing ceremony, a memorial marker such a headstone, plus many people opt to pay for a luncheon for those who attend a funeral.
The Costs of Final Arrangements
The cost of laying a loved one to rest is always high, and not just financially. The emotional toll it takes on family and friends is often extreme, and this makes it hard to think clearly about what needs to be done. It's always recommended to speak to your funeral director candidly about your questions and concerns regarding the cost of your burial, and it's also important to have a frank discussion with your parish priest as well. Doing so can help you regain some peace of mind as you plan, prepare, and pay for a Catholic funeral in the Philadelphia region.
The other thing to consider is that planning a funeral in advance, even decades ahead of time, can mitigate much of a Catholic's funeral cost, and also take the burden off the loved ones during their time of grief. Advance planning allows you to pay in today's dollars, versus years of inflation, and also allows you to choose all aspects yourself, ensuring your life story is told your way;from the material of the casket and inscription on the memorial to the readings and music during the service, and beyond.