A local funeral home’s page states, “When compared to other major life cycle events, like births and weddings, funerals are not expensive.” There is some truth to this. According to the Knot, the average cost of a wedding is over $29,000. The average cost of both funeral and burial according to the National Funeral Directors Association in 2012 was $16,323 nation wide. Weddings on average cost about twice as much as a funeral and burial. Some couples wait to save money just so that they can have the wedding of their dreams. When someone dies, you can’t wait too long, so if the person has not been saving or his family hasn’t, the cost of the funeral could be devastating for a family.
Besides the basic difference in weddings and funerals – one is joyous and one is basically somber, the difference in the market place marks the largest difference. In most states, a couple can go down to the courthouse, apply for a marriage license for a modest fee and get married. They can then go to any person licensed to marry people. That fee is also modest. This is a far cry from the $29,000 of an average US wedding. No one insists that wedding be preformed by high cost licensed individuals. No one insists that couples rent high cost venues and purchase extravagant gowns and tuxedos. No one makes a couple purchase flowers or wedding favors. People spend money or do not spend money according to their ability or plan for their wedding. This is not so with all funerals across the US. Residents in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Nebraska are required to hire a funeral director to obtain forms at the time of someone’s death. Federal law requires that we pay a basic fee when hiring a funeral home. This fee is a catch all for the funeral industry. Among the things covered in this fee is basic overhead. This fee cannot be negotiated and is the base line for the bill to which is added goods and services from the funeral home. This basic fee can be low, although I have not seen one under $900, and can be as high as $3,000. I think that’s a little too much for paperwork. Can you imagine the outcry if all couples were required to rent a high price venue for every wedding? It astounds me that more people do not find the situation in these eight states so totally beyond any reason.
Why can’t families choose how to acknowledge these occasions how they see fit, providing they follow the law and obtain the proper documentation? We have been caring for our dead for centuries. I don’t know why we must hire a for-profit business when we might not want them orchestrating our funeral. We can choose in all other aspects of our life events, but in these eight states, we have lost the right to choose who has a right over our bodies in death. While the average cost of weddings far exceeds the average cost of a funeral and burial, the high cost of a funeral is far more onerous because we have lost the basic right of choice. I see no reason why we cannot obtain a death certificate, a permit to transport a body and burial permits on our own. Maybe we do not wish to have a home funeral, but we should at least be allowed to choose who we want to prepare our bodies and those of our loved ones. As we choose to care for our bodies in our lives, we should also have the same right to choose how to care for our bodies in death.