Choosing a Casket: Casket Features and Upgrades
One of the first decisions you will have to make when planning a burial is what kind of casket you want. Ranging from base models of a few hundred dollars to elaborate burial vessels with a price tag well in the $12,000 range, it is good to know what you want and expect out of your casket ahead of time. That way, you will not be overwhelmed by decisions or surprised when the final bill arrives.
Casket vs. Coffin
In the United States, the terms casket and coffin tend to be used interchangeably. That is because almost everyone who is buried is put into a casket—a rectangle design with a lid that opens on the top and/or bottom. A coffin, by comparison, has six sides and is tapered at the head and feet to fit the human body shape. For most of us, we associate a coffin with old western movies rather than an actual burial choice. If you have a strong preference for a coffin over a casket, chances are you will need to find a specialty provider or have one made to order.
Once you have decided on burial and a traditional casket, you will see a variety of caskets in different materials. The more elaborate the material, the higher the price tag. In ascending order (from lowest to highest), your choices include:
- Pressed Cardboard
- Cloth-Covered (pressed plywood covered with cloth)
- Laminate (pressed plywood covered with hardwood)
- Veneered Wood (fiberboard painted with a wood veneer)
- Steel (offered in different thicknesses, or gauges)
- Solid Wood
Not all options are available at all funeral homes, so be sure to ask ahead of time if you would like to choose one of the more unusual options like bamboo or wicker.
No casket will keep a body in a state of preservation forever. All bodies decay over time regardless of how they are buried, which means any casket features you choose are for you and your family—not for the deceased. That being said, many of these features provide a beautiful, personalized touch and allow you to bury keepsakes and memories with your loved one.
- Half/Full Couch: The term “couch” refers to how the lid opens. A half couch opens in two pieces (on the top and bottom) while a full couch is just one piece.
- Liners: The lining of the casket can be made of polyester, satin, velvet, or other materials.
- Handles: The handles on the casket are used by the pallbearers to carry it to the grave. These can be as decorative and ornamental as you wish.
- Commemorative Panels/Drawers: You can personalize a casket with embroidery on the interior lining, with panels and drawers that open and allow you to put mementos inside, or with exterior decals and decorations. Some people even choose a unique paint or other graphic design to make a casket unique.