Different Types of Cemeteries

Most of us assume that all cemeteries are virtually the same—after all, a piece of land where a body is laid to rest is a piece of land where a body is laid to rest, right?

While it’s true that most cemeteries perform the same general purpose to society, they tend to take different approaches to how this is accomplished. Some are religious, some are secular, some are run by the government, and some are closed to all but families with previously purchased burial plots. Depending on what type of cemetery you’re looking at, you could encounter any of the following types.

  • Church Cemeteries: Traditional church cemeteries (those small plots of land adjacent to a church where graves can be found) used to be much more popular in the past. Because of regulations regarding where and how human bodies can be interred, most church cemeteries are now located in separate locations and look much like regular cemeteries. They also function like regular cemeteries, and you may not have to be a member of the church to be buried there.

  • Public Cemeteries: Public cemeteries are owned by the city or government where you reside. Because they are open and available to everyone, you’ll find lower costs here than many smaller, private facilities, but the level of service may not be as high.

  • Private Cemeteries: The majority of cemeteries in the United States are private ones. They are owned by corporations or individual families, and typically run on a for-profit basis. These run from large, sprawling cemeteries with room to grow to smaller, more exclusive options.

  • Family Cemeteries: Like church cemeteries, family plots used to be much more popular in years past, when regulations weren’t as strict regarding when, where, and how you could dispose of human remains. Some family cemeteries do still exist, usually in areas where a family owns a substantial bit of acreage and has been established for many years.

  • Veteran/Military Cemeteries: National cemeteries are run and operated by the United States government, and are set aside for use by members of the military (especially those who were killed during wartime or who served an important military position). Most states have several of these, with the most famous being Arlington National Cemetery.

  • Memorial Parks: As the name suggests, these cemeteries are all about creating a beautiful, serene place that’s more like a park than a graveyard. In most cases, the grounds include things like ponds and lakes, and there will be more commemorative memorials and plaque headstones than upright gravestones. (These are often referred to as “lawn cemeteries” as well.)

  • Pet Cemeteries: Pet cemeteries exist to provide a place of repose for cats, dogs, and other beloved pets. In recent years, regulations have been changing to allow for cremated human remains to also be interred here, since some people wish to be buried next to their four-legged friends.

  • Cremation Cemeteries: Cremated remains can (and often are) buried in a traditional grave plot. They can also be placed in a columbarium wall or niche wall, or even placed in a mausoleum. Although there are few cemeteries just for cremated remains, most have a special location on their grounds for this kind of burial.

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