If you’re wondering about how to plan for end-of-life, your options are many and varied. Traditional burial is no longer the only way to go out. Religious and cultural prohibitions against cremation are subsiding, and many see cremation as a more cost-effective and straightforward choice. However, other options also include green burial and cremation with burial. Let’s look at what traditional burial entails and how it differs from your other interment options in North Carolina.

What are My Options?

Traditional Burial: A traditional burial generally includes purchasing a full-size plot at a cemetery, a grave liner or vault, a memorial stone, and a casket. Generally, embalming is the process chosen to preserve the body.

Green Burial: An environmentally conscious burial that aids in conserving natural resources, reducing carbon emissions, and preserving nature. Green burial necessitates the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds, and urns.

Nearly 54 percent of Americans consider a green burial for their future, and 72 percent of cemeteries report an increased demand, according to a survey released earlier this year by the National Funeral Directors Association. (1)

Cremation: Choosing cremation as your method of interment means there is no need for a vault or grave-liner, cemetery plot, or headstone. However, you can still purchase those items if you choose burial in a cemetery after cremation. Many individuals who choose cremation also consider cremation jewelry, urns, or other types of memorial remembrances made from ashes.

Traditional vs. “Out of the Box” Options

You have choices about your interment. However, there are also options for other traditional kinds of funeral services. Some of the ways you can choose a different path include:

Visitation At Home: There is no law against having visitation at your home or a loved one’s home. In fact, before funeral parlors came on the scene, wakes or visitations were commonly held in the home. You can choose to invite only family to visit the deceased in a casket or a bed in your home, or you can invite the public or others to visit wherever you choose to keep the body until burial. 

Embalming Options: Embalming is not necessary, depending on your plans. Embalming is a choice to preserve the body, often so that loved ones may take time to travel and attend a visitation or funeral. However, some funeral homes require embalming if you choose to hold a visitation in their facilities. Talk with your funeral home about your options in their facilities.

However, if you plan a green burial, know that traditional embalming is not green or environmentally friendly. Some funeral homes allow dry ice as an alternative to embalmment. Ideally, burial should occur within five days after death, sometimes sooner without embalming.

Visitation: Every person has a slightly different biochemical makeup, so each body responds to death differently. If you choose not to embalm, the circumstances of death may affect visitation plans depending on:

  • How the person died
  • Why the person died
  • Where the person died
  • When the person died
  • if an autopsy was performed on the body by a medical examiner

Under certain circumstances, funeral homes may advise a closed casket visitation. Without embalming, it is sometimes best not to plan a visitation because of the circumstances of death.

If you choose cremation, you may hold a memorial service whenever you choose, without worrying about the condition of a body. Cremation may allow out-of-state loved ones a chance to grieve together with the family.

Burial Outside of a Cemetery: No state laws in North Carolina prohibit burial on private property. Local governments may have rules governing private burials, however. (2) Keeping loved ones in a burial ground on your own property is often possible. However, there are some restrictions. More restrictions exist within city limits. Contact your city or county government for approval and laws. Burial on your own property is more common in rural areas.

Green Cemeteries

Green burial grounds are usually in a wooded area or field. In the Raleigh area, there are two choices for green burial.

  1. Oakwood Historic Cemetery: located in downtown Raleigh has a green section for environmentally friendly burials. They also offer cremation niches, urns, and smaller burial plots for cremated remains.
  2. Pine Forest Memorial Gardens: located in Wake Forest at 770 Stadium Drive

There are no metal caskets, vaults, or outer burial containers in a green cemetery. There are also no embalmed remains (unless using biodegradable chemicals). Instead, caskets are natural wood or non-toxic, biodegradable materials. You can even make a casket yourself from wood or similar non-toxic organic and biodegradable materials. Contact the green cemetery for proper dimensions and requirements. Loved ones may also choose a burial shroud instead of a casket. 

Do I Need a Funeral Home?

In addition to choosing a method of interment, most individuals appreciate the services a funeral home provides, such as:

  • Chemical embalming if desired
  • Medical practitioner signature on death certificate and obtaining all the vital statistics 
  • Other paperwork with hospitals, doctors, or other service providers
  • Visitation Service held at the Funeral Home
  • Funeral or Memorial held at the Funeral Home
  • Graveside service arrangements
  • Professional Services
  • Transfer of Deceased 
  • Casket for traditional burial, biodegradable green burial casket, or box for cremation
  • LIVE streaming services
  • Cremation services if chosen (funeral homes often are also a direct cremation provider)
  • Cremation authorization signed by the next-of-kin and cremation certificate

We Can Help

If you are facing end-of-life choices and need help making the best decisions in your unique situation, give us a call to discuss your many options and find the best plan for you. We offer preplanning so that your family does not face difficult decisions when you pass away. Making a pre-plan is a gift to your family. You decide how your loved ones will get together to celebrate your life’s memories. With so many choices available, it makes sense to work out what is best for you before your time comes. 

At Renaissance, we create beautiful events for loved ones to remember and grieve together. We believe in the importance of togetherness in times of sadness and loss. Our goal is to work out details so that your loved ones may focus on remembering the good times together. Let us help you create your life celebrations so that your loved ones feel inspired and can move forward with hope and love as they step into their future. 


  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/22/smarter-living/green-funeral-burial-environment.html 
  2. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/burial-cremation-laws-north-carolina.html