Published in the October 2020 Issue of Memento Mori 

By MaryAnne Scheuble 

We protect and secure the things we hold dear. Alarm systems and deadbolts safeguard our homes and families; important papers and documents are locked away in safety deposit boxes; and private passwords keep strangers out of our financial accounts. Grieving families come to you every day and entrust you with the people they held dear. Whether cremated or casketed, every body deserves equal care and protection. The protection and security of a loved one’s cremated body is incumbent upon the standard of care you set for your cemetery.  

One particular cemetery standard is that of requiring a burial vault. Most cemeteries mandate that embalmed bodies be encased in burial vaults. Likewise, many locations have adopted similar practices for cremation burials. 

To ensure that your cemetery’s treatment of the cremated body positively influences the community’s perceptions of value and worth, require urn vaults. Urn vaults are required by some cemeteries because they: 

  • Keep the cremated body secure and dry for generations 
  • Ensure a dignified standard of care 
  • Protect the investment of the urn purchase 
  • Allow space for memorabilia – photos, love notes, favorite blanket 
  • Can provide the family a comforting “last look” astheny leave the grave or niche 
  • Affirm the worth of each person by providing an impenetrable, final housing 
  • Make disinterment easier 
  • Provide added security and peace of mind for the family  
  • Maintain cemetery ground 

Why should a family choose an urn vault? 

A pre-planner might come to you with the intent on purchasing a niche yet leave having purchased family plots in a beautifully landscaped area. Even a frugal decision-maker will choose to change the budget based on recognized value.  

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” said Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, who believed that we can’t always imagine how something will affect or benefit our lives. As a deathcare professional, the consumer does not possess your training, experience, and specific knowledge. Because knowledge is power, you are empowering families to make well-informed choices. 

When you explain what services and benefits are received by entrusting a loved one to your care, families can count on your high standards of providing dignity, honor, and protection for all. Urn vaults offer added protection, security, and dignity. Every day, we make buying choices. 

Our choices are based on our value systems and not just on how much money has been budgeted. Honor each family by offering choices and encourage personal preferences.  

Why include a vault with your cremation fee? 

The average consumer has no understanding of what burial costs include. They aren’t thinking about perpetual care and grass cutting, re-setting monuments, filling in holes, painting, fence repairs, correcting damage from the elements, or employee salaries that expand in the growing season and during snow removal times.  

By including a standard urn vault with every inurnment, you are establishing a basic level of protection and standard of care. Once you explain the purpose of a vault, families will be reassured knowing that it is included. Some cemeteries may offer a basic model but then allow families to upgrade to another approved urn vault for an additional cost.  

The cemetery sale of urn vaults can add to a cemetery’s working capital. The burial price is adjusted to accommodate the added vault cost. Verify whether this has to be listed as a line item if it is offered as part of the plot cost.  

Who should provide urn vaults? 

Traditionally, funeral directors have been responsible for offering and selling this cemetery product. However, if one thing is certain, it’s that times are a changin’. 

With cremation, too many families take home cremated remains with the intention of keeping them, but then they reach out to the cemetery about burial. If a family comes to you for a cremation burial, are you prepared to offer them the services and products they need or are you sending their business down the road? 

When your cemetery decides to require urn vaults, you should issue a letter to local funeral homes with the new regulations. Be sure to alert them of the maximum allowable dimensions or any other thresholds you may incorporate. 

What do you need to know about ordering an urn vault? 

Urn vaults come in a variety of styles and materials. Some families come expecting the vault to cost several hundred dollars and they may not be able to afford it or appreciate its value. When presented with choices, the family may readily agree to a lesser-priced urn vault or standard that pro- vides the same protection and is attractive. 

Urn vaults are also available in different sizes. Some are designed to hold just the temporary plastic insert (provided from the crematory) while others can accommodate standard urn sizes, multiple urns, or tall and over-sized urns. Unlike hats, vaults should not be one-size-fits-all. Strive to offer the size that fits a family’s needs. Materials range from high-impact plastic and composite materials to concrete and mixture blends. Weight varies from a few pounds to 100+ pounds. It may help to think about usage and storage requirements when making selections. 

When choosing which urn vaults are best for your cemetery, ask pertinent questions: 

  • Which brands of urn vaults can be interred by one person and which require heavy equipment? 
  • Can urn vaults be used as an urn/vault combo? 
  • Would families like the ability to personalize? Which vaults allow for that? 
  • Will a family member be holding the vault during a procession or committal service? 
  • Are there “good, better, best” options for families you serve? 
  • Is the urn vault made in the U.S.A.? (especially important for veterans) 
  • How much space is there for memorabilia and is this important to the family  
  • Can the vault degrade or will it last for generations to come? 
  • Will families observe and participate in the sealing of the vaults 
  • How will your cemetery benefit by requiring urn vaults? 

How will your cemetery benefit by requiring urn vaults?

It’s your cemetery, so you are responsible for everything that goes in the ground and everything that sits above ground. Your standard of care is reflected in every aspect of your business. Urn vaults provide dignity and honor for the cremated body. They keep each cremated body safe and secure whether in the ground or in a niche space. They make disinterment easy.  

With the overwhelming shift toward cremation, the memorial industry has been bombarded with new ideas and challenges as we navigate the growing pains of this new tradition. As cemeterians and memorial professionals, how are we leading the new traditions of perpetual care for cremated bodies? How are we enhancing the dignity of each cremated body?  

As we mold the future of cremation, there should be no question that what is precious and dear to the families we serve will be safely sheltered and secure within your care. 

MaryAnne Scheuble,, has 15+ years’ experience in the memorial industry. In her sales and marketing capacity at Cressy Memorial Group, she has visited over 2,500 funeral homes and cemetery locations throughout the United States since 2004, working with and supporting memorial industry personnel. Cressy Memorial Group represents Crowne Vaults, Howard Miller Memorials, and R&S Marble Designs to the memorial industry. MaryAnne can be reached at 866.763.0485.