The Maximum Number of People That Can Be Buried in a Grave

Up to 6 people can be buried in a grave. Common options are two for married couples, and more for family graves.

Wall vaults contain multiple people, and mausoleums can have multiple families in them.

Graves can also contain up to 4 cremated remains.

Cost, space restrictions, regulations and environment are usually the determiners. 

One of the most common misconceptions about cemeteries is that the number of headstones or monuments that you can see is directly related to the number of individuals buried. However, in the United States, that is frequently not the case.


The Maximum Number of People in Each Type of Grave

The number of individuals buried, or interred, in one burial plot, or grave, can range anywhere from one to six individuals, based on the plot size, plot categorization, and type of burial.

Every cemetery offers different burial plot options for you to choose based on your budget and personal taste. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the most frequent burial plot options in the United States are as follows:

  1. Single Burial Plot: Single burial plots are the most common type of burial plot in the United States and will contain the remains of one individual.
  2. Companion Burial Plot: Companion burial plots are two plots that are sold together and are typically utilized by married couples. As the name implies, companion burial plots will contain the remains of two individuals. The companion plots can either be two plots next to one another or a single plot with two caskets buried on top of one another (usually referred to as a “Double-Depth” plot). 
  3. Family Burial Plot: Family burial plots are usually a small portion of land that is purchased by a family and contains one large headstone engraved with the family name. The family burial plot will have multiple single burial plots within it- one for each individual in the family. The single burial plots within the family plot will usually be marked with a smaller headstone.  


In addition to in-ground burial options, there are also above-ground burial options that are common in older cemeteries in the United States, including:

  • Mausoleums: Mausoleums are buildings that house the remains of multiple individuals. Some mausoleums, known as private mausoleums, are dedicated to a single family.

Others, known as community mausoleums or society mausoleums, are larger buildings that house the remains of numerous families within a community or organization. In places like New Orleans, society mausoleums are common, as the cost of a family tomb is exceptionally high.  

  • Wall Vaults: Wall vaults are stone walls that hold the remains of numerous individuals. Wall vaults have become more common in cemeteries where tomb space is limited.


Number of Cremations in a Burial Plot

However, burial of a physical body isn’t the only option available. According to the 2019 NFDA Cremation & Burial Report, cremation is now more widely utilized than traditional burial in the United States.  

With the continual rise of cremation, the number of individuals in a burial plot has also risen thanks to cremation urns requiring less space.  The Cremation Institute reports that the most frequent burial plot options for cremated remains are as follows:

  1. Cemetery Plot: Cemetery plots for cremated remains are usually smaller in size than a normal burial plot. Depending on the state and cemetery, cremation burial plots will contain anywhere from one to six individuals. Many cemeteries also allow 1 to 4 cremated remains to be added to traditional burial plots   
  2. Urn Garden: Urn gardens are dedicated to urns of cremation ashes and usually consist of many single-individual burial spaces demarcated by small memorial markers.
  3. Landscape Internment: Cremated ashes can also be interred in the landscape of many cemeteries. Depending on an individual’s preference, the ashes can be incorporated into a fountain, a rock, a bench, or any other place within the garden. As with the urn garden, the location of the ashes is typically demarcated with a small memorial marker.
  4. Columbarium Niche: A columbarium is an above-ground building that holds cremated remains. It is typically composed of small wall niches, each of which holds a single urn. Once an individual is placed in a niche, the niche is usually closed with a memorial marker.


The Causes of the Maximum Number of People in a Grave

Overall, the type of burial space is the main factor that determines how many individuals are interred in a specific location. Additional factors that can influence the number of individuals interred include:

  • Cost: The size, location, and type of burial plot directly influence the cost of burial. In most situations, burying multiple individuals in a single burial plot is the most cost-effective method.
  • Space Restrictions: The size of a plot, niche, or mausoleum will directly influence the number of individuals that can be interred in that location. Though re-organization of burial areas is not common in the United States, in places like New Orleans, where burial space is limited, remains may be moved or combined to maximize the number of individuals that can be interred in a single location.
  • State and Municipal Regulations: In the United States, there are no Federal laws that regulate burial procedures. However, some states and municipalities have laws that regulate certain burial conditions, such as cemetery locations, burial depths, and burial procedures, all of which may influence the number of individuals that can be buried in a specific location.
  • Environment: For in-ground burials, the geography, geology, and hydrology can impact burial depth and location, which may regulate certain burials, such as double-depth burial plots.


In the United States, a burial plot can typically contain anywhere from one to six individuals.

The best way to determine how many people are buried in a specific plot is to look at the headstone or memorial marker at the plot. However, if the headstone is missing or too aged to decipher, you can also request records from the cemetery or the municipal governing body to determine exactly how many individuals are buried at that location.

If you’re interested in burying loved ones together, the easiest way to determine your options is to speak to the funeral homes and cemeteries near you.  

Writer: Taylor Steed

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