What an Internment Funeral Is

An interment funeral is a ceremony that occurs at the deceased’s final resting place.

At the end of a short interment service, the deceased’s body is ceremonially buried, or interred. In the United States, interment ceremonies typically take place after the funeral or memorial service.


About the Word Interment

The word “interment” was established between 1300 and 1350 A.D. It comes from the Latin word “terra,” meaning “earth,” and refers to the ritual of burying a human or animal deceased below ground.

Though the word “interment” refers to burial below ground, it can also be used to describe a body being placed in a sarcophagus, mausoleum, or tomb above ground. More recently, the definition has also been expanded to include the interment of ashes following cremation.

Interment is frequently confused with the word “internment,” which means “the state of being confined as a prisoner.” Though these words sound similar, they have very different connotations.


Interment vs. Funeral

Interment is the ritual act of placing the deceased’s body in the ground, while a funeral is a ceremony honoring the deceased. A funeral is typically connected to the interment, and can either take place prior to the interment or at the same time.

In the United States, it is most common for the funeral to take place in a church or funeral home, followed by a funeral procession to the cemetery for the interment. If a funeral is held prior to the interment, the interment is usually accompanied by a shorter, more intimate ceremony.


Interment vs. Burial

The terms “interment” and “burial” are frequently interchanged when discussing funeral arrangements. However, they have slightly different meanings.

An interment is when the body of the deceased is placed in one of three places:

  1. A grave
  2. An urn
  3. An aboveground burial site

A burial, which is when the body of the deceased is placed in the ground, is a type of interment.

Therefore, a burial is always an interment; however, an interment is not always a burial.

I have written about additional types of interments below.  


Types of Interments

Though an interment is typically thought of as a burial, there are actually a number of different types of interment:


1. Burial:

Burial is the type of interment that Americans are most familiar with. During a burial, the body is placed in a casket, and the casket is buried underground. Most burials take place in cemeteries.


2. Natural or “Green” Burial:

Natural burials are those completed without the chemicals and toxins that are hazardous to the environment.

The most popular natural burials in the United States include burial in a biodegradable urn or burial without a casket. Most natural burials also forego the typical embalming process.


3. Cremation and Interment:

Cremation is when the deceased’s body is burned, and the ashes are given to the family of the deceased.

According to the 2019 NFDA Cremation and Burial Report, cremation is now more widely utilized in the United States than traditional burial. Interment options for cremated remains are discussed below.


4. Entombment in a Mausoleum:

Mausoleums are buildings that house the remains of multiple individuals, and are often used in locations where underground burials are not possible.

For example, in places like New Orleans, Louisiana, private mausoleums (dedicated to a single family), and society mausoleums (dedicated to multiple families within a community or organization) are popular because the groundwater level is too high to allow for traditional underground burials.


5. Entombment in a Lawn Crypt:

Lawn crypts are heavy-duty modular units that are buried underground and protect the body of the deceased from the elements. They are rarely seen in the United States.  Cremation and burial are most common in the United States. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, in 2015 approximately 53.5% of people chose burial, while 40% chose cremation.


Interment of Ashes

When a loved one is cremated, their ashes can be scattered, kept, or interred. The interment of ashes is the ceremonial ritual of placing the ashes in a final resting location.

Ashes can be interred in a number of locations, including:


1. Cemetery Plot:

Cemetery plots for cremated remains are usually smaller in size than a normal burial plot. However, they will utilize the same burial plot markers, such as headstones or memorial markers, which the other burial plots in the cemetery use.


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 Interment: 

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 aboveground building that holds the cremated remains of multiple individuals. 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.

As cremations continue to gain popularity in the United States, these types of interments will continue to become more prevalent.


What to Expect from an Interment Ceremony

An interment ceremony occurs at the location of the deceased’s final resting place (such as the burial plot in a cemetery). If you are planning to attend an interment ceremony, be prepared for the following:


1. The interment is typically accompanied by a short ceremony.

The ceremony will be shorter and more intimate than the funeral or memorial service. The interment ceremony is usually a religious or scripted service that is run by a minister or official.

The content of the ceremony is dependent on the religion and preferences of the deceased and their family.


2. Be prepared to walk and stand.

Interment ceremonies take place at the location of the interment. As such, you will usually be walking to a burial plot (most likely over grass and uneven surfaces) and then standing for the duration of the service.

If seating is provided, it is typically reserved for the immediate family of the deceased and/or older individuals.


3. The interment ceremony will likely take place after a funeral or memorial service.

In the United States, a funeral or memorial is typically followed by a funeral procession to the location of the interment ceremony. Therefore, make sure that you are aware of the order of events and understand the location of each of the services.


Writer: Taylor Steed

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