If you’ve never had to make funeral and burial arrangements for anyone, count yourself lucky. But if and when that hard time comes, it’s useful to know in advance how much everything will cost.

According to Thomas Satchell of Satchell’s Funeral Service in Orange, a traditional funeral service and cemetery burial can cost anywhere from $4,800 to “the sky’s the limit.”

Cremation typically costs less than a casket burial and can be done in combination with a funeral service or as a “direct cremation,” with the body sent straight to a crematory and no service included.

For traditional graveyard burials, the casket is a key expense. However, caskets are typically used in cremations as well. The body, placed in a casket, is sent into the retort, or cremation chamber, where it is incinerated. A plain fiberboard model suitable for a cremation is relatively inexpensive at $210, Satchell said.

He explained that he doesn’t keep sample caskets at his funeral home on Church Street because they would be an added expense. Instead, he relies on catalogues showing a wide array of models that he can order for them. He also sells vaults, which keep caskets in place in the ground.

A high-end stainless steel casket—“just like a kitchen sink” in its silvery sheen—can cost more than $5,000, Satchell said. A copper model sells for around $5,700.

For those who want to send their deceased family members out in high style, there is the Promethean casket: solid bronze and looking for all the world like a huge brick of gold. The Promethean was reportedly the casket of choice for both Michael Jackson and James Brown.

Satchell said he knows of one model of the Promethean that costs an eye-popping $43,000.

Another expense to consider is the burial plot. If you don’t already own one, funeral directors will handle the paperwork for you. Satchell said a plot at Westview Cemetery in Orange costs $100, a bargain compared to the other historically African-American cemeteries in central Virginia that typically charge from $500 to $750 for a grave site.

A double gravesite at Graham Cemetery, located on Route 20 not far from Westview, costs $1,175 in the old section or $1,275 in the new section, where the land is still being developed, according to Graham Cemetery trustee Tom Landis.

Although many families are keeping an eye on expenses when they make funeral arrangements, Satchell said he occasionally runs into exceptions.

On one occasion, he was advising family members whose late mother was going to be cremated. Rather than opt for the standard fiberboard box, they picked out “a beautiful solid cherry [casket]” that soon would go up in smoke.

Another time, he thought he’d shown a family their upper price limit in caskets. To his surprise, they said, “Do you have anything better?”

His reply: “We can get you anything you want!”

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Hilary Holladay covers education and politics for the Orange County Review. The author of five books, she is currently writing a biography of the poet Adrienne Rich.

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