Burial Services in Calgary, Alberta

Traditionally, a burial service involves a visitation and is followed by a funeral service.  While the casket is typically present at both these events, it is your decision whether to have the casket open. You then have a number of options for interment. Decisions also need to be made on whether the body needs to be embalmed, what kind of casket to use, what cemetery to use and what to put on the gravestone.

Cemetery Burial Types

Monumental cemetery: A monumental cemetery is the traditional style of cemetery where headstones or other monuments made of marble or granite rise vertically above the ground.  There are countless different types of designs for headstones, ranging from very simple, to large and complex.

Lawn cemetery: A lawn cemetery is where each grave is marked with a small commemorative plaque that is placed horizontally at the head of the grave at ground-level.  Families can still be involved in the design and in choosing the information contained on the plaque, but in most cases the plaques are a standard design. 

Mausoleum: A mausoleum is an external, free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or people.  A mausoleum may be considered a type of tomb, or the tomb may be considered to be within the mausoleum. 

Columbarium: Columbarium walls are generally reserved for cremated remains.  While cremated remains can be kept at home by families, or scattered somewhere significant to the deceased, a columbarium provides friends and family a place to come to visit. Columbarium walls do not take up a lot of space and a cheaper alternative to a burial plot.

Natural cemeteries: Natural cemeteries, also known as eco-cemeteries or green cemeteries, are a new style of cemetery set aside for natural burials.  Natural burials are motivated by the desire to be environmentally conscious.  While natural burials can be performed at any type of cemetery, they are usually done in a natural woodland area.  Conventional markings, such as headstones, are generally replaced with a tree, bush, or the placement of a natural stone.

Burial FAQ

How much does the average funeral cost?
As a full service funeral home, we offer a wide variety of services and facilities with costs for a family ranging from approx. $4000.00 – $12,000.00, with an average of about $6000.00 – $8000.00.

Why do funerals cost so much? Can you explain what is involved in this cost?
It is estimated that there are 48.5 man hours required for a funeral service. This would include:

  • Securing a release and transfer from the place of death, embalming and sanitation of the deceased, cosmetology, hairdressing, dressing and casketing.
  • Funeral Director meets with the family to coordinate the funeral service and coordination of all details with respect to the cemetery or crematorium, clergy, casket, flowers and musicians.
  • Record keeping and clerical assistance, including completion and filing of all government forms, securing necessary permits and preparation and placement of obituaries.
  • Secretarial services for memorial book, service folders, statements of death and general inquiries regarding funeral service.
  • Arranging flowers for visitation and preparing viewing room and staff for visitation to meet and direct people.
  • Preparation and cleaning of motor vehicles for the funeral service.
  • Arranging flowers, casket and general set up for the funeral service.
  • Staffing for the funeral service and general cleanup of the facilities and equipment before and after the service.
  • Invoicing and general bookkeeping duties, as well as a visit by Family Care staff to assist with benefit applications, government forms, cancelling pensions, etc.
  • A factor that contributes to the cost of the funeral is the type of casket that is chosen, as well as flowers, obituaries, musicians and other service enhancements that are not included in our regular schedule of fees.

Can we have a green burial or cremation?
While there has not yet been a cemetery in Calgary that has been designated “true” green, there has been discussion about the possibility of one being started. McInnis and Holloway are able to provide a casket that does meet green requirements and can be used for either burial or cremation.
Click here for an informational video on green burial.

Why would we want to consider burial for our loved ones?
With burial the location of the cemetery gives the family a permanent place for them to memorialize the loss of their loved one and place to visit their family member.

How much does a casket weigh?
The weight of a casket will vary depending on the casket selected and the materials used in the construction of it. Caskets may range from 60 pounds but could be 200 pounds.

If the weight of a specific casket is needed we are able to have the manufacture provide the correct weight.

How long is the funeral service?
Although there is no set time for a funeral service the average length is approximately one hour.

The length of time will depend on how many people are speaking, the number of musical selections, the service being held in a church or another venue, whether communion is being served, tributes and readings.

Following the approximately one hour funeral service there is often a reception or gathering (with refreshments) allowing you time to meet and speak with the family. There may also be a procession to the graveside service.

When should we have the service?
When to have a service is often dependent on a number of factors. If the disposition is burial then arrangement for the cemetery plot will need to be considered and may dictate the day the grave can be open.

If cremation is to take place before the service then time is required to have the urn prepared and cremated remains placed inside.

Consideration needs to be given as to when family may be able to gather. Many families need to travel long distances and time is given for them to arrive. The facilities used for the services need to be arranged and coordinated with the family as to the dates they are considering.

The role of the Funeral Director is to help in the coordination of these various situations and circumstances.

Can we do a service in the evening or on the weekend?
Absolutely, an evening or weekend service can be accommodated. The availability of the venue, such as the funeral home chapel or reception centre, church, hall, clubs, etc., must first be secured before a date is confirmed.

Quite often having the ability and flexibility to have an evening or weekend service can greatly alleviate many concerns the family may have while planning their particular service.

There is a surcharge applicable for evening and weekend services and the Funeral Director will advise on those costs during the arrangements.

We don’t want a traditional funeral what else can we do?
There are many ways to pay tribute and honour your loved ones life and allow for a time for family and friends to show their support. It can be simple, elaborate, religious or contemporary.

These services can be in a church, funeral home, reception centre or community hall.

Does the Funeral have to happen right away?
No, the funeral service does not have to happen immediately, it is up to your family and a time that works for everyone.

Can you provide a Minister/Celebrant for the service if we do not have anyone to help us?
Yes, we have clergy and celebrants that we can contact that will facilitate a meaningful funeral service no matter what faith is followed or if you desire a more non-religious service.

My loved one was not a religious person, do I need a minister?
An ordained clergy person is not required to preside at funeral services nor does the presider need to be licensed in any manner.

An individual who feels a comfort level with public speaking and will honour the life of the deceased person is all that is required. We would be honoured to contact a Celebrant that meets your needs.

Do we really need a celebrant? Can’t a family member or friend just do that?
No, it is not required to have a Celebrant for your funeral service. Should you want a Celebrant, we would be honoured to arrange for that. The Celebrant will offer your family a very personalized but yet structured service based around your loved one with the information you provide to them and can also act as an M.C.

You could also have a family member or friend officiate the service.

Why does the family need to provide music?
Families need to provide recorded music, because of copyright issues. As well, there can be so many versions of the same song, and this way they have the right version sung by the correct artist of their choice.

Should the family desire to have musicians present, we are happy to arrange for an organist, pianist, soloist, violinist, piper, harpist, etc.

Is it a legal requirement to have an obituary?
No it is not a legal requirement to place an obituary, however it is strongly recommended. An obituary provides an opportunity for friends and acquaintances to become informed of the death and allows them to make plans to attend the funeral service or offer condolences to the family member(s) that they know.

I have never had to write an obituary. Can you help me with this?
We do not expect our families to compose the obituary notices for their loved ones.

When the Funeral Director meets with the family we will ask for some biographical information such as, the names and relationship of the surviving family members, and names of those they are predeceased by. We ask for the families to supply this information to us in point form and we will compose the notice for you. Once we have done this, we have the family proof read it and have us make any changes you desire.

How do I place a newspaper notice in those papers?
We will not send the obituary to the newspaper until you are 100% satisfied with it. Let us know which communities the obituary is to appear and we will notify and email them the notice on your behalf.

Can family be pallbearers?
Family members can be pallbearers. As well we can also arrange for professional pallbearers if the family so wishes.

Does it just have to be men for pallbearers or can women be pallbearers too?
Both women and men can be pallbearers. It is indeed an honour to be asked to be a pallbearer. Whether women or men, appropriate footwear should be worn once out at the cemetery, as there will be physical lifting involved while walking on uneven ground.

Can we have the reception prior to going to the cemetery?
Yes you can have the reception prior to going to the cemetery. We refer to that as a delayed graveside.

How can I create a memorial for a loved one?
A memorial is the creation of a visible and permanent place or marker to recognize and honor the life of one who has died. Remembering the life of a loved one through a memorial tribute can provide important support and closure for family and loved ones.

The choices for memorials are wide and varied. Some ideas for unique memorials include:

  • having a stained glass window added to a church to recognize a loved one
  • donating a park bench to a city park and having it inscribed with your loved one’s name
  • creating a memorial home-page on the Internet or world-wide-web
  • planting a tree in either Calgary’s Fish Creek Memorial Forest or in Nose Creek Valley Memorial Forest, or in Airdrie’s Fletcher Park Memorial Forest. (to visit our Tree Program section click here)
  • placing a grave marker in the cemetery (check the marker requirements with each cemetery)

For those who have chosen cremation, many options exist for memorials surrounding the cremated remains:

  • an urn can be purchased for burial or placement in an above-ground columbarium
  • create a special memorial vessel to hold the cremated remains, such as a necklace or bracelet

Whatever permanent memorial selected, these unique reminders are a source of comfort for families and friends, because they are something to return to for generations to come.

How does a funeral director help with the grief process?
The primary role of a funeral director is to assist family and friends with both the practical and emotional side of coping with the loss of a loved one.

Over a few short days, funeral directors handle an estimated two to three hundred activities, requiring about 40-to-45 hours to arrange. Funeral directors are experienced in all legal, medical, cultural and religious procedures to provide the family with caring, individual counsel, and to ensure the funeral is as stress-free and meaningful as it can be.

Funeral directors are also aware of special services – such as financial benefits available to veteran’s families, widows or persons with limited resources – and can help families access this information easily. Some funeral homes also offer service referrals for individuals needing help dealing with loss in the months or years that follow.

All funeral directors in Alberta (Canada) are graduates of a regulated, professional college program. Upon successful completion of a combination of education and on-the-job training, each funeral director is licensed, and continuing education is a post-graduate requirement to maintain their licence.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

Are there differences between funeral homes?
As with most services, there is a great variety of funeral services available to you, in a wide range of prices. To compare funeral homes, the best approach is to make inquiries before a death occurs, or get referrals from a trusted friend or family member.

Some considerations are whether the funeral home is familiar with different ethnic cultures or customs as part of the funeral service, and whether they have the special equipment or rooms set aside to meet these requests.

Many families need a place to meet after the service, but not all funeral homes have reception rooms with catering facilities right on location.

It may be important to you to know whether the funeral home is family-owned and operated, or part of a larger national organization.

Some funeral homes offer special services like personalized service folders, unique memorials such as tree plantings, and traditional white limousines.

Most funeral homes will gladly answer these and other questions, and provide estimates by phone or mail to your home, without any obligation.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

What is important when selecting a funeral home?
Think about what will make the ceremony unique, personal, and meaningful to the family. Then, use these guidelines to find a funeral home that can accommodate your requests, since all have different services and facilities available.

Ask the following questions of the funeral home – they should answer this information without obligation.

  • Has the funeral home been in business a long time in your city?
  • Is the funeral home locally owned, or part of a larger national organization?
  • Are they involved in local community organizations or activities?
  • Do they have a good reputation for meeting the needs of families?
  • Is their geographic location convenient and is their building handicap accessible?
  • Can they provide all services required at their own location?
  • Do they have small and large chapels to accomodate different size groups?
  • Do they offer special services for ethnic cultures, and have an excellent understanding of cultural customs and traditions?
  • Do they offer unique monument ideas, such as special tree planting memorial?

These are just some of the questions to ask when selecting a funeral home. It’s important to choose a licensed funeral home with a good reputation, whom you feel comfortable with.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

When death is expected, what do I do?
When a death is expected, there are a couple of considerations for immediate and future care:

  • Is medical care needed for the individual?
  • If so, alternatives include general hospital palliative care units; auxiliary hospitals; provincial and private nursing homes; hospices; or in-home nursing care.

This time can be used to plan or make funeral arrangements. Sometimes, this is difficult for the person involved, so a family member may be asked to make arrangements once death has occurred. If possible, try to discuss preferences beforehand.

Discuss the location of originals for all important business and personal documents, and make a list (and photocopies) so they are easily accessible when they are needed.

When caring for a dying person, make sure you take care of yourself and/or your family’s emotional needs.

  • Share your experiences with other family members or close friends
  • Allow friends to help with small tasks, or by giving you time off
  • If you belong to a church or synagogue, talk to the clergy for spiritual support
  • Don’t try to get through this time alone – even a little support can help

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

What should I do when a death occurs?
If death is sudden or unexpected, call 9-1-1 to notify the police and the coroner’s office. If death was expected, and the deceased was under the care of a physician or health care nurse, then a call to 9-1-1 is not required. A call to your local funeral home should be made as soon as you can.

There are many decisions to be made after the passing of a loved one, and funeral directors are experienced in helping families with this process. Ask a trusted friend or family member to recommend a funeral home they know.

An appointment will be made to discuss arrangements and details, like:

  • Have advanced plannings been made by the deceased?
  • What type of service is preferred: burial, cremation, or mausoleum?
  • Has a cemetery been chosen?
  • Other personal information about the deceased to register the death with the local government.

The funeral director will also help you select a casket, music, floral tributes, custom stationery, an officiate for the ceremony, and can help write the newspaper notice if desired.

All details will be arranged with utmost care to ensure the service is a personal reflection of the life of the deceased, honoring their unique contribution and meeting the needs of the surviving members of the family.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), send us an email

What is opening and closing, and why are there fees for it?
Opening and closing fees can include up to and beyond 50 separate services provided by the cemetery.  Typically, the opening and closing fees include administration and permanent record keeping (determining ownership, obtaining permission, and the completion of other documentation which may be required, entering the interment particulars in the interment register, maintaining all legal files), opening and closing the grave (locating the grave and laying out the boundaries, excavating and filling the interment space), installation and removal of the lowering device, placement and removal of artificial grass dressing and coco-matting at the grave site, leveling, tamping, re-grading and sodding the grave site, and leveling and re-sodding the grave if the earth settles. 

Can we dig our own grave to avoid the charge for opening and closing?
The actual opening and closing of the grave is just one component of the opening and closing fee.  Due to safety issues which arise around the use of machinery on cemetery property, and the protection of other gravesites, the actual opening and closing of the grave is conducted by cemetery grounds personnel only.

Why is having a place to visit so important?
To remember, and to be remembered.  A permanent memorial in a cemetery provides a focal point for remembrance and memorializing the deceased.  Memorialization of the dead is a key component in almost every culture.  Psychologists say that remembrance practices serve an important emotional function for survivors by helping them bring closure, which allows the healing process to begin. The provision of a permanent resting place is an important part of this process.

What happens when a cemetery runs out of land?
When a cemetery runs out of land, it will continue to operate and serve the community.  Most cemeteries have crematoriums, and some historic cemeteries even offer guided tours.

In a hundred years, will this cemetery still be there?
We think of cemetery lands as being in perpetuity.  There are cemeteries throughout the world that have been in existence for hundreds of years.

How soon after a death must an individual be buried?
There is no law that states a specific time-span for burial.  Considerations that will affect the timeline include: the need to secure all permits and authorizations; notification of family and friends; preparation of cemetery site, and religious considerations.  Public heath laws may limit the maximum amount of time allowed to pass prior to final disposition.  Contact your local funeral provider for more details.

Does a body have to be embalmed before it is buried?
No.  Embalming is generally a choice, one which depends on factors like if there is to be an open casket viewing of the body, or if there will be an extended time between death and internment.  Public health laws may require embalming if the body is going to be transported by air or rail.

What options are available besides ground burial?
Besides ground burial, some cemeteries offer interment in lawn crypts or entombment in mausoleums.  In addition, most cemeteries provide options for those who have selected cremation.  These often include placement of cremated remains in a niche of a columbarium or interment in an urn space. 

What are burial vaults and grave liners?
These are the outside containers into which the casket is placed.  Burial vaults are designed to protect the casket and may be made of a variety of materials, including concrete, stainless steel, galvanized steel, copper, bronze, plastic, or fiberglass.  A grave liner is a lightweight version of a vault which keeps the grave surface from sinking in.

Must I purchase a burial vault?
Most large, active cemeteries have regulations that require the use of a basic grave liner for maintenance and safety purposes.  Either a grave liner or a burial vault will satisfy these requirements.  Some smaller rural or churchyard cemeteries do not require use of a container to surround the casket in the grave.

There are alternatives to burial. See Cremation Services