The Complete Guide to Planning a Burial

Burial Monumental

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A Precious Tribute

Your special person is loved and cherished by the people they have impacted on their life’s journey, no matter what the length. Their burial plot and plaque will become a part of this sacred tradition of honouring the dead in recognition that their time on this earth matters.

Give us a call on 1800 100 411 for guidance on burial services. We are available 24/7 to support you and provide the very best of service to you. 


At Swanborough Funerals, we provide burial service options to our Greater Brisbane communities, including the Gold Coast, Ipswich, Sunshine Coast.


Green Burials provide natural options which are truly environmentally viable. They are aimed at honoring your loved one in an environmentally friendly way.


Planning a burial for your loved one is a life honouring and befitting tribute, but it can be pretty overwhelming. This is because there are so many decisions to make and often a brief amount of time to make them in. As a result, we have put together the complete guide to planning a burial. Firstly, this will assist you in choosing a burial plot. Secondly, it will give you an understanding of the options available to you. Finally, choosing a cemetery and a gravesite is a significant decision because it is the final resting place of your loved one.  Read our burial guide below.

Have you ever wandered through the burial grounds of a cemetery? Maybe you have read the inscriptions on the headstones and admired the cemetery architecture? Have you felt with a sense of awe that you are in a sacred space, that souls buried here all have their own stories to tell? They belonged to someone. But, most importantly, they are a part of someone’s heritage. They played a role in our history. This person you are reading about, in some way, left their mark on society. Essentially, this is the essence and beauty of a cemetery.

Your Complete Guide to Planning a Burial

What is a Burial?

In theory, burial is where the deceased is prepared, placed in the coffin or casket, set in a burial plot within the cemetery grounds. However, burial is so much more than this because this grave represents the precious life of your loved one. Your loved one’s name, the amount of time they spent on this earth, their family and a particular verse or quote is engraved into stone or on bronze.

Most importantly, it is the resting place that captures that they existed in a few brief words. This grave is sacred. This beautiful soul becomes a part of our history for future generations to reflect on. Your loved one’s gravesite gives a permanent place for all who knew them to reflect and to pay their respects.

Choosing a cemetery and selecting a burial plot

Foremost, this is a highly emotional choice for you and your family because it represents your special person. Also, there are several decisions to make.

Options to consider:

  • Would you like the cemetery to be close to home?
  • What type of cemetery plot is suitable? For example, manicured lawns near water or a flowing stream or a bushland setting.
  • Do you want a gravesite that allows other family burials to take place in the future?
  • What burial plot would best represent the essence of your loved one’s wishes, beliefs, and culture?

These are just a few thoughts that may assist you in making the right choice for where your loved one’s grave site should be.

Burial Plot Options

There are different burial plot options. However, we always recommend you visit a few cemeteries to choose the burial plot that best reflects the essence of the person it represents. Our team at Swanborough Funerals are here to help.

Lawn Burial

Instead of a more prominent headstone, a lawn grave offers a neatly mown area where memorial plaques are placed on the grave either flush to the ground or on a concrete or granite ledger.

Advantages to Lawn Burial

  • Firstly, lawn graves tend to be the most cost-effective option. This is because the gravesite and plot digging fees are less expensive than other options.
  • Also, it is the most cost-effective choice when having the plaque made. Often cemeteries will include a basic plaque in the purchase of the gravesite.
  • Generally, a lawn section in the cemetery is the easiest to maintain. You will notice that the cemetery grounds keepers can mow regularly to keep the cemetery grounds looking neat. This is sometimes a little more difficult around the monumental graves.
  • Notably, other family burials can take place in a lawn burial site.
  • Usually, you can pre-purchase a lawn grave.

Disadvantages to Lawn Burial

  • Essentially, lawn plaques are smaller than monumental headstones, allowing for a limited number of words on the plaque.
  • Lawn cemeteries have strict guidelines for items on the grave and a minimal area for memorabilia, ornaments, or flowers to be placed.

Monumental Burial

Organising a monumental gravesite for your precious person is the traditional choice. Usually, the construction of monumental graves is in marble, granite, stone, or concrete. Therefore, we recommend you use a qualified monumental mason to design and craft the headstone. We always suggest you ring a few monumental masons, tell them a little about your loved one. Details give them an understanding of how to best create a lovely and befitting headstone for your special person.

Advantages to Monumental Burial

  • Foremost, there is a far greater choice of style, colour and materials to craft a monumental headstone. It allows your loved one’s grave to be individual and unique.
  • Unlike a lawn grave, you can use the entire area of the monumental tomb to put a tombstone. The site includes the headstone and the ledger covering the rest of the grave.
  • There is much more space to place wording.
  • Also, there is a greater area of space for your family to place floral tributes, grave lights, ornaments and memorabilia on.
  • A monumental gravesite can be simple or elaborate as you wish, reflecting the person it represents.
  • As well, future family burials can take place if this is important to your family.
    Generally, you can pre-purchase a monumental grave.
Burial Monumental


Disadvantages to Monumental Burial

  • A monumental gravesite is usually more expensive to purchase.
  • Mainly, you will require the services of a monumental mason, a professional craftsman, to construct the gravestone. Buying a tombstone is far more expensive than a lawn plaque.
  • Usually, it would be best if you waited up to 12 months for the ground to settle before placing a tombstone on the burial site.

Natural or Green Burial

Is the environment important to your loved one? If your person has a close connection to nature, green or natural burial will be the obvious choice. Probably, your loved one has made these wishes abundantly clear. When their time comes, they wish to be returned to the earth most naturally with minimum impact on the environment. Most importantly to them, it is the best environmental and eco-conscious choice to make.

Your loved one will be buried in a shallow grave only using natural fibre constructed coffins or caskets—for example, materials like recycled cardboard, wicker, wool, or plantation timbers. Alternatively, we can wrap your loved one in a shroud.
Burial takes place in a shallow grave. The two green burial options are either a woodland area or trees planted on your loved one’s grave to regenerate the area.

Green Cemetery

Advantages to Natural Burial

  • Most importantly, you will be making the best decision for the earth and our environment.
  • Also, you will be preserving a parcel of land and protecting this area from future development. Fauna and flora will flourish in this sanctuary.
  • Likewise, it is a cost-effective decision. There is minimum upkeep required once the regeneration of natural habitat occurs.

Disadvantages to Green Burial

  • Currently, most green cemeteries do not allow pre-purchasing of burial plots. However, we do believe this option will be available to our families in the future.
  • Unfortunately, some natural burial sites do not allow any natural stone or wood plaques.
  • Green burial is a shallow grave burial plot allowing decomposition to occur where the most active microorganisms are. Therefore, only one burial can take place.
  • There is no room for another family member to be buried in this site at a later stage.
  • Sadly, many cemeteries do not offer green burial options. Green cemeteries in Australia are still in the early stages of development.

Most importantly, for an environmentally conscious person, the advantages always out way the disadvantages.

Vaults, Mausoleums & Crypts

Below Ground Vaults

If you purchase a below-ground vault, you generally make this decision because of your cultural and religious heritage. These vaults consist of concrete, granite, or stone below the ground. The deceased is embalmed and placed in a metal sealed liner within the coffin or casket. The coffin or casket sits on the copper tray in the grave. Your monumental mason then seals the vault with a top ledger. Most importantly, the vault has no soil within, like a monumental or lawn burial. Essentially, the vault protects the coffin from the soil.

Above Ground Vaults

The only difference between an above-ground vault and a below-ground vault is precisely that. Instead of being below the earth, the vault sits above the ground. You would be purchasing an above-ground vault because of your religious and cultural heritage. In summary, we require the same processes of embalming, a metal liner, and a copper tray for the safe care of your loved one.

Mausoleums and Crypts

Once again, you would be purchasing a mausoleum because of your cultural and religious heritage. A mausoleum generally houses your deceased family members and is usually purchased by your family. Your family chapel is an above-ground building to hold your family members’ remains in a casket or coffin. You will see these buildings in several different cemeteries around Brisbane. Like above or below ground vaults, we embalm for the safe preservation of the deceased. Once again, we require a metal liner and a copper tray to hold the casket.

You would employ a monumental mason to build the mausoleum. Construction of Mausoleums generally use bricks, concrete, marble, or granite. In summary, the crypt or bed represents a single chamber that holds the coffin or casket.

What is a family grave?

We understand the importance for you to have a family grave. However, most cemeteries allow for more than one family burial within the same gravesite.
Usually, lawn, monumental, above-ground, or below-ground vaults have interment options for more than one family burial in the same plot. The second or third interment is known as a double or triple depth gravesite. They are allowing for one or two more burials to take place, depending on the cemetery.

Your family member who purchased and signed for the grave is known as the burial rights holder. The burial rights holder would sign to permit to have the grave reopened if the burial rights holder is deceased, the next of kin sign on their behalf.

Because green or natural burial is a shallow grave burial, it is impossible to reopen the natural burial plot.

The design of family mausoleums is for this purpose and holds between 8 – 10 family beds.

You may not wish for a second or third family burial in your loved one’s grave. You can pre-purchase several burial plots side by side.

What is the cost of a burial plot?

Below is a current pricing guide to give you an understanding of the different costs involved with burial.

  • Lawn graves and monumental graves average from around $5000 for the plot, including the first burial in the greater Brisbane area. Also, some cemeteries include a primary plaque in their fees for lawn graves.
  • Monumental graves require a monumental mason fee for a headstone varies greatly. In essence, this depends on the amount of work needed, the material used, and the monument’s size. Monuments start from around $3500 upwards.
  • Vaults begin from around $8,500 upwards.
  • Mausoleums or family chapels start from around $50,000 for eight beds. Most hold 8 – 10 beds.
  • Reopen fees of a family burial site start from $2600. Essentially, this depends on the site. For example, vaults and monumental sites require removing the marble or concrete ledger over the grave.

What Burial service options are there?

We understand that you want to honour your significant person. We are here to help you organise a befitting tribute for your loved one. We will sit down with you to learn a little about your precious person, enabling us to create a truly life honouring ceremony.

Below is a list of burial service options.

Graveside Service

Essentially, this is a single service ceremony, in essence, a graveside gathering to honour the life of this precious soul. Your relatives and friends gather at the graveside to pay their respects to your special person.

Chapel/church service followed by committal at the cemetery

In essence, this is a combination of two gatherings. Firstly, the funeral ceremony of your loved one takes place with their coffin present at the chapel or your family church. Next, pallbearers carry your loved one out of the chapel to the hearse at the end of this service. A procession or funeral cortege follows the hearse to the graveside. Finally, the life-honouring committal where the coffin lowers into the grave and people speak tributes of farewell.

Grave service followed by memorial service.

Firstly, there is a graveside gathering for your loved one. Often, this is an intimate group of your close family and friends. Then, after the graveside service, a more extensive gathering of your community takes place in a venue without your loved one’s coffin present. We refer to this as a celebration of their life known as the memorial service.

No attendance burial.

We are requested to conduct a burial service with no one in attendance. It is often due to cultural, religious, or personal beliefs.
Quite often, the memorial service or celebration of life is held instead at a venue of your family’s choosing. In essence, this is where you remember and celebrate the life of your loved one without the coffin or casket present.

In preparation for burial.

Foremost, we are here to guide you and provide a ceremony that lovingly represents your special person. Also, we are here to liaise with the cemetery to ensure the best care for your loved one.

Pallbearers and lowering the coffin

Our funeral arranger will ask if you would like the coffin to be set up on the grave when you arrive. Alternatively, you may prefer to have pallbearers carry your loved one’s casket to the grave. Pall bearing can be done by your family and friends or by our funeral directors.

We will ask you if you would like the coffin placed on a lowering machine, which will mechanically lower your loved one’s coffin or the casket into the grave. Alternatively, your family may like to hand lower using grave straps. Our team is always there to advise and assist.

Some cultures like to hand-fill the grave with shovels and wrap the coffin in a material. Our arranger will ask you these questions at the time of arrangement. Alternatively, you can choose not to have the coffin lowered. You may prefer to lower to ground level if we are using the mechanical lowering machine.

Flowers and other symbols at the grave

Generally, we remove the flowers from on top of the coffin and place them on top of your loved one’s grave. You may wish to scatter flower petals, gum leaves or placing white sand on your loved one’s coffin in the grave- a precious symbol of saying farewell.
Also, other symbolic tributes include butterfly or dove releases as a sign of freedom and peace.

What we provide at the cemetery

  • Where possible, we request a canopy shelter and chairs at the graveside. However, this is not always an option depending on the grave location.
  • Also, we provide a sound system to play music and a microphone and podium for the person taking the ceremony. We carry bottles of water, tissues, a hand sanitiser, a portable table and a tablecloth. We provide spare chairs and umbrellas for the comfort of your family, where at all possible.
  • If you would like the graveside ceremony recorded or live-streamed, please advise your funeral arranger.
  • Sometimes, the family choose a white cross grave marker with an engraved plaque nameplate as an interim marker. The marker is placed at the gravesite until the plaque or headstone is ready; plaques can take a minimum of 2-3 months to organise, and headstones longer.

What happens after burial?

What happens after burial?

You may be unsure of what happens after burial. The soil within the burial plot takes time to settle, often up to 12 months. After that, the earth will sink below ground level. Therefore, immediately after burial, a mound is formed by cemetery staff. When sinking occurs, the cemetery groundskeeper will come and top fill the grave.

Grave Plaques and Cemetery Headstones.

Some cemeteries organise the plaques or headstones for you, while others require you to source these. We are here to help and can either put you in touch with a recommended monumental mason. Also, we are here to help organise the placement and wording of the plaque and headstone for you.

Grave upkeep

  • Generally, burial plots are perpetual, and it is the role of your cemetery to keep the grounds around your loved one’s grave tidy. Often, it is the role of your family for the upkeep of your loved one’s headstone or plaque.
  • Each cemetery has its own rules and regulations regarding what items can be on a grave and when they will remove these items. When purchasing a grave, you will be required to sign a burial rights contract. In this contract will be the terms and conditions. Would you please read these carefully?
  • As a rule, breakable items, especially glass, are removed by cemetery staff. Understandably, these are a danger to staff when mowing the lawns and other visitors to the cemetery. In addition, faded items, like artificial flowers, may be removed and objects that interfere with the mowing around lawn graves. With respect, a cemetery is a public space and needs to be kept safe and tidy. Resin, bronze, or concrete items are much safer than glass. You will notice these placed on headstones and plaques around the cemetery grounds. Usually, plastic or bronze vases are available within the cemetery grounds to place your floral tributes.

A Place of Peace & Reflection

In summary, we trust that the information provided in the complete guide to planning a burial will be helpful. Foremost, we hope it assists you in choosing a place or rest for your special someone. A place that will bring comfort and solace to your family when they visit to pay their respects. A place of history for future generations.

If we can be of any help, feel free to email us or phone us with any questions you may have.