What is a Cremation Society?

Cremation network

A cremation society is an organization, made up of members, who through their membership ensure their future cremation wishes are met.  Society members usually pay a subscription fee to become a member and can either preplan and prepay their cremation, or merely pre-register.  In some states, state law allows a funeral business to use “society” as a trading name, although no membership is required.  In New York state, the use of the term “society” is prohibited for use by funeral businesses.

Why choose cremation?

Cremation is gaining popularity as a preferred choice as an alternative disposition method for Americans today.  It is anticipated that towards the end of the first quarter of the 21st-century cremation will account for more dispositions than burials in the U.S.  There are numerous reasons cited for why people choose cremation but the main reasons have been recorded as:

  • Saving money
  • Environmental concerns
  • Mobile populations – ease of transport to distant interment/scattering sites
  • Cold weather limitations for burial
Cremation Society

How does a Cremation Society differ from a Crematory or Cremation Company?

A cremation society can either be a nationwide organization, a state-wide or local area organization.  The suggestion of a ‘society’ connotes the membership element, and also implicitly suggests a group of people “united by common political and cultural traditions, beliefs or values”. 1 The word society is defined as “an organization or club formed for a particular purpose or activity”.2

Many people join a cremation society believing it is an altruistic type of organization facilitating the pre-planning of cremation at a discounted price.  Indeed many independent cremation societies offer a special discounted rate for members.

The Neptune Society and National Cremation Society are corporate cremation societies operated by Service Corporation International (SCI), the largest corporate funeral company in the United States.  SCI also recently purchased the Cremation Society of Virginia as part of a deal buying Nelsen Funeral Home in Virginia.

A crematory or cremation company does not generally accept members, although many will offer the option to preplan a cremation, just as a cremation society does.

Some funeral homes operate a crematory on-site, whereas others use the services of a local crematory.  In some states, there are crematories that are not funeral homes, and will not deal with the general public, but contract to local funeral homes who use their services.

What services does a Cremation Society offer?

A cremation society basically offers you the opportunity to preplan your cremation disposition arrangements, helping you to ease the burden of the decision-making process for surviving family.  Many cremation societies offer cremation packages, and these can range from basic direct cremation packages to full memorial service cremation packages.  You can opt for a simple cremation or you can choose to customize your arrangements.

Cremation Plan

How much does it cost to join a Cremation Society?

The fee for membership of a cremation society can vary.  Generally, fees are between $25.00 and $50.00 for an individual membership or between $50.00 and $100.00 for a family membership.

What are the benefits of joining a Cremation Society?

The benefit of joining a cremation society is that you can pre-arrange your cremation, and in some cases, you can benefit from special cremation package rates offered by cremation societies.  Do bear in mind though, that many Mom and Pop funeral homes or cremation providers, can also offer similar services often at similar rates.  It is always wise to check the prices quoted by a cremation society against the equivalent prices quoted for cremation by other local cremation providers.

What can be the disadvantages of joining a Cremation Society?

As I have mentioned above, not all cremation societies are altruistic organizations with the sole interests of serving their membership, some cremation societies are operated by national corporations with shareholders.  If you find a cremation society that clearly provides a more affordable cremation alternative, then there is no disadvantage to joining.   If you are paying an initial membership fee, this usually weights against the cremation price secured for members.

Sometimes cremation societies may offer special resources for members to help with planning a cremation, however, you will often find that these resources are in the public domain and freely available on the Internet.  You also need to check whether you are locked into the cremation society, and what happens if you move areas, or wish to transfer or cancel your cremation plan.

How does a Cremation Society differ from a Memorial Society?

A memorial society may offer similar membership services to a cremation society.  In some cases, a memorial society offers burial as well as cremation, but similarly secures a ‘locked-in’ price for members.  In some states, memorial societies were established as a co-operative of funeral homes that would all agree to offer a fixed price for immediate burial or basic cremation to members of the memorial society.

As the cremation rate continues to increase in the U.S., we will see more funeral businesses adopt the terminology in their marketing.  The laws pertaining to the conduct of funeral and cremation businesses vary by state, and each state licensing board has different statures that govern how a funeral business can operate.  It is therefore very wise to carefully check the credentials of any cremation society, and establish if you are dealing with a national corporation, a local funeral business or a not-for-profit social organization.

Related Articles:


DFS Memorials – Network of low-cost cremation providers


1 Wikipedia ‘use of society as a term’

2 Definition of ‘society’

Written by

Sara is the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death care industry in the US for the last 15 years.