Cemetery burial vs natural burial – what’s the difference?

Though often adorned with trees and flowers, a cemetery is mostly home to rows upon rows of gravestones, which can appear dominating as a growing number of burials continue to take place. Graveyards are owned by local authorities, whereas natural burial grounds are owned privately. Unlike cemeteries, natural burial grounds exist in a scenic setting, embellished with the natural growth of native trees, plants, and flowers. As dozens of local cemeteries hit capacity, we expect to see the rise of natural burial grounds in the coming years. If your family is considering putting loved ones to rest in a more natural setting, here are a few pointers to take note of. 

Cemetery Burial Processes and Fees

Run by local councils, cemetery grounds can accommodate family plots of up to four interments. New plots require a purchase fee (£2,000 – £3,000), which varies from cemetery to cemetery and whether the deceased is eligible for a residents discount. Each interment will also require a separate burial fee (£2,000) depending on the depth of the grave. Standard depths accommodate two interments, though if a family grave can still accommodate another, you won’t be subject to a purchase fee. 

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In any cemetery, there are two types of standard graves:


  • Traditional grave: though suitable for a more substantial memorial, traditional graves aren’t always available in cemeteries that are close to capacity. 
  • Lawn grave: simpler than a traditional grave, lawn graves are fitted only with a headstone. 


According to the Deed of Exclusive Right of Burial, ownership lasts from anywhere between 50 to 75 years and can be extended. The cost of transferring ownership is about £200. 

Graves can be purchased for future use and accommodate cremated remains should you choose to forego a casket. After a burial has taken place, a temporary grave marker is used to identify a grave before it is fitted with a permanent memorial. 

Chapels can be used for funeral services with an average fee of £140. 

Natural Burial Processes and Fees

Privately owned or owned by a trust, natural burial grounds can be situated in woodlands, natural parks, or wildflower meadows. Burial plots are normally leased for 25 to 75 years and typically don’t don any permanent grave markers. Some grounds will allow for small wooden plaques that can be mapped and geotagged. 

Coffins must be manufactured using untreated wood, wicker, cardboard, bamboo, or other biodegradable materials. Families burying their loved ones on natural grounds can’t have the body embalmed. 

Cheaper than cemetery fees, plots on natural burial sites begin at £1,500, and interment fees cost anywhere between £600 to £700. 

Should You Opt For a Cemetery Burial or Natural Burial

If most of your loved ones are already buried in a cemetery, you may not be too keen on a natural burial. However, some things to consider are:

  • Whether the natural grounds are closer to your home
  • Whether environmental concerns are of importance to the deceased family member
  • Whether you’re planning to have the body embalmed
  • Whether you prefer a traditional setting and processes


Traditional graves are something we’ve been used to for centuries but natural burials are reinventing the way we witness the body re-join the natural life cycle. If your family is looking to enjoy a more tranquil space to be with loved ones who have passed on, a natural burial may be something you want to consider. 

For the latest funeral industry updates and funeral industry news in the UK, subscribe to the Funeral Service Times. If you’re searching for options for your deceased loved one, we can help you make a more informed decision. 

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