Pre-Need Funeral Planning: Learn the Lingo

No matter what you are planning, the trick to being prepared is to understand the lingo. If you are planning a wedding, this means understanding what terms like “Bouts,” “MOG,” and “OTT” mean. Other big life events also have their own lingo, from pregnancy verbiage to retirement vocab words. Funerals also have their own lingo. If you are making your own pre-need funeral arrangements and pre-planning your own funeral, then there are some important terms that you will need to understand. 

General Funeral Terms to Know

The most important part of a funeral is what the deceased wants, namely burial or cremation. Some people want traditional funerals, while others want cremation and unique celebrations of their life. No matter what you decide, these are some general terms that it can be useful to know. 


This is the process by which a mortician or funeral director uses a chemical mixture, including formaldehyde and methanol, to preserve a person’s body. The goal is to stave off decomposition for as long as possible. Some states require embalming and some do not, but for families who are burying a loved one, it can be reassuring to know that their loved one will be well-preserved. For the most part, it is up to you if you want to be embalmed. This will be an important decision to make when you arrange your pre-need funeral. Burials and cremations can both involve embalming; many cremations also involve a final viewing for the family members, in which funeral directors try to make the deceased look as natural as possible. 

Eulogy vs. Obituary

These terms are often confused. A eulogy is a speech that a close friend or family member gives at the funeral service or at a memorial. An obituary is an announcement of a death and some details about the person’s life that appears in the newspaper. If you want a certain person to deliver your eulogy or if you want an obituary, make sure to write down those instructions. 

Plot, Mausoleum, and Columbarium

These are different ways of storing remains. Oftentimes, family history plays a role in how people decide on their final resting place. A plot, also called a family plot,  is a section of land in a cemetery that a family has bought for their descendants. This means that multiple members of the same family line will be buried in close proximity and may share a headstone with multiple names on it. A mausoleum is similar; however, it is a free-standing structure that can house multiple family members or just a single person. While plots and mausoleums can be utilized for bodies or cremains, a columbarium is only for cremains. A columbarium is a free-standing structure with niches in the wall that hold urns. Families can be placed in close proximity to each other, but oftentimes a columbarium will be home to many different people’s remains in different urns. 

Pre-Need Funeral Related Terms

Pre-Need Funeral

In traditional funeral planning, a loved one dies and then the family members make the arrangements and plan a funeral. Preneed funeral planning is different, wherein one makes the arrangements and plans their own funeral during their life. There are many benefits to this, namely that you are prepared and that you can spare your loved ones from the emotional pain of planning your funeral. The term “Pre-need” also includes a contractual arrangement with a funerary service provider. This is because a pre-need funeral involves you paying for the services and casket that you want, then the provider agrees to carry out those wishes when the time comes. This can include pre-purchasing a casket that will be delivered when the time comes. 

Funeral Pre-Planning

This is very similar to pre-need; however, the main difference is that pre-need funeral planning involves pre-paying and a contract with a funeral provider. Pre-planning just describes the act of writing down what you want for your funeral, finalizing a will, and communicating your wishes to your loved ones. Of course, thorough pre-planning should involve some financial element in order to ensure that everything is taken care of. This can mean pre-purchasing or setting aside money in a funeral trust. 

Image of a woman planning something with a phone, laptop, pen and paper | Pre-need funeral | Overnight Caskets


This is a large part of pre-need arrangements. It specifically describes the act of purchasing items like a casket ahead of time. While “pre-need” also describes arrangements for services with a funeral home or cemetery, pre-purchasing only applies to buying funeral goods ahead of time. Pre-purchasing is actually a very smart financial choice, especially if you pre-purchase a casket online. This can save you money because online caskets are not marked up excessively and because you will lock in a price without inflation. 

Casket Terms: What You Need to Know For Pre-Need Funeral Planning

Caskets are actually a lot like cars: they have different features and there are a lot of choices to make. With cars, you need to decide whether or not to get heated seats; when it comes to caskets, you will need to decide if you want wood or metal. 

Wood vs. Metal

Wood caskets and metal caskets are pretty similar, but the main difference is that the materials change the features. For example, some metal caskets have a gasket, meaning that they can be sealed in order to protect the interior from the elements. Wood caskets cannot be sealed in this way. Metal caskets can also be more affordable. Whereas wood caskets start at $1,200, metal caskets start at $850. However, there are other factors like the type of wood and gauge of the metal that influence this pricing. Another major distinction is that metal caskets cannot be cremated with the body, whereas wood caskets are safe for cremation. If you prefer cremation over burial, then you will need to buy a cremation-safe casket. 

Solid Wood vs. Veneer Wood

Once you decide on a wood or metal casket for your pre-need funeral, there are other details like the quality and style to decide on. In short, a solid wood casket is exactly what it sounds like: it is made of solid wood. This makes it heavier, longer-lasting, and more high-quality. While there is little visual difference between solid and veneer wood caskets, investing in a solid wood casket can imply gravitas and indicate your tastes. Veneer wood caskets only have wood panels on the exterior and are not solid wood all the way through. This means that they are more affordable if you are on a budget. Veneer wood caskets start at $1,300 and solid wood caskets range from $1,550 to $3,200. 

18 Gauge vs. 20 Gauge

“Gause” is a term that only applies for metal caskets. It essentially describes the thickness of the metal. The smaller the number of the gauge, the thicker the metal, so 18 gauge is actually thicker and more sturdy than 20 gauge. While there is little difference between an 18 gauge and a 20 gauge casket, some people like to enjoy high-quality goods and feel comfort in imaging a highly durable casket as their resting place. The two types look much the same and both do the job of protecting one’s body from the elements.

Because of the difference in thickness, 18 gauge caskets can be a little more pricey than 20 gauge caskets. While 18 gauge caskets start at $1,200, 20 gauge caskets only cost around $850. There are sealable and non-sealable options for both types of metal casket. This decision should depend on your budget, your tastes, and the look that you want. 18 gauge caskets often come in more color and style options than 20 gauge caskets. 

Sealable vs. Non-Sealable

You may also hear the term “gasket casket” used to describe the capability of certain metal caskets to seal one’s body inside. Wood caskets are not sealable, only metal caskets. Certain caskets have a rubber lining between the lid and the base that effectively keeps the elements and moisture out. While these two types of caskets are priced fairly similarly, this pre-need funeral decision should come down to what you want. If you value preservation and protection, then a sealable metal casket may be right for you. 

image of a wood casket with flowers on it | pre-need funeral | Overnight Caskets

Oversized Caskets

Humans are not designed to be one size, so caskets aren’t either. People come in all different shapes and sizes, which is why multiple options for oversized caskets exist. The standard casket is 78 inches by 23 inches on the interior and 83” x 28.5” x 23.5” on the exterior. A normal oversized casket is 27.5 inches in width on the inside to provide more room. This extra space can help the deceased look more natural and not cramped or ruffled.

Oversized caskets – like all caskets from Overnight Caskets – are fitted with adjustable head and foot pillows; they are also continuously welded during the construction process to completely seal the bottom in a durable finish. If you are a person in a larger body, you may want an oversized casket in order to have more room. All our oversized caskets fit in the standard vault and look elegant and dignified as a final resting place. 

Other Terms to Know

That covers the main features of caskets that you will encounter during your pre-need funeral planning process. However, there are several more terms that may come in handy. 


This refers to the top of the casket and how it folds up for a viewing. Most caskets are half-couch, meaning that the lid is split into two parts and only the section for the head is raised. Open casket funerals can be a very important part of the grieving process because it allows the family to say goodbye one last time. The half-couch casket effectively exposes the head, chest, and hands for a meaningful goodbye. 


In contrast to a half-couch casket, this type does not have a split in the lid. When the lid is lifted up, it exposes the entire body all at once. There is little difference between a full-couch and a half-couch, it is just a matter of tradition and person preference. 

Casket vs. Coffin

To clarify: these are not the same thing, nor is a coffin a “scary” version of a casket. The true difference is in the shape. Caskets are box-shapped, so the width at the feet is the same as the width at the head. Coffins, on the other hand, are wider at the shoulders with a slight taper towards the head and a greater taper towards the feet. Caskets are often more decorated, with designs on the lid, velvet lining, and are normally made of higher quality wood or metal. Coffins are traditionally simple and humble; however, this does not always have to be the case, coffins have as much potential to be fancy as caskets do. 

Burial Vault

This is essentially a concrete box in the ground that your casket goes in. Some cemeteries require them, others do not. The purpose of a vault is both to protect the casket from the elements, including water damage, and to keep the ground even. Even in the case of extreme flooding and damage to the soil, a vault will ensure that the casket is never exposed to the surface. 

How to Start Your Pre-Need Funeral Plans: Buy a Casket Online

The best thing about pre-planning and pre-purchasing is that you can do it at your leisure and even do it online. At Overnight Caskets, we offer a catalog of affordable, well-made caskets in a variety of materials, colors, and styles. So browse our catalog and see what beautiful, sturdy caskets fit your budget and your needs. One benefit of buying a casket online is that it is much more affordable than buying a casket from a funeral home. Because most funeral homes have lots of overhead, they need to markup their prices and charge more for services and packages. Overnight Caskets gets our inventory directly from the manufacturers, which allows us to pass those savings onto you. 

If you are ready to start the pre-need funeral planning process, learn more about pre-planning HERE or contact Overnight Caskets if you have any questions.

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