An angel figurine tops a headstone at St. Peter Cemetery on Staten Island in New York. Most Catholic cemeteries allow more than one body to rest in a single grave. Even if one is cremated and one is not, couples can be buried together. In western Oregon Catholic cemeteries, cremated remains of as many as three people can be added to a gravesite with non-cremated body, or four cremated bodies can be buried in a single plot. (Gregory Shemitz/Catholic News Service)
An angel figurine tops a headstone at St. Peter Cemetery on Staten Island in New York. Most Catholic cemeteries allow more than one body to rest in a single grave. Even if one is cremated and one is not, couples can be buried together. In western Oregon Catholic cemeteries, cremated remains of as many as three people can be added to a gravesite with non-cremated body, or four cremated bodies can be buried in a single plot. (Gregory Shemitz/Catholic News Service)
Figuring out the logistics after a loved one dies is never easy. One question that must be answered is: Where will they be buried?

As with all aspects of the funeral and burial rites, the primary concern is not practicality or financial considerations, but the dignity befitting the human person.

As cremation increases in popularity, more and more people are looking into burying more than one person in a single plot. So, what are the rules and regulations regarding such a practice?

Dan Serres is the funeral home manager and cemetery counselor at Gethsemani Cemetery in Happy Valley. He said that each grave space is for one-casket interment, but if someone wants cremated remains also to be interred in that space, up to four persons can be buried there. This can be as many as four urns, or one casket and up to three urns.

The limit of four persons is largely meant to ensure the cemetery is able to appropriately memorialize each individual. Each grave space has a standard marker that is 30 inches by 18 inches, which provides room for the names and dates of four people. “We would only allow one marker per grave,” said Serres, “but we would inscribe all four names and dates on that one marker.”

If an additional individual is to be buried in a grave space, an additional rite of interment needs to be purchased. The process largely depends on who owns the original right of interment on the grave space, according to Serres.

Here is an example to illustrate: If a man buys a grave space where he wishes to be buried, then he would have the right to say that anyone else can be buried there. As long as he is living, if his wife dies and wants to be cremated and placed in that space, he could sign the interment authorization allowing the burial of the urn in that plot. If one of their children then died, and was cremated, they could also be buried in the space as long as the man authorizes it. If his child’s spouse then died, and was cremated, and he wanted that person to be buried in that space, again, he would only have to authorize that burial, and there would still be room for his own casket or urn.

The regulations are particular to Mount Calvary and Gethsemani cemeteries in the Archdiocese of Portland. While other cemeteries may have similar or identical policies, Serres said that any given cemetery will need to be contacted for its own rules and regulations regarding the burial of multiple individuals in a single plot.

Willamette National Cemetery, which is administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, always uses one grave for two interments: the veteran and the veteran’s eligible spouse. Whether buried in the ground or cremated and interred in a wall niche, the veteran and spouse are interred together.

In the event that someone has already been buried in their plot, and their surviving relatives wish to inter more individuals there, Mount Calvary and Gethsemani have a process that can be followed. All of the people who have an equal share in the grave space (whether a surviving spouse, children, or others as the case may be) can authorize and approve the interment.

Funeral directors and pastors are primarily concerned with the care of the deceased and their surviving loved ones. They strive to make the necessary planning as painless as possible, while respecting and honoring the departed.