Caskets, Coffins & Urns

Caskets, Coffins and Urns

The type of casket or coffin you choose might vary depending on whether you’re planning a burial or cremation. You may also consider having your loved one wrapped in a simple shroud on a wooden base.

During cremation, the entire coffin is cremated along with the body, so many people opt for simple materials and there are now also environmentally friendly options available, such as sturdy cardboard. However, if cremation is booked for more than 24 hours after death, most crematoria will require some kind of lining to keep any fluids contained. All coffins for cremation must have a fixed, but easy to remove nameplate, that is used in tracking the identity of the remains through the cremation process.

Find burial shrouds, coffins, caskets and cremation urns in our directory.

What’s the difference between a casket and coffin?

Both caskets and coffins are containers for a body to lie inside. Sometimes the words are used interchangeably, but there are a few small differences between the two.

  • Coffins are tapered toward the feet and have a removable lid.
  • Caskets are rectangular in shape and sometimes have a hinged lid. The hinge lid of a casket can come in two different styles. Full couch means the lid is in one piece, half couch means the lid has two partitions. For a viewing before the farewell service, sometimes this is preferred as only the top half of the body is on display.

Find out what you can put in a coffin for cremation and burial.


After cremation, the ashes will be returned in a named, sealed container to be returned to you. Funeral directors will have a selection of urns to choose from or you can opt for a basic wooden box from the crematorium and then choose an urn at a later time. Ceramic, metal, and wood are common materials. If you’re planning on scattering or burying the ashes soon after cremation, you might opt for something simple. However, if you are planning for the urn to be placed in a niche or columbarium (a dedicated room or building for funeral urns) or your own private shrine or place of remembrance then something more decorative or personal might feel right.

What options are best for a green, natural or eco-friendly burial?

If it is important to you that your burial has a minimal environmental impact, you may prefer an eco-burial, which will mean opting for a natural untreated casket or a burial shroud (see below). If you would like to be buried in one of New Zealand’s natural cemeteries, your casket or shroud must be certified for an eco-burial.

Eco-friendly caskets will have no plastic or metal in their manufacture, but nails and screws are allowed. Eco-coffins are also restricted as to what glues can be used as they need to be able to break down without contaminating the soil. This means that they will not have any plastic liner or plastic (e.g. silicon) joint sealant. If the casket or coffin does not have a plastic or metal liner, it is a good idea to place a large plastic sheet under the casket or coffin and fold it up the sides so as to catch any possible leakage.

What is a burial shroud?

A shroud is a long piece of fabric that wraps the body. Natural fabric, such as linen, silk or wool is required for cremation and natural burials. For transport or cremation, a shroud bearer, or wooden board will be required to place the body on. Wrapping bodies in shrouds is a practice that has taken place for centuries among many cultures and religions around the world. A body wrapped in a shroud can either be placed inside a coffin, or more commonly, will be carried on a board. For burial at sea, a shroud must be sturdy enough to stay securely intact and have a way to let out any air, such as eyelets sewn in.


Make or decorate your own coffin

Building and decorating your own coffin can be a wonderful way to show respect for your loved one and allow children and other family members to be a part of the farewell preparations.

If you are using the services of a funeral director, it is important to check they are happy for you to supply the coffin and there are also requirements from crematoria such as size limits and requirements around combustibility of material. Get in touch with the crematorium, or cemetery team to understand their requirements.

A burial shroud is a long piece of fabric wrapped around the body made from natural fibres such as linen, silk or wool.