This is an interesting question that many married couples may ponder when planning for their funerals and burials. While there are no universal rules dictating whether the wife should be buried on the right or left of her husband, there are some common practices and beliefs that provide guidance. Generally, the choice comes down to personal preference, custom, and meaning. This article will explore the history behind burial orientation, symbolism, and contemporary trends to help provide clarity around this decision.
History and Symbolism of Burial Orientation
The orientation of graves has long held symbolic significance across cultures. In many ancient societies, the direction bodies were buried in was thought to influence the journey after death. For example, in ancient China, the head of the deceased was traditionally positioned toward the north or west so they could face the rising sun and growing seasons. Ancient Egyptians buried their dead facing west, toward the realm of the dead.
In early Christian tradition, graves were dug on an east-west axis, with the head to the west. This orientation represented dying in the hope of resurrection – as the sun rises in the east and ‘sets’ in the west, so too would the deceased rise again with the dawning of Christ. Anglican and Catholic cemeteries today still often follow this east-west alignment.
So what about the positioning of husbands and wives? Historically, in Christian burials, the woman was laid to rest on the left side of her husband. This was said to represent her creation from Adam’s rib in the Biblical creation story. The man was buried on the right to symbolize the privilege and authority granted to him as head of household.
However, symbolism around masculine and feminine burial sides has varied across cultures. In parts of Slavic Europe, women were traditionally buried on the right side of their husbands instead. This placement invited the woman’s soul to be closer to God.
Key Takeaways on Burial Symbolism
- Ancient cultures often buried bodies facing important directions linked to beliefs about the afterlife.
- In Christian tradition, east-west grave alignment represented resurrection through Christ.
- The woman buried on the left and man on the right represented Biblical creation order.
- But symbolism of feminine and masculine sides has varied across cultures.
Contemporary Burial Trends
While historical and religious symbolism may still influence some couples today, burial orientation decisions come down to more practical considerations:
Most married couples opt for side-by-side burial in the same plot either way, but may choose the wife’s position simply based on their own preferences or sense of which arrangement feels right. Some couples may alternate positions across generations.
Custom and Tradition
In many places, existing family plots and cemetery layouts dictate burial orientation out of custom. For example, if multiple generations of husbands and wives have already been buried in a certain formation, the next couples will likely follow suit.
Meaning and Sentiment
Some couples assign personal meaning to a particular arrangement. For example, a widowed spouse may choose to be buried on the side that makes them feel ‘close’ to their deceased partner based on meaningful memories in life. Others may prefer the wife’s grave nearer to children’s graves.
Issues like the timing of deaths, burial costs, and cemetery policies can also influence positioning. If the wife dies first, she may be buried on the ‘end’ side, with space for her husband to join later. Some cemeteries sell plots with fixed ‘right’ and ‘left’ sides.
Key Factors in Contemporary Burial Decisions
|Choosing placement simply based on which feels right
|Custom and tradition
|Following burial alignments used by previous family members
|Meaning and sentiment
|Positioning graves to reflect meaningful bonds or memories
|Issues like order of deaths, costs, and cemetery policies
Making the Decision
So should the wife be buried on the right or left of her husband? While old symbolism around masculine and feminine sides may still resonate for some couples, in most modern cases the orientation comes down to personal choice. Here are some tips for deciding:
- Reflect on your own values and preferences – is one side more meaningful?
- Consider family burial traditions – would following custom feel right?
- Discuss perspectives with your partner – does one option stand out for you both?
- Verify any restrictions at your preferred cemetery.
- Remember that there’s no absolute rule – choose the option most fitting for you as a couple.
With an open conversation, you can settle on the burial orientation that best captures your relationship and wishes. And remember that being laid to rest side-by-side, in any formation, represents an everlasting bond.
The choice of whether a wife is buried to the right or left of her husband carries some interesting history, symbolism, and meaning. But in most contemporary cases, the decision comes down to personal preference, family custom, sentiment, and practicalities. Most importantly, couples should have thoughtful discussions around their values and priorities to decide on the orientation that feels right for them. With an open mind and meaningful reflection, families can make burial decisions that honor their bonds and wishes for the future.