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Direct Cremation: Your Complete Guide to Direct Cremation – What, Why, How & Who

What Exactly is Direct Cremation?

The passing of a loved one is a challenging time in many aspects, but one of the most unexpectedly difficult moments can be funeral planning. With so many options to consider, you want to make the right decision to honor the life of the departed.

Direct cremation may be one of those options. It offers an affordable alternative to traditional funeral services and provides excellent quality care for the deceased. 

Direct Cremation

Also known as simple cremation, direct cremation is the fastest, simplest and cheapest type of cremation. 

It includes no funeral services, ceremonies, or attendees. Instead, the body is sent directly to the crematorium, where the funeral home takes care of the cremation process. 

This disposition method is especially well-suited to those who want a simple send-off carried out with the utmost respect and professionalism. 

How Direct Cremation Works

First, the cremation provider collects your loved one from the home or hospital and takes them into their care. At the crematorium, the provider places the deceased person in a climate-controlled space.

They then begin the process of handling all the necessary paperwork, such as the Application for Cremation and Notice of Cremation (though next of kin must still register the death through the Registrar where the death occurred).

Once all the paperwork is complete, the cremation is carried out, and the deceased’s ashes are placed in a simple urn. In most cases, the ashes are delivered back to the family, but sometimes the family can arrange for them to be collected. Some families also choose to have the cremation provider scatter the ashes for them.

TIP: If you are using a direct cremation provider, make sure you read the fine print as to whether the collection of the body and delivery of ashes is included in the price you will pay.

Funeral Guides

Cremation Process
Burial Options
Non Religious Funeral
Humanist Funeral
Woodland Burials

Why Choose Direct Cremation?

With famous people like David Bowie opting for this kind of funeral, direct cremations are more in vogue now than ever before. People choose them over other funeral options for many reasons. 

Cost & Affordability

The cost of a direct cremation is perhaps the main reason, as it is the most affordable of all the disposition methods.

Direct cremation is also significantly more affordable than traditional cremation, which tends to be service packages that include costly extras. 

Ease of Planning

Direct cremations simplify the process. 

For many people, the ease of planning a funeral is attractive, as arranging a direct cremation eliminates the need to organise a full service under strict time constraints. 

All you have to do is make a phone call, and some cremation providers even allow you to make arrangements online. Then the provider takes care of all the steps involved. 

Direct Cremation Fact

The number of direct cremations rose from 24,195 in 2019 to 54,980 in 2020**
**COVID-19 will have had a huge impact on these numbers due to restrictions around family and friends in attendance

Choose Your Own Send-Off

Most funeral homes must stick to tight schedules, causing some families to feel rushed to have a funeral before they’re ready. A cheap cremation takes away that stress. It offers families the flexibility to choose their own sendoff, on their own timeline, independent of cremation.

Because there is no schedule to follow, there is no pressure to make decisions during a time of crippling grief. Friends and loved ones can choose a memorial service that best suits the deceased’s wishes and budgets. 

This option also makes it easier to choose a memorial time and date that works with busy schedules and out-of-town relatives. 

COVID-Friendly 

The pandemic has forced us to change how we say goodbye to loved ones, but many people have found that direct cremation is the most viable COVID funeral alternative. Lots have chosen this route with plans to have a celebration of life when restrictions are eased and families can gather together safely. 

Cost of Direct Cremation

As mentioned, direct cremation is the least expensive disposition choice. While prices can vary based on the provider, in the UK, you can expect to pay anywhere from £1,000 to £1,500 pounds.  The average funeral costs upwards of £4,000 pounds, which makes direct cremations a cost-effective way to say goodbye to a loved one. 

Because services are more basic, families avoid purchases that drive up funeral costs. Things like a casket, hearse, funeral home, flowers, and preparation of the body are eliminated from the process. 

Cremation Fee Fact

The average cremation fee in the Uk in 2021 is £835.28 – this is up from £821.10 in 2020.

Is Direct Cremation Environmentally Friendly?

Concerns about the sustainability of burial practices have led many people to seek alternative disposition options. 

Environmental Impact of Traditional Burial

To answer the question of how environmentally friendly direct cremation is, we must look first at the environmental impact of a traditional burial. 

  • Embalming. Embalming is typical in most traditional funerals, whereby bodies are treated with several environmentally hazardous chemicals. Methanol, formaldehyde, and phenol are just some of the chemicals we put in the earth when these bodies are buried, and it’s not uncommon for these toxins to pollute waterways. 
  • Resources. Traditional burials use copious amounts of natural resources, such as steel, concrete, and hardwoods. Casket wood in particular requires millions of acres of trees to be cut each year, and many flower arrangements come from flower farms that do not employ environmentally friendly practices.  
  • Land use. Lots of land is needed for burials–millions of acres in a country like the United States, for example. Besides the vast amounts of land needed for burials, these spaces also require intense upkeep, much of which is not environmentally friendly. Keeping cemeteries beautiful requires water, pesticides, and chemical fertilisers, which can damage water supplies. 

If green burial is a concern for you, it’s clear to see that a traditional funeral is far from an ideal choice. So how does direct cremation compare? 

Environmental Impact of Direct Cremation

We can see some clear differences in environmental impact when looking at direct cremation versus traditional burial. Direct cremation of course has a carbon footprint, but it’s significantly smaller than traditional burials. 

There are many reasons direct cremation is a greener disposition choice. 

  • Embalming. Because there is no viewing, embalming does not form part of the direct cremation process. As such, there is no worry about releasing the damaging chemicals mentioned above into the ground. Plus, you can still bury ashes even if the body was not embalmed. 
  • Resources. Some of the aspects that raise the carbon footprint of a traditional burial include transportation of the deceased and transportation of mourners to the funeral home and cemetery. Having a direct cremation reduces the impact of transportation, especially since urns require less energy to move than coffins. This option also allows families to skip aspects (such as flowers) that make for a non-green funeral. 
  • Land use. Many people scatter ashes, so no land is needed in the case of direct cremation. But even if you decide to keep the ashes, whether at home or in a cemetery, the space required to store them is much less than a cemetery plot. 

Direct Cremation Services & Providers

If you think a cremation only funeral is right for you, there are many ways to arrange one. In the UK, most funeral homes and crematoriums are well-equipped to handle this type of send-off. 

But a funeral home or crematorium should have more than just the means to carry out this service; they should be reputable and experienced. Even if cost is a concern, you want to ensure that your loved one will be well taken care of. 

How to Choose a Direct Cremation Provider

The best way to ensure a high standard of care is to check the credentials and prices of any company you’re considering. 

Reputable providers have websites, which offer invaluable insight into the company. Is the site professional? Does it offer the information you need to make a decision? Are there spelling and grammar mistakes? Taking care to develop a thoughtful website is usually an indicator that a provider is serious and responsible. 

Just as you might with any other end-of-life service, it’s advisable to read direct cremation reviews for any provider you consider. You can find Google reviews for many companies, or read reviews on sites like TrustPilot or Reviews.co.uk

It’s also critical to be aware that not all cremation providers are created equal. Some take care of everything in-house, beginning with the collection of the deceased and ending with the safe return of the ashes. However, other providers hire outside companies for certain aspects of care-typically transportation or care of the person who has died. We outline this in our direct cremation reviews sections.

You will want to compare what each provider is offering. Some will included everything from collection to delivery whereas others might charge extra for things like delivery, an urn, specific dates, body collection etc

Questions to Ask a Provider

Because shopping for a cremation provider is not something you do every day, it can be difficult to know what to ask. Here are some big-picture questions to help you start narrowing your search. 

  • How long have you been a cremation provider?
  • How many years of funeral experience do you and your team have?
  • Are arrangement details kept private?
  • Does your staff handle all care aspects, or do other companies collaborate?

Once you’re close to deciding, the questions below may help you understand whether the service is right for you or your loved one. 

  • Do you collect from homes and hospitals day or night?
  • Where are cremations carried out, and is your crematorium your own?
  • Where will I or my loved one be placed prior to cremation?
  • Will you inform me of the date when the cremation is taking place? 
  • What is the ash collection process like, and will someone call me to let me know they’re ready?
  • What kind of coffin and urn do you use?
  • How long does the whole process typically take? 

The time you spend speaking with staff members should give you an indication of whether they are knowledgeable and respectful. A reputable direct cremation provider will be able to provide detailed answers to all your questions and put your mind at ease. 

Pre-paid Plans

As mentioned, many funeral homes allow you to arrange direct cremations online or over the phone. Most also offer the convenience of direct cremation pre-paid plans. 

Direct cremation Prepaid plans are becoming more popular for many reasons, but having a locked-in price is perhaps the number one reason. You know that regardless of what is required when the time comes, your direct cremation is fully paid for and your family will not be burdened with the cost of a funeral. 
Pre-paid funeral plans also eliminate stress for your loved ones and family members. Because your wishes are already clear, they won’t feel any pressure to spend lots of money on an extravagant memorial.

TIP: If you are considering a prepaid plan, then there are numerous things you need to consider, from finding a reputable provider to finding out exactly what is included and what is protected from potential cost increases in the future. 

Saying Goodbye After the Cremation

Once you are ready, there are many ways to honor the person who has departed. Many families wait until the ashes are returned and display them in a beautiful urn during the service they choose. Others include ash scattering as a part of the memorial. 

Some families go the traditional route and choose to hold a service in a church. However, most of the people that opt for direct cremation decide to say goodbye in a place of great significance to their loved one typically conducting a non religious ceremony. This place can be somewhere the deceased loved to spend time, or it can be a place of special significance for the family. 

Traditional Venues

If you want a more traditional memorial service, you may consider hosting it at one of the following places:

  • A private home, especially one with a large yard 
  • The beach
  • A park or public garden (some require permits, so make sure to check whether this is necessary) 
  • A community center
  • The deceased’s school or university

Unique Venues

If these types of venues don’t appeal to you, there are plenty of other unique options to honor the life of your loved one, such as:

  • A brewery or winery
  • A theme park
  • A boat
  • A national or state park
  • A movie theatre (most allow private rentals)
  • A golf club 

Whether you prefer a traditional send-off or a unique one, what matters most is that direct cremation allows the opportunity to say goodbye on your own terms. 

Is Direct Cremation Right for Me?

When deciding on a disposition method, there are many factors to consider. 

Direct cremation is an excellent option for some people, but for others, it may not be right. At the end of the day, you have to feel comfortable with the decision you make–which is why it’s best to do as much research as you can. Equipping yourself with knowledge can help you feel secure in your decision, especially if you choose a pre-paid service. 

Is Direct Cremation Right for my Family?

Family considerations are critical when deciding on a disposition method. Direct cremation must feel right for you, but you have to ask yourself how your family will react. 

Many common misperceptions about direct cremation persist, and it can be helpful to clarify them. For example, lots of people think that by going this route, they will be deprived of the opportunity to mourn their loved one. In reality, the opposite is true. Direct cremation allows you the freedom to mourn and say goodbye at a time and place of your choosing. 

Another barrier to direct cremation may be among people of faith, who might prefer a more traditional funeral method in line with their beliefs. But there is a growing movement of religious believers choosing direct cremation and holding services that still honor the deceased’s religion. 

It’s best to have an honest conversation and explain to your loved ones why you want to choose direct cremation before making a decision.

FAQ

Can you attend a direct cremation?

Most direct cremation providers won’t allow attendees during a direct cremation.
Despite the lack of service, some families want to choose to be present during the cremation. It’s best to ask if this option is available before making a commitment. It will usually come as an added price and you won’t have a choice of time.

What is included in a direct cremation plan?

Most direct cremation plans include the following:
Completion of the necessary paperwork
Collection of your loved one
Transportation to the crematorium
The cremation
Return of your loved one’s ashes in a container


Added extra include an attended ceremony, a choice of urns, specific times, collection from hospitals. 

What is not included?

When opting for a no funeral, just cremation option, the body does not undergo any preparation, embalming, or viewing. There is also not typically the option to choose a coffin; in most cases, a simple coffin comes standard. 

How long does direct cremation take?

Different factors affect how long the process takes, such as the speed of the provider and how quickly the death is registered. You may be surprised to learn just how many people are involved in the process, which means it can take anywhere from one to two weeks.

Are you required to use a casket during the process?

Simple caskets are typically provided in most direct cremation services, but they are not required. They come in several different forms, such as wood, pressboard, or cardboard. 

Are funerals required in the UK?

The UK does not require funerals or the use of a funeral director. What UK laws do require is safe disposal of the body, and the two most common means of doing so are through cremation or burial. 

In theory, you can take care of your disposition yourself. However, most people find it more comfortable to use a funeral director or direct cremation provider, as you must care for the deceased until arrangements have been finalised. 

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this guide to direct cremation has helped you better understand this disposition option. The right way to say goodbye to a loved one is the one that feels best, both financially and emotionally. Direct cremation may not be right for everyone, but it’s easy to see that the freedom it affords families makes it an attractive choice.