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What happens at the end of a cremation service?

We should begin by mentioning that some may choose not to close the curtain at the end of the ceremony. This is a deeply personal choice that will not be covered in depth on this page.

With 80% of people who passed away in 2020 being cremated according to The Cremation Society, cremations have become commonplace.

With cremations so widely embraced it is understandable that many are becoming curious about what happens to their loved one, or what will happen to them, when those velvet curtains are pulled to a close following a cremation service.

Preparing the deceased for Cremation

Once the service has come to an end the coffin is moved using a transfer trolley to the cremation area.

The identity of the deceased is checked and it’s confirmed that they don’t have a pacemaker as these can explode in the furnace and damage the equipment.

Does the cremation take place immediately after the service Ends?

If the cremation service takes place late in the day then cremations can sometimes take place the next day.

Under guidance set out by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, crematoriums have up to 72 hours to carry out a cremation.

The process of cremation

After checks are performed the coffin is moved into the cremator where the cremation process itself begins.

This typically takes between 1.5 and 2 hours and is usually carried out shortly after the service.

The furnace reaches a temperature ranging between 1000 to 1300 degrees Celsius. This high temperature means that it can take several hours for the remains to cool down enough to be processed.

What happens once the cremation is complete?

Preparing the ashes

Following the cremation, the majority of the remains are bone fragments which must be processed to resemble ashes.

Firstly, a large magnet is used to draw out any metallic particles to avoid these being released into the environment. 

Once this is complete, the remains are placed in to a piece of equipment known as a ‘cremulator’. In this machine any bone fragments are refined to resemble ashes. 

Collection of the ashes

Once the ashes have been refined they are placed into a discreet container to be collected.

Under British Law ashes are not capable of belonging to any one person. As a result, ashes are usually returned to the person or people who managed the funeral arrangements.

Ashes are usually collected by the funeral director so they can be transferred into an Urn before collection.

If you are looking for some inspiration on what urn to choose for a loved one then there are plenty of unusual or unique urns to choose from.

What happens to ashes that aren’t collected?

Sadly, a significant number of ashes remain unclaimed each year. In 2020 the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) estimated that up to 20,000 sets of cremated remains awaited collection across the UK.

According to NAFD guidance, funeral directors should hold cremated remains “for a minimum of five years”. They comment that “all reasonable efforts” should be made to contact anyone connected with the deceased person. 

Ashes cannot be held indefinitely however, and if the funeral director cannot trace any connected person then the ashes can be returned to the crematorium.

It then becomes their responsibility to locate and ascertain the wishes of any connected person, and failing that to retain or dispose of the ashes.