Unless you have had to arrange a cremation funeral you are probably a little in the dark as to what happens and what you can expect, so the following information may help you understand a little more about crematoriums, the cremation service, how to arrange a cremation and also choose a crematorium.
Always keep in mind though that at the time of need, an important part of the role of the funeral director is to help guide families through the funeral and more specifically cremation requirements,
Can I choose which Crematorium I prefer to be Cremated at?
There are currently around 300 crematoriums in the UK from which you can choose; some of which are council owned crematoriums, others are privately run. Having said that, there is no requirement to be a resident in the crematorium you use; you can decide which one you prefer however local residents may pay a slightly lower rate, especially with council run crematoria.
So basically you have the choice of any crematorium you want. Also we often get asked by customers ‘if I have a prepaid funeral plan can I choose the crematorium’ ; the answer to this is yes you can. The only time you may not have the option to choose a crematorium is if you go for a direct cremation or one of the cheaper funeral plans that have restrictions but this should be made clear to you at the outset.
These days more than 70% of the population choose a cremation funeral over a burial service; partially because unless you have access to a burial plot already, cremation does tend to be a cheaper option. It is also viewed by many as more straightforward and easier to arrange.
What is the cost of Cremation?
The average cost of cremation across the UK is currently £791 but this will vary by region so it does depend on where you live or where you choose to be cremated. This will of course only pay for the cremation, so don't forget that there will be other costs too such as the funeral director fees, flowers and reception etc.
One of the cheapest ways to be cremated is what is known as a "direct cremation" which effectively is the cremation of the body without any funeral service.
Direct Cremations are growing in popularity however many families would be upset at the prospect of not having a traditional service to pay respects, so it would be worth talking to those closest to you if you are considering this type of cremation option.
How do you arrange a Cremation Service?
The first step in arranging a cremation is for the relative or executor making the funeral arrangements to complete a ‘Cremation Application Form’. When complete this form should be sent to the ‘Cremation Authority’ so that authorisation to cremate the person who has died can be granted.
You can get a cremation application form from either your local council or you can usually download one from their website.
In addition to the cremation application form, you will also need to provide the Cremation Authority with two medical certificates. The first medical certificate which confirms the cause of death is signed by the doctor who attended the death. The second death certificate is then completed by another independent doctor verifying the cause of death. Both doctors must have seen the deceased.
Once you have the appropriate paper work including the Registry of Death, the Funeral Director will usually ensure these are all sent to the Cremation Authority on behalf of the family.
What happens at a Cremation Service?
The cremation service held at the crematorium or cremation committal service as it is also known gives family and friends the opportunity to pay last respects, mourn but also celebrate the life of the person who has died.
It is held in the chapel in the crematorium but an additional funeral service can also be held at a church or memorial hall beforehand.
The type of service be it religious or non-religious is entirely up to you; as is the choice of funeral music or hymns, readings or poems.
At the end of the service the committal will take place; this is where the coffin is usually hidden from view either by a curtain or removed from the chapel. However if you would rather keep the coffin in place until friends and family leave the crematorium chapel, this can be arranged.
How long is a Cremation Service?
The majority of crematoriums will allow a 45 minute slot for each service. This will include time for family and friends to arrive and enter the chapel; a 25 to 30 minute service and time for mourners to leave and pay their respects to the family.
Longer services are available with some crematoriums or a double slot could also be arranged but both of these options will of course incur additional fees.
How long after the funeral is the body cremated?
The actual cremation will always take place on the same day of the cremation service. The coffin is checked against the cremation order to ensure correct identity and when ready, placed into the cremator.
Cremators are only big enough to allow one coffin at a time so there is never a chance that more than one person will be cremated at the same time.
Is the coffin always cremated with the body?
The coffin is always cremated along with the person who has died which is in accordance with the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities ‘Cremation Code of Practice’. It also stipulates that nothing can be removed from the coffin once the committal has taken place.
How long does it take to cremate a body?
The actual cremation takes between one to three hours leaving ashes that may contain small pieces of bone and any metal objects such as jewellery or metal joints that are to be removed. The remaining ashes will then be reduced to a fine white ash.
For more information on the cremation process and best practice, take a look at the following organisations:
What happens to the Ashes?
Once the cremation ashes are ready, they can either be scattered in a garden of remembrance at the crematorium; buried either at the crematorium or in a burial plot the family may already have or given to the family for them to either keep or scatter.
There are laws about the scattering of ashes but they are fairly relaxed. In general if you are scattering ashes over land, you will need to land owner’s permission.
If you choose to scatter ashes in a river, no permission is required but it is wise to seek guidance from the Environment Agency.
If you prefer to scatter the ashes at sea, again no permission is necessary however you should still follow the Environment Agency’s guidance on scattering ashes at sea which states it should be 5 miles from the coast.
It is worth mentioning that some cemeteries also allow you to scatter the ashes on the grave of a family member but you would need to see permission first. This is also the case for the burial of ashes in an existing plot. You would need to ensure you have the appropriate permissions to do so.
At the end of the day there is no need to be concerned with the process for arranging a cremation as the funeral director is there to help guide the family through everything.