Guide to the Cremation Service

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When a loved one passes away, choosing the right funeral service is essential. There are many types of funeral services, but one of the most common in the UK is cremation.    

If you’ve never attended a cremation service before, it can all seem a little daunting and confusing, but it shouldn’t be that way.

There are also several options to choose from. In this article we look at the more traditional approach, but let’s not forget there are several other more modern options, for example, a direct cremation.  

Whether you’re planning a simple cremation or a traditional cremation for a loved one or attending a cremation as a guest, this guide is going to help. You’ll get a better understanding of what happens during a cremation service and how the process works.  

What is a cremation service?

Cremation is a simple process that transforms the remains of a person who has died into ashes using intense heat. The ashes are tiny bone fragments, and once the cremation is complete, they are returned to the deceased’s family. 

The machine used to cremate bodies is called a cremator, and the building where the cremation takes place is called a crematorium. 

What happens at a cremation service?

Anyone who has never attended a cremation before might wonder, how does a cremation service work? What does a guest need to know? How long does the service last?

Every cremation is different, but they tend to run along the following lines:

  • The coffin is taken to the service location and placed on a raised platform: The service can be in several different places, but most commonly, it is at the crematorium. Alternatively, it can take place in a church or chapel or a separate hall. 
  • Guests gather at the service location: Cremation services tend to be held according to a tight schedule, so guests need to arrive on time.
  • The service is held: A cremation service usually lasts around half an hour, although families can book longer if they want. An order of service will be handed to the guests, and it tells you what will happen and provide details of any prayers, readings, or songs. 
  • The committal begins: When the cremation service has finished, the coffin will be taken away to start the cremation process
  • Guests leave the service: Guests are shown the way out by the funeral director or the celebrant. At this point, guests get the option to see the donated flowers and give their condolences to the family.
  • A wake is held: A wake is optional. During this part of the service, guests are served food and drinks, and they can talk and share their memories of the deceased. 

How long does a cremation service last?

The duration of a traditional cremation service varies between crematoria. However, you can expect it to last between 30 and 45 minutes. This allows people enough time to enter the crematorium, hold the service, and pay their final respects to the deceased.

If you want a longer service, this can be arranged, but you will need to organise it with the crematorium.

A direct cremation service is slightly different. This service doesn't last as long, as typically friends and family do not attend and there is no funeral service.

Do you still have a funeral if you are cremated?

You can have a funeral no matter if you choose burial or cremation. The most common type of cremation funeral combines the funeral ceremony and the committal in a single event at the crematorium. Traditionally, the funeral service would be held in a church, and a very brief committal would take place at the crematorium afterwards. 

Another option is to have a private cremation first, followed by a memorial service at a different location such as a church, home, or a scenic spot. 

Different types of cremation services

Not long ago, there were very few choices when it came to arranging a cremation service for your loved one. Nowadays, there are many more options. 

Online cremation services

Online shopping has revolutionised the cremation services industry. Online cremation services are now available for people who want to arrange them from the comfort of their home, rather than meeting a funeral director in person.

Simple cremation services

Known as direct cremation, this is an alternative to a traditional cremation funeral, and is the basic option. With direct cremation, the body is cremated without any service at the crematorium and usually without mourners present. It is considered an affordable and green option. 

Catholic cremation

The Catholic Church has not always permitted cremation, but now it is allowed. However, the Vatican has issued guidelines on a Catholic cremation service and what you can do with the ashes. 

The scattering of ashes is prohibited as they must be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places. The ashes should not be made into jewellery, kept at home, used for art, or otherwise displayed and should not be divided.  

Non-religious cremation service

A non-religious cremation is a ceremony to honour the deceased that were not tied to any particular religion’s traditions, rituals, or beliefs. This type of cremation service is sometimes known as a celebration of life or humanist cremation service. It can contain a choice of music, non-religious readings, and personal tributes, but there will be no prayers or reference to an afterlife. 

Liquid or green cremation

Liquid cremation uses hot water with the addition of a chemical called potassium hydroxide, or sodium hydroxide, or a mix of both. These chemicals dissolve fats and tissues into liquid. The process essentially mimics and speeds up what occurs to a body naturally when someone is buried. 

Liquid cremation is not currently available in the UK, but plans are currently under discussion. 

The average cost of a cremation service

On average, the cost of cremation services is around £3,800. This is considerably less than a burial, which typically costs approximately £5,000. A direct cremation, where there is no service, costs around £1,500. 

Low-cost cremation services

Typically, cremation services in the UK can be expensive, but if you’re worried about the cost of cremation, there are some alternatives that cost considerably less. It’s easy to organise a cheap funeral in the UK without compromising care, respect, and expressing what made your loved one special. 

A direct or basic cremation is a low-cost alternative to traditional cremation and can be considerably cheaper. It also offers much more flexibility and financial control over how you say goodbye.

The cost of cremation has been steadily increasing for many years now. But you can save money in the long run with a prepaid funeral plan. A cremation is one of the many services covered with such a plan.   

Free cremation services

Another option, if you’re concerned about cost, is cremation with body donation to science. It’s possible to donate a body to science via organisations like Science Care. They offer cremation of a body as part of a no-cost program. 

Usually, cremated remains are returned to the family within 3-5 weeks of the cremation. 

What paperwork do you need for a cremation service?

The following paperwork is legally required for a cremation in the UK.

  • Green certificate for burial or funeral cremation process
  • Application for cremation
  • Cremation forms 4 and 5
  • If the coroner has been involved in the case, they will provide a Cremation form 6 instead.

Cremation service ideas

There is an almost unlimited number of ideas for a cremation service. One of the benefits of cremation is that it gives you more time to organise a memorial service to say goodbye. Here are a few ideas: 

  • A traditional memorial service that happens before the actual cremation process
  • A memorial service at the crematorium
  • Scattering at sea ceremony
  • Sky lantern release
  • Hosting a funeral reception
  • Organising a celebration of life
  • Informal family reunion

What happens after the cremation service?

Following a cremation service, the ashes will be returned to the family after a certain number of days. You can then arrange to do something with the ashes

Here are a few ideas:

  • Scatter or bury them in the crematorium garden of remembrance
  • Take them on a trip around the world
  • Turn them into jewellery
  • Strap them to a firework and let them go out with a bang
  • Turn them into a piece of beautiful art
  • Store them in your home
  • Lay them to rest at their favourite place

Planning a cremation service

There is a lot to consider when planning a cremation service. If you want the ceremony to be conducted in a particular way, it’s worthwhile pre-planning your own celebration ahead of time. 

If you want to make arrangements in advance, Pure Cremation can help by giving you honest information so that you can make an informed decision. Get in touch for more details.