What considerations do I need to make when planning a cremation?
Firstly, think about what your family needs. Consider whether you want a funeral service at your local crematorium or prefer to go for direct cremation, separating the physical disposal of the body from the gathering of family and friends—which can be held where you choose and at a time that suits everyone best.
Cost is an important consideration. A direct cremation could mean a saving of up to 60 percent compared to a traditional cremation funeral.
Timing. In today’s hectic world it might take weeks to gather everyone who should take part in this special event, and a low key or unattended cremation before the main farewell is a very practical solution.
Your personal style. There are no rules about what a funeral service should look like or indeed where it should take place, but you will find it more difficult to hold a ceremony away from traditional venues if you need the coffin to be present. A funeral should reflect the person’s life, relationships and beliefs and a list of favourite music, readings, food and memories will really help!
How is a person cremated?
In the UK every cremation is performed individually, complete with coffin, in properly licensed facilities by fully trained staff who really care about getting things right.
Does cremation have to take place on the same day as the funeral/memorial service?
No. You are free to hold a memorial, thanksgiving or celebration of life party whenever you like.
Each cremation will be performed as soon as possible after the committal but crematoria do have the legal right to hold the coffin for a maximum of 72 hours in the event of a technical issue with the equipment.
Can I plan my own cremation? How does it work?
Yes. You can choose whether to simply record your wishes on paper yourself, alternatively, you can look for a company that will do something more formal (some offer this absolutely free of charge) or you can look for a pre-paid plan that meets your needs. There are lots of different options available for traditional cremation funerals but only a few specialists offering a direct cremation plan.
How do I know the ashes definitely belong to the person who was cremated?
Each cremation is individual, and be assured that identification is checked at every stage—firstly when the coffin arrives at the crematorium, before it enters the cremation chamber, again as the ashes are processed and finally when the ashes container is filled. This carefully monitored process means everyone can be sure that the ashes they receive are indeed those of their loved one.
Is a coffin necessary for cremation?
Each body must be presented in such a way that offers it sufficient protection, facilitating safe handling and loading into the cremator. The law also requires no-one should be offended and so the body is always covered in some way. While a coffin is the most common “container” in use today there are several companies offering shrouds combined with base-boards as an alternative.
Can more than one body be cremated at once?
The cremator chamber can only accommodate one person at a time. The most modern equipment will have the widest aperture but even these are not wide enough to put more than one coffin in at a time, even if this was permitted.
What happens to metal, such as pacemakers or surgical plates, during cremation?
Pacemakers must be removed before cremation and this is usually done by the funeral director, although some hospitals do this. You can give permission for the pacemaker unit to be sent to a specialist charity for re-use in less affluent countries. A rather lovely legacy.
Metal implants will be among the cremated remains and are separated once the cremation is complete. As these tend to be valuable and rare metals they are sensitively recycled by specialist companies. Many crematoria nominate a charity to receive some or all the proceeds from this. You can request that the implant is recovered and returned with the ashes.
What benefits does cremation have as opposed to burial?
Choosing cremation offers a number of advantages compared to burial, but this is a very personal decision. A cremation usually costs significantly less than a burial (average costs are £3,311 for a cremation vs £4,257 for a burial funeral) but the most important factor is greater freedom in the choice of final resting place—you can even take ashes abroad in your hand luggage (provided you have the correct paperwork!).
A grave comes with responsibilities such as care, maintenance and erecting a memorial, these days people are becoming less formal and more creative when it comes to the final resting place for ashes.
Can anyone be cremated?
Yes, unless they practice a faith or adhere to traditions that prohibit this. Islam and Orthodox communities only sanction burial but almost every other denomination, including Catholicism, recognises cremation as a valid form of committal.
The Catholic church recently re-stated that cremation is permitted and issued guidance about the disposal of ashes—these should be buried in consecrated ground and not kept at home or scattered.