What is direct cremation?
Direct cremation, sometimes known as cremation without ceremony, refers to a simple, no-frills cremation without a formal service, and often with no mourners present. If you want no funeral, but just a cremation, this is the option for you.
What happens with a direct cremation?
The direct cremation process is straightforward. After someone dies, their body is moved to the crematorium where it is cremated in a simple coffin without any attendees. Following the cremation, the family can choose to collect the ashes if they wish. With a Direct cremation, there is no funeral director, hearse, hymns and readings, or any features traditionally associated with a funeral. Instead, a funeral professional will assist in setting up the basic tasks to complete a cremation, such as storing and preparing the deceased in the right environment.
Why choose a direct cremation?
- It’s cheaper – while you will pay for some services to be carried out by the funeral professional, direct cremations usually carry lower funeral director charges and other associated costs.
- Personal taste – some people simply don’t wish to have a traditional funeral.
- Simplicity – large funerals can be a logistical challenge, whereas a direct cremation can save your family time and energy during the mourning process.
- A different way of grieving – traditional funerals can be emotionally challenging, but with a direct cremation you always have the option of hosting a more celebratory memorial at a later date.
- A desire to scatter ashes – as with any cremation service, there is the opportunity to focus on scattering the deceased’s ashes in a place of significance, which may take precedence over a formal service or burial.
The difference between cremation and direct cremation
In a traditional cremation, the body of the departed is taken into the care of funeral directors where it may be visited by close friends or relatives. There is a service of remembrance – usually at the crematorium, where family and friends gather to remember their loved one on the day.
In a direct cremation, much of that process is dispensed with. After the funeral directors have taken the departed into their care, the body is placed into a simple coffin, without embalming. Family and friends are unable to visit their loved one at the chapel of rest. The coffin is transported to the crematorium and cremated without a service, unless an attended service has been paid for
You will still need to carry out certain duties even with a direct cremation, such as organising paperwork like the death certificate – you will need to obtain this by registering the death with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. You will need to keep the certificate on file and use it to arrange the burial or cremation, or if you’re using a funeral director (which is optional), you can give it to them. Read more about how to make funeral arrangements.
As we've covered, you can still collect the ashes after the cremation, and all direct cremation providers offer a delivery service. If your loved one has not given instructions, you may want to take a look at our article on what to do with ashes after cremation.
How much is a direct cremation?
While the quotes you receive may vary, you should expect to pay something in the region of £1,300 to £1,700 for a direct cremation in the UK. As it’s a simpler process, with many of the more expensive elements of a traditional cremation removed, direct cremation can cost significantly less than what you might pay for a more conventional funeral, though prices can differ across the country and between funeral directors.
Common misconceptions about direct cremation
While direct cremation is a cost-effective option, it’s not just for those on a budget. Ziggy Stardust himself, David Bowie, opted for a direct cremation rather than a funeral and had his ashes scattered on the island of Bali1.
There is also a misconception that direct cremation is a cold or uncaring way of saying goodbye to a loved one. In fact, many direct cremations are often carried out under the expressed wishes of the deceased and reflect their beliefs.
Also, some people think direct cremations give you a lack of control compared to a service organised by a funeral director. But in reality, you still have the opportunity to celebrate the departed’s life in a fitting way, such as scattering their ashes in their favourite place, or by hosting a memorial with friends and family in attendance.
Is a direct cremation better than a traditional funeral?
There is no right or wrong answer as to how you should depart at the end of your life. Do you have to have a traditional funeral service? Ultimately, the answer is no, but every individual is entitled to be remembered in their own preferred way.
The costs of funerals have been rising in recent years, and can put a strain on any family budget, so the lower cost of a direct cremation may be a consideration for many. Also, when booking a direct cremation you may be given greater flexibility with the date and time, depending on the provider.
There are also the emotional strains of a standard funeral service. Many people find the actual service difficult and emotionally draining. Quite often, the planning and paperwork required will put such a strain on the immediate family straight after the passing of their loved one that the service and wake seem like a blur. Lessening the importance of the cremation itself, and putting the emphasis on remembering the departed in your own time, may be a better option for some.
In the end, whether you choose a burial, cremation or direct cremation is a personal decision to be made in consultation with your loved ones. Hopefully you will have plenty of time to consider the options and make the decision that’s right for you.