Direct cremation, sometimes known as cremation without ceremony, gained a higher profile when, after his death in 2016, it was reported that David Bowie had opted for this less conventional alternative.
So, what is direct cremation? It’s a simple, no-frills type of funeral, with no service, and a committal taking place with no mourners present. It has the advantage of being significantly cheaper than a conventional service, plus it gives family and friends more freedom to decide when, where and how they would like to commemorate the life of the deceased.
What's 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 casket, without preparation. Family and friends are unable to visit their loved one at the chapel of rest. The casket is transported to the crematorium and cremated without a service.
You will still need to carry out certain duties even with a direct cremation, such as organising paperwork like the death certificate. Your funeral director will help with these, and you can also find out more about making funeral arrangements.
You can still collect the ashes after the cremation. If your loved one has not given instructions, you may want to take a look at our article what to do with ashes after cremation.
How much is a direct cremation?
As it’s a simpler process, with many of the more expensive elements of a traditional cremation removed, direct cremation can cost between a third to a half1 of what you might pay for a more conventional funeral. Though prices can differ across the country and between funeral directors.
Why choose direct cremation?
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.
But there are also other reasons why some might prefer direct cremation.
A traditional cremation will usually have to be planned around the schedule of the crematorium. Removing that restriction allows for friends and family to plan a celebration of their loved one’s life at a time, pace and place of their own choosing.
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.
And then there are some, reportedly like Bowie2 himself, who just prefer to avoid all the fuss of a formal, ceremonial funeral service.