A Guide to Cremation Costs & Arrangements

Information on arranging a cremation and the costs involved

Last updated: 1 August 2019

brown crematorium building

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Many people choose the cremation process as an alternative to a traditional burial for their loved one. Recent figures suggest that cremation is now used in around 75% of all funerals in the UK.

When deciding between a burial and a cremation, many people will take their loved one’s wishes into account. Cremations have made it possible for people to have their ashes scattered in several places, and more and more people are choosing to do this.

However, if you feel you may not be able to afford to fulfil your loved one’s wishes, it is important to remember that you are not legally required to do so. Be sure to check out what financial help is available.

Cost of cremation

Cremations tend to be a lot cheaper than the cost of a burial. However, funeral director charges will usually be around the same for both services. Some crematoriums will not charge a fee if your loved one was under the age of 16. However, you must check with them beforehand.

Arranging a cremation

If you have decided to organise a cremation, make sure you tell your funeral director as soon as possible.

You will be required to sign a Cremation Form. The most common one of these is Cremation Form 1. Your funeral director will help you fill this in. The crematorium will usually have its own form that asks you for instructions on what to do with the ashes of your loved one.

The cremation

Religious ceremonies can take place in a place of worship, or in the crematorium itself. If you choose to have a religious ceremony outside of the crematorium, a short service will take place before the committal of your loved one. Bear in mind that a religious ceremony is not obligatory.

Mourners follow the coffin into the crematorium, and as the coffin is placed on the catafalque – a kind of wooden support – they take their seats.

There is then either a full or a short service, and as the committal takes place the coffin is generally obscured by a curtain and you can choose to have a song played.

Mourners are then invited to look at any flowers or notes that have been left for your loved one and the cremation takes place. You are usually allowed to witness the cremation, but this would have to be discussed with the crematorium beforehand. The coffin is also cremated.

What to do with ashes after cremation

The spreading or burying of a loved one’s ashes can be an important part of your recovery from bereavement. But before you make any decision about the interment of ashes, it's vital that you explore the options available to you and learn the legal requirements you must abide by.

UK law allows you to scatter or bury your loved one’s ashes on private land when the landowner’s permission is given. Remember that private land could one day be sold to another owner, potentially making visiting the site difficult for you and your friends and family in the future.

The cremated ashes can be separated by members of the family to be spread in different locations. To do this, permission has to be given by the family member who is responsible for the ashes. In most cases, this responsibility is given to the executor of the estate or the next of kin. When the division of the ashes cannot be agreed upon, the court is unable to intervene, as UK law considers cremated ashes to be one entity, and therefore cannot be divided legally.

Another popular option you may consider is the interment of ashes on the site of a relative's grave in a cemetery or churchyard. Be aware that although the gravesite is already paid for, permission is still needed and additional costs may apply, especially if you are planning on burying the ashes.

You can also choose to have the ashes scattered or buried at a crematorium. This can be done by the crematorium staff or by a family member or friend of your loved one. At most crematoriums there will be an area that is specifically designated for ashes to be scattered or buried. This is called a Garden of Remembrance. If you choose to you can use this area to scatter the ashes, but it is important to note that the garden is for anyone to use and no area can be sectioned off for a specific person.

If you wish for the ashes to be taken abroad, you can according to UK repatriation law. Before committing to this arrangement, however, you should check the importation rules of the destination country. There are specialist funeral directors that can assist in repatriation and have experience with the relevant authorities and airlines.

Spreading the ashes of your loved one over a lake, river or sea is another popular choice. UK law allows for the scattering of ashes over coastal water with no restrictions, whereas the Environment Agency are more concerned about releasing your loved one’s cremated ashes in rivers and lakes. It is advised that you do your research before you make these arrangements so that the ceremony remains within the parameters set by the Environment Agency.

Increasingly people are opting for more unusual and personal ways of keeping the ashes of a loved one – some funeral directors offer the service to turn ashes into glass to make a unique memorial, or they can be transformed into jewellery.

Religious beliefs

There are certain religious groups that either frown upon or prohibit cremation. This may influence your choice of burial or cremation. Groups that frown upon or prohibit cremation include some forms of:

However, many people in these groups have now accepted cremation as an alternative to burial. If you have any questions, be sure to ask a member of the clergy belonging to your loved one’s specific religious group. They will be able to offer advice on what is accepted practice.