A Guide to Cremation Costs & Arrangements

A guide to cremation, including costs and information on arranging cremation funerals & scattering, burying and keeping cremation ashes

Last updated: 28 January 2020

Exterior view of West Road Crematorium, Newcastle, with lawns and flower beds at the front

Photo by Madraban on Flickr (Public Domain).

The majority of funerals in the UK are cremations, but many people don't know what happens at a cremation and how much a cremation costs, as well as ideas for what you can do with a loved one's ashes.

This guide explains how to arrange a cremation when someone dies, including information on the cost of cremation in the UK and what happens at a cremation funeral. It also offers ideas for things to do with cremation ashes.

How much does cremation cost?

The average cost of cremation in the UK is £813.37, but this varies between different regions of the country as each one sets their own cremation fees.

How do you arrange a cremation?

A funeral director can help you arrange a cremation. Most crematoriums will only work with a funeral director and will not discuss arrangements with bereaved families directly.

You will need to submit an Application for cremation of the body of a person who has died: Cremation 1.

Two doctors are also required to sign medical certificates to authorise cremation. The first doctor signs Cremation 4 and the second doctor confirms the information by signing a second form (Cremation 5).

The completion of cremation forms are not part of a doctor's regular NHS duties so both of them must be paid £82 to complete each form. An additional £164 therefore needs to be added to cremation fees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland because it is a mandatory cost for any cremation. There are no cremation fees in Scotland.

You may also have to complete a form for the crematorium, explaining what you would like for the cremation service and how you would like them to handle the ashes of your loved one.

The process is more complex if your loved one's death is investigated by a coroner. You can find out more about the paperwork you need to complete and coroner services, in our guides on what to do When Someone Dies.

What happens at a cremation funeral?

Most cremation funeral services take place in the chapel of the crematorium where the person who has died will be cremated, but it is also possible to have the funeral in a different location.

Although almost all crematoriums describe a service venue as a chapel, they are usually multi-faith and the appropriate religious iconography can be provided for funerals of any belief system and removed for secular services.

The length of a standard cremation service varies between 20 to 60 minutes. Some crematoriums also allow additional time for mourners to arrive and depart from the chapel. It is also usually possible to book double time slots for a longer service, but the cremation fee will usually be double the fee for a single slot.

Mourners might arrive and take their seats before the coffin arrives, or follow the coffin into the crematorium and take their seats when it is placed on the catafalque.

What happens at a funeral service in a crematorium is usually very similar to services in a different venue. There will usually be a eulogy by someone close to the person who has died, or someone speaking on their behalf and sometimes other readings such as funeral poems, as well.

Christian funerals might include funeral hymns, but other music can be played. The majority of crematoriums have digital music systems that can play thousands of different songs. Many crematoriums also have CD or cassette players so families can bring their own pieces in, such as recordings of their loved ones voices, and some venues have resident organists.

After the service the coffin is generally obscured by a curtain as it is transferred to the cremator and a song is played. This is usually called the committal.

After the committal mourners are invited to look at any funeral flowers or notes that have been sent by well wishers on a dedicated flower terrace. Many crematoriums will keep flowers on display for up to a week and some crematoriums invite families to donate flowers to decorate the chapels so that mourners at funeral funerals can also appreciate them.

View of flower terrace outside Golders Green Crematorium

Photo by Chris.

It is possible to view a cremation, but it has to be arranged in advance with the crematorium staff. Some religions in which cremation is traditional specify that it should be witnessed and a few crematoriums do have facilities that allow families to view it through a glass screen. As a person is always cremated in their coffin their body is not visible.

Do all religions permit cremation?

There are certain religious groups that traditionally discourage or prohibit cremation, including the Eastern Orthodox Church and Orthodox and Conservative Jewish groups, Muslims and Mormons.

The Roman Catholic Church prefers burial to cremation, but does permit it. In 2016 the Vatican decreed that cremation ashes must not be scattered or kept at home, but buried in a cemetery or other sacred site.

You can find out more about Eastern Orthodox Funerals, Jewish funerals, Muslim funerals and Catholic funerals in our guides to Religious Funerals.

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.

What can you do with ashes after cremation?

There are lots of things you can do with cremation ashes after someone's funeral.

Crematoriums have gardens of remembrance where ashes can be scattered or buried, but you can usually commemorate your loved one in any place you have permission to do so. More recently, lots of other creative ideas for what to do with ashes after a cremation.

Scattering ashes

Scattering ashes is the most well known and popular option for commemoration as UK law also allows people to scatter or bury them on private land when the landowner’s permission is given. There are no restrictions on scattering ashes in the UK's coastal waters, but you need to ask permission from the Environment Agency before scattering the ashes over fresh water.

Many conservation organisations discourage people from scattering ashes in ecologically sensitive areas, such as mountain tops.

The Royal Parks in London have a policy of refusing requests to scatter ashes because they "contain minerals in such concentrations that they affect the soil and….damage the places that were so enjoyed."

The most environmentally-friendly option for commemorating someone who has died is actually natural burial.

Many families separate the ashes and scatter them in different locations, but this depends on permission from the family member who is legally responsible for the ashes, such as the person's next of kin or executor of their estate.

Burying ashes

If you prefer to have a permanent memorial to your loved one, similar to a headstone in a cemetery, you can bury ashes and install a cremation memorial above them.

Most crematoriums offer a range of options for burying ashes in an urn and marking them with a range of different memorials in their gardens of remembrance. Most cemeteries also have dedicated plots where cremation ashes can be buried and marked with a cremation memorial. You can inter ashes in a grave where someone else is buried, but although the plot is already leased you will need permission from the cemetery and usually have to pay an additional cost.

If you prefer you can also bury ashes at home or any other land where you have permission to do so. It is important to be aware, however, that if the ownership of the land changes hands you might not be able to visit anymore.

Although cremation memorials are usually small, many popular inscriptions for headstones can still be fitted on them.

Keeping ashes in an urn

You can also display your loved one's ashes in an urn. There are lots of different urns for cremation ashes to choose from, in a wide range of styles, designs and colours for different budgets.

If you would like to keep your loved one's ashes in an urn, but would prefer not to have them at home, you can pay for a niche in a dedicated building, such as a columbarium. In recent years barrows, modern versions of paleolithic burial chambers, have popular sites to keep ashes.

Exterior view of Mid-England Barrow with a herd of cows in field behind it

Photo by Mid-England Barrow