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What is a Direct Cremation?

A direct cremation is a very simple, dignified way of holding a funeral. The main difference between a direct cremation and any other type of cremation funeral is that there’s no prior ceremony or service for your family to attend.  Your body will be cremated in a simple coffin with a nameplate shortly after passing. Your ashes will be returned to your family or a designated person.

With the cost of a basic funeral (UK: £4,184 in 2020) in mind, direct cremation is also the most affordable option, without compromising on professionalism, dignity, and the same high quality of funeral care. Even though the funeral expenses are often stressed the most when it comes to a simple cremation, it does in no way mean that you are being cheap or uncaring. David Bowie who had an estimated net worth of $230 million when he died in 2016 opted for a basic cremation without a ceremony.  As there isn’t a traditional service tied to this funeral type, it offers your family and loved ones the opportunity and the freedom to hold a separate memorial event or celebration of life at a later point.

In this article, we answer the most important questions you might have regarding direct cremation, explore what might help you decide what’s the right type of funeral for you, explain why it might make sense for you to buy a pre-paid plan for a simple cremation and what other funeral plans there are.

What Happens at a Direct Cremation?

After death, the deceased gets transported to the crematorium in a specialised funeral vehicle. There, the body will be cared for until the day of the cremation. Before this can take place, certain formalities need to be completed; for example, medical as well as death certificates. It might therefore, take seven to ten days between the death and the direct cremation.

When you opt for a basic cremation you don’t get to choose a date. Once the paperwork is complete, the cremation will be held at a time that’s convenient for the funeral director. As there’s no service or ceremony prior to the direct cremation and no one can attend or view the body beforehand, there’s no need for embalming or any other special preparation. The deceased will be cremated in a very simple, plain coffin. The ashes will then be respectfully returned to your family or a designated person a few days later.

You might have specified in your last wishes what you’d like them to do with the ashes or they can take time to decide themselves. A small private ceremony to scatter the cremated remains at a special place or having them on display in an urn during a celebration of life or memorial service are just two potential options. Some crematoriums also offer to scatter the ashes in their garden of remembrance.

As with any other type of funeral, the deceased will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity.

The Differences between a Direct Cremation and Traditional Funerals

Traditional funerals tend to follow the same structure. They usually include:

  • a viewing over a 2-3-day period where mourners have the chance to visit the deceased and bid their farewells
  • a service or ceremony – depending on religion and culture – prior to the cremation or burial
  • the cremation or burial itself that is usually attended by family and loved ones (…)
  • (…) followed by a wake or reception to allow mourners to remember the deceased in a more informal setting.

When you are opting for a direct cremation you are basically choosing no funeral. While you can personalise a traditional funeral through your choice of coffin or casket, the mode of transport for your last journey (a traditional or alternative hearse), flower arrangements, (live) music, etc., none of this will play a role for a simple cremation. Direct cremations are organised with a minimum of fuss and forgo the often-unnecessary elements of a traditional funeral. Your loved ones won’t get a chance to have a viewing nor do they get to attend the cremation itself. A service or ceremony can always be organised and held at a later point. It is, however, not included in this type of funeral plan and won’t happen prior to the cremation. This may sound as if you and your loved ones won’t have any control over your last farewell, but the opposite is the case as we’ll explain below.

The Benefits of a Direct Cremation

Direct cremation is becoming a more and more popular choice in the UK. Whereas only 14% opted for a basic cremation in 2019, that number rose to 25% in 2020. The are many reasons for choosing a direct cremation such as:

  • Funeral expenses: Financial considerations may play a role in which type of funeral you choose. A direct cremation is the most affordable funeral plan available (apart from donating your body for science). The money you save with this low-cost alternative could be invested in a separate farewell event that takes place at a later point, be used to support your family or a relative, donated to a good cause, or spent on gifts.
  • Allow your family more time: The death of a loved one can be one of the most difficult times for family and friends. While attending a formal service or ceremony shortly after the passing can offer closure to some, others may find it to be upsetting and distressing. When someone has opted for  direct cremation, many loved ones choose to hold a separate ceremony or memorial event when everyone is emotionally ready – this can be a few weeks, months, a year or even several years later. Getting to choose a date (and includes weekends and evenings) that’s not tied to the cremation also offers more people a chance to attend. Some family members and friends might live further away or are maybe even scattered around the world and need to make travel arrangements.
  • Full control over your final farewell: By separating the farewell from the cremation it liberates your family from abiding by societal conventions and religious traditions. They get to acknowledge, celebrate, honour and remember you in a memorial event that truly reflects your and their values, beliefs, and relationships. It may be arranged at a location with personal significance and can even include pets. You can leave detailed instructions in a record of wishes, plan it together, or leave it up to them.

What is the Right Funeral Option For Me?

An unattended direct cremation with no pre-funeral events nor a formal service will not suit everyone. While some people are opting for less stress and fuss because they don’t feel very strongly about their funeral or have plans for a more unique memorial event than a formal funeral would allow, a basic cremation can seem too simple for others. For a majority of people, a traditional funeral is still the only way they’d like to go or bid their loved one farewell.

Exploring different options and planning ahead not only ensures that you get to say “goodbye” the way you want to but also saves your family worries and spares them from having to make decisions during a time of grief. One way of doing this is by buying a pre-paid funeral plan. This comes with the benefit of freezing the cost of your preferred funeral option at today’s prices and offers peace of mind. Since expenses for an average funeral have risen a staggering 124% in the past 17 years, this is well worth considering.

At Safe Hands, we offer five different plans (this table gives a comprehensive overview of what is included in each of them) that allow you to pay for your funeral in advance. We are a registered, trusted, and regulated provider of pre-paid funeral plans. This means that your money is safe, and our trustees will ensure that your funeral plan is delivered – even in the unlikely event that something happens to our company.
Our team of experts at Safe Hands know how to handle end of life planning sensitively. We can support you with practical advice and help you choose the right funeral option for yourself or your loved one. We can also talk to your family when the time comes. Get in touch with us today if there’s anything you’d like to discuss or with any questions you might have.