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What happens at a cremation? The cremation process explained

In the UK, around 74% of funerals are cremation. Until you attend a cremation, the cremation process may seem a little daunting. 

In this guide, we explain what happens at a cremation, and how the cremation process works, including: 

What is a cremation?
What happens during the cremation process?
How much does a cremation cost?
How to arrange a cremation
What to do with ashes after cremation


What is cremation?

Cremation is the process that transforms the body of someone who has passed away into ‘ashes’ using intense heat. The machine used to cremate bodies is called a ‘cremator’. Following the cremation, the ashes are often scattered in the crematorium’s garden of remembrance or returned to the family of the person who died.

Cremation is often more affordable and flexible than traditional burial options and has risen in popularity in recent years. In the UK, most cremations are arranged with the assistance of a Funeral Director or other funeral provider, although it is possible to arrange a cremation directly with the crematorium.

A cremation takes place at a building called a crematorium and is traditionally accompanied by a service for mourners to attend in the chapel at the crematorium (unless it is a direct cremation). The coffin will be present in the chapel throughout the cremation service. At the end of the service, the coffin will be committed for cremation (this is the point where the coffin is removed from view). Mourners will not normally witness the cremation itself, but in some cases may be able to witness the ‘charging’ of the coffin to the cremator.


What happens during the cremation process?

During the cremation process, the coffin will be placed into the cremator, with the deceased inside. A cremator only has the capacity for one coffin at a time, so all cremations are performed separately.

The heat inside the cremator is very intense. On average, the cremation process takes around 90 minutes to complete.

When the cremation is finished, all that is left is small fragments of bone. These remains are taken from the cremator, cooled and placed in a machine that reduces the bone to ‘ashes’. The ashes are then put into a simple container, fully identified with the details of the deceased.

The ashes are normally returned to the family or scattered in the gardens of remembrance at the crematorium. Your funeral provider will be able to advise how long it may take for the ashes to be returned; they will not be returned on the day of the cremation.

Crematoriums follow a strict code of practice to ensure the cremation process is always followed correctly.


How much does a cremation cost?

The cost of a cremation will depend on a number of factors, including your location within the UK where the cremation will take place and the funeral arrangements you choose to make. However, the average basic cremation in the UK cost £3,885* in 2020, which includes cremation fees, Funeral Director’s fees, doctor’s fees and the cost of a minister or officiant.

The cost of a cremation is typically less than a burial. Find out more about average cremation costs, what’s typically included and the elements you may have to pay extra for.


How to arrange a cremation with Simplicity

When organising a cremation, there are a number of arrangements you will need to make. This includes arranging for the care of your loved one between the death and the day of the cremation and the completion of paperwork for the cremation to go ahead.

At Simplicity, we make arranging a cremation a simple, straightforward process. Unlike arranging a traditional cremation, you will not have to visit a funeral home or spend hours discussing arrangements with a Funeral Director.

All it takes is a phone call to get the process started. When you contact us, our expert team of telephone funeral arrangers will answer any questions you may have and explain the entire cremation process to you, from the collection of your loved one from their place of rest to the return or respectful scattering of their ashes.

We realise that not everyone wants a costly and traditional cremation, a procession beforehand with a hearse and limousines and a service performed by a minister, and that’s why we give you a simpler funeral choice.

We offer three low cost cremation options that allow you to arrange a funeral without the ceremonial excess that is often unwanted and unnecessary. Our cremation packages start from £995 and are available throughout the whole of mainland Great Britain.

Our cremation packages include:
- Cremation fees
- Doctor’s fees – something not all providers will include
- A simple coffin
- Collection of the deceased from the place of rest
- Transportation of the deceased in a specialised funeral vehicle

To keep things simple, our funeral packages are based on the number of people you’d like in attendance at the cremation.


A cremation with a family-led service

A Family Led Funeral allows you the opportunity to arrange a family-led funeral service for an unlimited number of attendees, whilst our funeral professionals bring your loved one into our care and tend to the essential cremation aspects of the funeral.

You can arrange a full-length funeral service in the crematorium chapel, using the time how you wish. You may decide for the service to be led a minister or officiant, or a family member or friend. You will also have the option to play music of your choice, perform a reading or eulogy or reflect how you wish.


A small funeral

If you would like a cremation with a short service for a small group of people, our Intimate Funeral is ideal.  You will be welcomed into the crematorium chapel by a chapel attendant, where you may play a piece of music of your choice, say a few words and reflect as you wish.

Unlike a traditional cremation which may begin with a procession with a hearse, limousines and pallbearers, your loved one will be resting on the catafalque in the crematorium chapel upon your arrival.

If, for whatever reason you do not want to attend the crematorium, a direct cremation could work for you.


A direct cremation

Direct cremation is one of the most affordable funeral options available in the UK. Families choose this option for a variety of reasons, and it's not always down to cost:

- Your loved one expressed their wishes for a low-key funeral
- Your loved one did not wish for a religious ceremony, or a ceremony at all
- Family and friends live far away, meaning it is not practical to travel to a funeral service at some notice.

Many families choose direct cremation as they want to hold a celebration of life or memorial service at a time and place away from the crematorium.

As our lowest cost cremation option, an Unattended Funeral costs from £995.


What happens at a direct cremation?

The main difference between a direct cremation and a traditional cremation with a service, is that there is no service beforehand, and there are no mourners present at the crematorium.

The remainder of the cremation process is the same as a traditional cremation with a service.

Learn more about direct cremation.


What to do with ashes after cremation

Deciding what to do with the ashes of your loved one can be a very sensitive subject. Of course, you may decide you do not want to do anything with them and simply keep the ashes at home in an urn.

Many people choose to scatter or bury their loved one ashes in the gardens of remembrance at the crematorium or local cemetery or in one of their loved one’s favourite places. There are also a number of other popular places you can scatter ashes.

If you are looking to do something a little different, there are now a number of unique things you can do with ashes.


To arrange a cremation for a loved one, contact us today. Our expert team will also be able to answer any questions you may have about the cremation process. Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


 *Average cremation costs as quoted in the SunLife (2021), Cost of Dying Report, 

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