What is 'direct cremation'?

Find out what you need to know.

Over 50s Life Insurance
  • Why people are choosing direct cremations
  • Explaining direct cremations
  • Is a direct cremation right for me?
  • Advantages of a direct cremation
  • Costs of direct cremations
  • How to organise a direct cremation

Why are people choosing direct cremation funerals?

A recent report by Royal London* has highlighted a worrying rise in the amount of debt being taken on by Britons to pay for the cost of funerals of their loved ones. In the 5 years since Royal London have been producing their Funeral Index Report, funeral debt has increased by 34%.

Brits are using a number of methods to bring funeral costs down, such as having a wake at home (12%), forgoing the embalming process (15%), dispensing with a limousine or hearse (8%) and choosing not to have a minister or celebrant (5%).

But an increasingly common option to keep costs down is known as ‘direct cremation’. As well as being a cost-effective option for the passing of a loved one, direct cremations come with a range of other benefits.

Whether or not these benefits are for you is a matter of personal taste, so read on to see if this option is one you might want to consider.

What is direct cremation?

Direct cremation is when the deceased is cremated without a ceremony or anyone present. The remains are then scattered or sent to the loved ones of the deceased, and they can proceed in whatever way they choose.

Whom is a direct cremation funeral suited to?

By its nature, direct cremation itself doesn’t involve the ritual and ceremony involved in a traditional send-off. Funerals are, for many, integral parts of the grieving process, and the ritual can be an important step in acknowledging the death, celebrating the life lived and moving on.

However, there is nothing to suggest that a similarly ceremonial event can’t be organised before or after a direct cremation. Indeed, the only difference between a cremation funeral and a direct cremation could be the presence of the body if that’s how you want it to be arranged. The only feature that would certainly be missing is the commitment of the deceased, either to the ground or the crematorium.

A direct cremation may not be suitable for those who would prefer a traditional service, however it does open up the opportunity to create a bespoke event that is entirely tailored to the choices of loved ones.

It really depends on the value a person ascribes to having the deceased present at the ceremony. If you don’t consider this to be necessary and want the freedom to celebrate the life lost however you like, a direct cremation may be an option worth considering.

Benefits of a direct cremation funeral

The benefits of direct cremation fall into two camps: economic and emotional.

Economically, a direct cremation is by a fair margin the most cost-effective method of disposal.

  • No funeral means you can deal with a crematorium directly, rather than an undertaker, which is significantly cheaper
  • You would not need to spend money on a casket
  • If you organise your own memorial service, you can control costs
  • Costs associated with preserving the body until the funeral are eliminated
  • Other funeral expenses, such as hearses and other transport costs, are avoided


Emotionally, people may opt for a direct cremation because they dislike the inherent sadness of funerals. That is not to say that all funerals are sad affairs, and some cultural traditions are quite the opposite.

But if you want to save your loved ones the emotional impact of a funeral and its associations, a direct cremation might be an appropriate choice. David Bowie famously opted to depart in this way, creating widespread awareness of the service, and it is increasingly available through funeral providers.

How much does a direct cremation cost?

Costs for direct cremation will depend on a few factors, but it's estimated that people choosing this type of funeral could save more than £2,000*.

Variable factors include the cause of death (i.e. whether the body needs to be certified by doctors or a coroner), whether you want the crematorium to dispose of the ashes or you want them sent to you, and where you live.

This is in contrast to cremations, which have an average price of £3,247, and burial funerals, averaging £4,267.

Ideas for arranging a direct cremation

Royal London's report shows that more funeral providers are offering direct cremations, but not all of them do. And though there are some similarities in what's on offer, there are differences too. So taking a look at what's on offer and whether certain items incur fees can help you to decide what is best for you.

Once you’ve chosen your funeral director, you’ll need to ensure that all of the paperwork is signed. They may ask you to do this as part of their service. If you elect to have the ashes sent to you, then some providers also offer this service.

Once the process is complete, it's up to you what you want to do next. Having a thanksgiving or celebration of life is something you might want to organise, and can take whatever shape you like, since it has nothing to do with a funeral or service that involves the deceased.

If you want to have a direct cremation for yourself, you can leave instruction in a will or simply communicate this to the person who is going to be making the arrangements after you’ve passed on.

How can you make provision for funeral costs?

Lots of people will provide for their funerals by saving and setting money aside. However the costs can easily mount up.

Another option is a life insurance plan. Over 50s life insurance can offer a payout that can be put towards a funeral.

There is limited government assistance to help with funeral costs, and those who apply must meet eligibility criteria.

What other services are there for managing bereavement?

With a Post Office Life Insurance policy, you can also access Here to Help. This is a free service that provides access to bereavement counsellors and one-to-one, long-term support from a dedicated nurse.

Everyone deals with bereavement differently, and understanding the feelings and processes that go along with it is a helpful way of managing life after loss. Here to Help is there for when this is difficult, or when you simply need someone to talk to.

Is there such a thing as direct burial?

Yes. The principle is the same as with direct cremation: there is no ceremony and no one is present for the interment.

It is likely to cost more than a direct cremation due to the need for a plot of land to be arranged. Depending on where you live in the UK, this cost can be quite variable. It is also likely that you will need to engage a funeral provider, which could increase costs when compared to a direct cremation.

Since funerals are a highly emotive topic, it’s important to get the best advice before deciding what to do with a loved one or what provisions to make in your will. There are more options than ever for choosing the best funeral arrangement for you, so don’t be hesitant about discussing all of them with your family.

*Source: Royal London Funeral Cost Index Report 2018

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