The difference between a standard and direct cremation

Unsure about the differences between a standard and direct cremation? This guide explains everything you need to know and which option could be best for you.

A standard cremation includes a traditional funeral service at a crematorium. A direct cremation is a cremation you do not attend. The crematorium will take your loved one into their care, perform the cremation and bring the ashes back to you.

A standard cremation includes a traditional service

A standard cremation is often seen as the more traditional route, where friends and family attend a 20 to 30-minute service at the crematorium.

On the day a hearse or van usually transports your loved one to the crematorium. The funeral service will usually include:

  • Music 

  • Readings 

  • Photos 

  • Memories of your loved one

After the service, your loved one’s ashes are delivered back to you, or you can collect them from the crematorium at a later date. 

Arrange a thoughtful and intimate farewell

If you’d like to choose a direct cremation and arrange your own memorial when the time is right, then we can give you an estimated cost today online or over the phone. Find out more about what a direct cremation involves and get in touch.

A direct cremation does not include a funeral service

A direct cremation does not include viewing your loved one, so they will not be embalmed, where an embalmer preserves the body by using certain chemicals, or dressed. Their body is cremated in a simple coffin at a date and time set by the crematorium. Many families choose to mark this day in their own way, as they’re not present at the crematorium.

Once you receive your loved one’s ashes, you have the freedom to arrange a personal memorial and scatter or bury their ashes at a time that suits you and your family.

Direct cremations are becoming more popular

The rate of direct cremation across the population went up from 0% in 2015 to 10% in 2019. This went up even further to 16% in 2021, largely because of COVID-19. Lots of people are predicting that direct cremations will become more popular, as the UK begins to move away from the traditional funeral service. 

Direct cremation is more affordable than standard cremation 

In the UK, a standard cremation costs roughly £4,800 whereas direct cremation is around £1,500. 

Your loved one is treated with the same care and respect no matter which you choose. Direct cremations are cheaper because the funeral director has less to organise, and the crematorium can carry out the cremation at off-peak times.

There are lots of reasons why you might choose a direct cremation, including:

  • Your loved one wanted a simple send-off 

  • You’re looking for something more affordable 

  • You’re using the government’s funeral expenses payment 

  • You’d like more time to arrange a personalised memorial 

Grieving and saying goodbye is complicated, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. So it’s worth considering what’s most important to you and your family.

Your situation, beliefs and the character of the person who’s died will all affect the choice 

 There are lots of different factors that will affect your decisions on the kind of funeral to arrange for a loved one or request for yourself. We’ve put some example scenarios below to help you decide what matters most to you. 

“We would like to have our own, low-key celebration of their life when the time is right” 

In this case, a direct cremation may work best for you. Having the ashes with you means that there are no time constraints, so whenever you feel ready, you can organise a personal farewell in an independent venue with your nearest and dearest (and those coming from further away).

“I’m concerned that a standard cremation might create more debt for me”

If you feel daunted by the cost of a standard approach, a direct cremation is much less costly, and you can still organise a personal farewell ceremony for you and your family. You may find that you can apply for government support – you can find out more about this, and other bits of advice on what to do if you cannot afford a funeral in our article.

“We would prefer to celebrate their life with a traditional funeral, including a family viewing at the crematorium”

If this is the case, a standard cremation is perhaps the best option for you. A traditional cremation can include a hearse for the coffin, a formal ceremony, and lots of songs, prayers, and readings. The cremation usually happens about half an hour after the service has finished.  

“We would like to choose an outfit for them to wear on the day” 

A standard cremation allows you to choose items for the funeral director to dress them in for the day. This can be their favourite dress or football t-shirt – but any sentimental jewellery should be removed before the cremation, along with any watches. A standard cremation also gives you the opportunity to include any photos, cards or letters in the coffin. You can read more about what you can put in a coffin for cremation in our guide.

Not sure where to start?

If you’d like to start organising a funeral, but you're not sure where to begin, you might find our guide on how to arrange a cremation helpful.

Article reviewed