More than two-thirds of UK funerals last year were cremations, making them the most popular type of funeral, but many people aren’t aware that there are several different types of cremation service to choose from.
The three main cremation options are traditional cremations, direct cremations or attended cremations. Each offers a different type of send-off, with costs varying depending on which option you go for, but ultimately which one is right for you is a personal decision.
Here, we explain how the most common types of cremation services work, how much they cost and reasons why you might want to choose them.
Direct cremations, also known as unattended cremations are a pared-back type of cremation that takes place without a procession, service, ceremony, or attendees.
All of the important care and attention prior to the cremation still takes place. The person who has died will be collected and cared for at a mortuary, before being placed in a coffin. All transportation is typically carried out in specialist funeral ambulances.
Once they have been cremated, their ashes can either be scattered in a garden of remembrance, or collected by or delivered to the family and/or friends, usually within a couple of weeks of the cremation.
More and more people are choosing direct cremations, and last year they accounted for 18% of funerals in the UK, according to SunLife’s annual Cost of Dying Report 2023¹. The number of direct cremations initially rose during the pandemic due to restrictions surrounding the number of people that could be present at a funeral, and these numbers have remained high over the last couple of years as they offer a simple, practical and low-cost option.
¹ 18% of people described the funeral they organised as a direct cremation in 2022 (Sunlife Cost of Dying Report 2023, sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs)
How much does direct cremation cost?
Direct cremation is the least expensive type of cremation, with costs typically ranging from around £1,000 to £2,000. Distinct Cremations, for example, charges from £995 for an unattended direct cremation, if you’re paying for it now, or from £1,595 if you take out a funeral plan.
This cost includes the collection and transport of the person who has died, preparation of their body for cremation, the cremation itself, a simple coffin and an urn, as well as professional support and assistance throughout the process.
Why you might choose direct cremation
There are a number of reasons people might choose direct cremation over alternative types of cremation or funerals. These include:
Traditional funerals aren’t for everyone – Many people would rather not have a funeral and for some direct cremation gives them more flexibility to have a service or ceremony that better reflects their beliefs or views.
You can keep costs to a minimum – Nearly half (41%) of people want their families to spend as little as possible on their funeral (SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2023)², so as the cheapest option, direct cremation is an easy choice for some.
Any savings can be used to fund more fitting celebrations – For some people, spending thousands of pounds on a funeral seems pointless. People often opt for a direct cremation instead so that they can use any savings to celebrate the life of the person who has died in a more meaningful way, whether that’s arranging a gathering with their loved ones in their favourite pub or restaurant, or taking a family holiday in a location that meant a lot to them.
² 4 in 10 (41%) want their family to spend as little as possible (Sunlife Cost of Dying Report 2023, sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs)
An attended cremation, sometimes known as personal or private cremation, is still a pared back cremation without a hearse, or procession, but with the option to have a small intimate service with a few loved ones before the cremation takes place.
Attended cremations happen in much the same way as direct cremation in terms of caring for the person who has died, but up to 20 family members and friends can be invited to attend a simple 20-minute service, which will typically be the first service of the day. This gives you a chance to spend a few moments in the presence of the coffin at the crematorium.
How much does an attended cremation cost?
Attended cremations cost a bit more than direct cremations, because they provide a short service prior to the cremation.
Distinct Cremations, for example, charges from £1,545 for an attended cremation if you’re paying for it now, or from £2,145 if you take out a funeral plan.
This cost covers all the same features as a direct cremation but with the addition of a 20-minute service for up to 20 people, and with a member of staff on hand during the service for support.
Why you might choose an attended cremation
Much like direct cremation, attended cremations offer a lower-cost option than a funeral that allows people to celebrate the life of the person who has died in a meaningful way, whilst keeping costs to a minimum.
They can be a good option for people who don’t want a full traditional cremation, but still want to have some sort of service.
More than half (57%) of funerals last year were traditional cremations and generally, these involve a ceremony or service attended by mourners followed by the actual cremation.
At present, a full traditional cremation, with a hearse and procession, can only really be arranged through funeral directors.
The ceremony or service can be religious or secular and will usually be held either at a crematorium or a religious building. Any number of people can attend a traditional cremation, within the confines of what the venue can offer.
If you don’t want all the elements of a full traditional funeral, for example, you might not want a funeral procession or lots of mourners, then a smaller attended cremation or direct cremation could be a better option.
How much does a traditional cremation cost?
A traditional cremation is the most expensive type of cremation, costing on average around £3,673³. The cost is considerably higher than direct or attended cremation, but traditional cremations can also offer more features and options.
Generally, the cost of a traditional cremation will include guidance and advice, coordination of the funeral service, organisation of paperwork, choice of coffin, choice of crematorium, choice of date, preparation of the person who has died, a funeral procession, the funeral service itself and return of ashes in a container or urn.
³ The average traditional cremation costs in 2022 were £3,673 (Sunlife Cost of Dying Report 2023, sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs)
Why you might choose traditional cremation
For some people, a traditional cremation is an important religious ceremony, which is a core part of their beliefs, while for others it can offer structure, comfort and reassurance during a difficult time.
Traditional cremations also enable more people to be present so they can pay their respects to the person who’s died.
Whichever type of funeral you’re considering, it’s worth thinking about how you might cover costs, so that your loved ones aren’t left facing financial worries at what’s already likely to be a distressing time.
Funeral plan providers, such as Distinct Cremations, allow you to purchase your cremation up-front, either by paying a lump sum or by making affordable monthly instalments over 12 months, five years or 10 years. You won’t be asked any medical questions when you take out a plan and there are no screenings either.
It is worth noting, however, that your age and the payment period you choose will impact how much you’ll pay. For example, someone aged 50 could expect to pay £30.68⁴ a month over five years for an unattended cremation, or £18.15⁵ a month if they paid in monthly instalments over a 10-year period. If you were to pay in a lump sum or over 12 months then the price is the same for everyone, no matter your age, which for the unattended cremation would be from £1,595.
The best way to discover all there is to know about your direct cremation options and the various costs is to request a free guide from Distinct Cremations.
When the time comes, all your loved ones need to do is get in touch with the funeral provider so they can take care of the arrangements. This can provide both them and you with valuable peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out in the way you wanted, and that your funeral is already paid for.
⁴ Price advertised is for a 50 year old paying over a 5 year period. Total cost is £1,935.80 and includes administration fees.
⁵ Price advertised is for a 50 year old paying over a 10 year period. Total cost is £2,273 and includes administration fees.
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