What is a Cremation?

Understanding what happens before, during and after the cremation will help give you peace of mind; we’re here to guide you through and clarify the process so you can make a decision that’s right for you.

Who can have a cremation?

A cremation is the most popular funeral choice in the UK; an alternative to a traditional burial, it is equally as respectful to the person who has died and just as comforting for loved ones present at the ceremony.

All Christian denominations allow cremation, including the Roman Catholic Church (a traditional burial is preferred, but cremation is not frowned upon, so long as the ashes themselves are kept together and buried in a sacred place). Sikhs, Parsees and Buddhists also allow cremation, and traditionally all adult Hindus are cremated. It is however forbidden by Orthodox Jews and Muslims. Cremation is also a good option for a humanist ceremony, as well as for people who identify as agnostic or atheist, as the ceremony can be personalised to reflect the life of the person who has died without any religious overtones.

You are welcome to visit the crematorium you choose in order to reassure yourself that you are making the correct decision for you; you will need to make an appointment and you can specify whether you’d like to visit during a cremation or at a quieter time.

What happens during a cremation?

In most cases there is a ceremony that precedes the cremation itself. The ceremony itself can be held at the crematorium chapel, at a place of worship, or at another appropriate venue. It gives families and friends a chance to say a final goodbye and celebrate the person who has died.

It doesn’t have to be a religious ceremony, but if required, the crematorium chapel can be personalised for the belief or religion you choose, and you can ask the religious figure of your choosing to come and lead the service.

Each crematorium chapel has a set length of time for the service, usually 40 minutes. If you would like longer you can book additional time for an extra fee. The service or ceremony is a highly personal event and there are options to personalise such as choosing the music that’s played during the ceremony. There is also the option to choose photos of the person who has died to be shown on the screen at the crematorium chapel. In addition, many crematoriums will enable the ceremony to be recorded so it can be shared with those who can’t attend.

If the ceremony is not held at the crematorium itself, after the ceremony the funeral director will take the person in their coffin to be received by the staff at the crematorium. This final journey can be accompanied by the family if they would like. Once everyone has left the crematorium chapel, the flowers are retrieved, and the coffin moved to an anti-room of the crematorium to await cremation. At no point is there sight of the actual cremation equipment.

In most instances, the cremation will happen on the same day, shortly after the service, although if the ceremony is late in the day the cremation could be carried out the next morning. All cremations happen on an individual basis; the cremator has only room for one coffin at a time, and throughout the process the identity is tracked to ensure that the ashes are indeed those of the correct person.

What happens to the ashes after the cremation?

The ashes of the person are fully labelled. Any transfer of ashes from the crematorium must be previously authorised by the family. Usually permission is given to the funeral directors to collect them on the family’s behalf, ready for the next step.

Ashes can be divided or kept together. You can choose to bury the ashes in a suitable urn (also known as interment of ashes), they can be scattered, they can be kept in a suitable urn at home, or even made into memorial jewellery or keepsakes – or a combination of these.

Local crematoriums

We’ve collated a list of local crematoriums so you can research and find out which one is right for you and your needs.

Planning the service

We’ve created a guide to the most important aspects of planning a service that you might need to consider, from venues and officiants to flowers, funeral transport and catering, and more.

Bereavement support

Grief is a natural reaction to loss and affects everyone differently. AB Walker understands this and offers aftercare support for those experiencing the loss of a loved one.

Other types of funeral

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