1. How many people use cremation today in Great Britain?
Since1968 when the number of cremations exceeded burials for the first time, cremation has increased considerably. Current figures suggest that around 74% of all funerals are cremations.
2. Do any religious groups forbid cremation?
All current Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, allow cremation, as do Sikhs, Hindus, Parsees and Buddhists. It is however forbidden by Orthodox Jews and Muslims.
3. Is cremation more expensive than burial?
No. Generally the cost of a grave is much higher than the fee charged for cremation although the funeral charges are similar for both services. The only additional charge for cremation arises when the death has not been referred to a coroner and two doctors need to be paid for the necessary certificates. This does not apply to burial.
4. What religious ceremony can I have with cremation?
The service for burial and cremation is the same apart from the form of committal sentences. The service may take place at your own place of worship with a short committal service in the crematorium chapel, or you may have the whole service at the crematorium chapel. Alternatively, you may prefer a civil ceremony be conducted, or even no service at all. The service can be held at the crematorium, a local church or any other place that you choose.
5. How is a cremation arranged?
The Cremation Regulations are complex and many people approach a funeral director immediately death occurs, and advise him that they wish to arrange a cremation. The funeral director will ensure that all the necessary statutory forms for cremation are obtained and presented to the Crematorium.
6. Can a cremation be arranged without the services of a funeral director?
Yes. The Executor or nearest surviving relative may arrange the cremation service themselves. Cremation authorities that are members of the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management’s (ICCM) Charter for the Bereaved will provide advice to persons arranging a cremation without the use of a funeral director.
7. Can relatives witness the committal of the coffin to the cremator?
Yes. Some crematoria have a viewing area that overlooks the crematory where you may witness the committal taking place. Others may have a room equipped with CCTV enabling all of those in the room to clearly see the committal whilst other crematoria may allow a supervised group into the crematory to witness the committal. The Crematorium must be informed that you wish to witness the committal when the cremation is booked, so that staff can be informed who will then make the necessary preparations on the day.
8. Is the coffin cremated with the body?
Yes. The ICCM Guiding Principles state that the container and the body shall be placed in cremator and cremation commenced. The coffin or container with the body inside shall not be opened or otherwise disturbed, other than in exceptional circumstances, and then only with the express permission and in the presence of the Applicant for Cremation (usually the executor or next of kin).
9. How soon after the service will the cremation take place?
The ICCM Guiding Principles state that the container and the body shall be placed in a cremator and cremation commenced no later than 72 hours after the service of committal. Where cremation may not be carried out on the same day, the Applicant for Cremation shall be notified. This means that under normal circumstances the cremation is usually carried out shortly after the service and certainly on the same day. However, when a service takes place late in the day or a limited number of services are booked, the cremations may take place within the 72 hour period. Retention of coffins should only be carried out where a secure and hygienic storage facility is available. The benefits to the community from this include a reduced impact on the environment as less fossil fuel will be consumed and the efficient use of machinery and equipment will be achieved.
10. How are ashes kept separate?
A cremator can only accept one coffin at a time and all the ashes are removed from the cremator before the next cremation. An identity card is used throughout the whole process until the final disposal of ashes, thereby ensuring correct identification.
11. What happens to the ashes after cremation?
The law relating to cremation requires that ashes are disposed of in accordance with the written instructions of the applicant (usually the executor or nearest surviving relative). Most crematoria have a range of options which might include scattering or burying in the garden of remembrance, placing in a columbarium, interring in a small family vault or niche. Options for memorials are also available which might include plaques beneath rose bushes, trees or shrubs and memorial benches with plaques. The simplest form of memorial is an entry inscribed in a book of remembrance. Your nearest crematorium will provide details of their facilities. Ashes may also be buried in family graves that are full for coffined burials. Alternatively you may be able to purchase a new ashes grave in a cemetery. There is no need to make a hurried decision with regard the final resting place of the remains with most crematoria having a facility to hold the remains until a decision is made. Should a crematorium not be contacted with a decision after a period of time has elapsed you may receive a letter asking if you are ready to go ahead. If you are not simply tell the crematorium that you need more time (a fee may be applicable). Should a crematorium receive no reply to their letter they may legally scatter or bury the ashes within their grounds after giving 2 weeks written notice. You may of course decide to take the ashes home with you.
12. Some people refer to ‘Ashes’ whilst others refer to ‘Cremated Remains’. Is there a difference?
No. Ashes and Cremated Remains are one and the same thing and are defined as ‘everything that is left in the cremator at the end of the cremation process following the removal of any metal’. No separation of what is perceived to be ash from the coffin and other items is not separated from what is perceived to be ash from the deceased person as this would be impossible. Further questions about metal and what happens to it are answered below.
13. Are any ashes left after the cremation of a baby?
Most crematoria will have a modified procedure designed to minimise the potential for the small amount of ash being lost within a cremator.
Turbulence within the cremation chamber is reduced, the use of a metal tray on which the small coffin is placed thus helping to protect the ash, and careful placement within the cremation chamber are some of the modifications to procedure that are employed. There may be some instances where it has not been possible to recover any ash however these are minimal. You can ask your local crematorium about their process and success rate in recovering ashes from the cremations of babies.
14. Can more than one body be cremated at a time?
The aperture through which the coffin passes in the cremator and the cremation chamber are of dimensions that will only safely accept one coffin. However, exceptions can be made in the case of a mother and baby or small twin children, so long as the next of kin or executor has made this specific request. There have been a small number of instances where elderly couples have died within a day or two of each other both being cremated in the same coffin. This is not unlawful provided that the applicant for cremation has made this request. The only thing that would prevent this happening is if the coffin were too large to pass through the aperture into the cremator as mentioned above. Most crematoria will allow public inspection of the ‘behind the scenes’ procedures in an attempt to enlighten the public on all aspects of the cremation process. Many crematoria will carry out shared cremations of fetuses in instances where parents do not want to make private arrangements. These are arranged via hospitals. Some parents gain some comfort from knowing that their baby was laid to rest with others. The practice of shared cremation is supported by Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.
15. Are coffins sold back to funeral directors for re-use?
No. The coffin and the body inside are cremated together. There are occasions where the deceased or the family of the deceased have opted for using a cardboard coffin in which their loved one will be cremated. When this happens families sometimes want to have a more aesthetically pleasing coffin or container on the catafalque during the service. Families therefore will opt for either a pall (a cloth covering the cardboard coffin), or a 'cocoon coffin' (an outer shell that covers the cardboard coffin) or will decorate a cardboard coffin themselves. Neither the pall nor the cocoon is cremated. It is important to understand that the pall and cocoon do NOT contain the body of the deceased; they are simply superficial coverings for a cardboard coffin.
16. What happens to the metal that is left in the ashes?
In the past all crematoria removed metal such as orthopaedic implants and screws used in the construction of the coffin and disposed of the metal by burying it within the grounds of the crematorium. In recent years the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management introduced a scheme whereby the applicant for cremation can give consent for the metal to be recycled. Approximately 50% of UK crematoria are recycling scheme members. The surplus produced by the scheme, after transport, sorting and smelting costs have been deducted, is donated to charities nominated by member crematoria. By early 2015 the scheme had given £2 million to charities. Precious metal such as jewellery left on the deceased will melt during the cremation process, combine with ash and become granular and hence unrecognisable. Some is lost within the cremator and some will be within the ashes. A proportion is found in the containers where other metals are kept whilst awaiting recycling. The Institute would strongly advise that jewellery is not left on the deceased but is retained by the relatives as it is more valuable to them. An applicant for cremation using a crematorium that is in membership of the metal recycling scheme should be given the options of either recycling the metal or having it returned with the ashes. The Institute believes that those crematoria that do not recycle should gain consent to bury the metal in the grounds of the crematorium or return it to the applicant.
17. Can I visit a crematorium and see what happens behind the scenes?
Yes. All crematoria will arrange for such a visit if given prior notice. The visit may take place whilst cremations are taking place or when not; the choice is yours. This open door policy helps to dispel the myths that have been explained above. On seeing the cremation process the viewer can be reassured that all cremations take place individually, coffins are cremated with the deceased and that identity is maintained throughout the process so that a family can be sure that they receive the correct ashes.
18. Where can I find out more information about cremation?
The ICCM Charter for the bereaved gives detailed information about all aspects of the cremation process and encompasses environmental and social aspects. Cremation authorities that have adopted the Charter for the Bereaved will provide information and guidance and you can obtain a full reference copy of the Charter document from the ICCM website at www.iccm-uk.com/iccm
No login password is required as the site is fully open to everyone.
19. Where is a Garden of Remembrance and what facilities may be provided
The Gardens of Remembrance consist of special areas, often adjacent to the crematorium,
set aside for the disposal of cremated remains. They are used continually for this
purpose and as a result it may not be possible or appropriate to mark or identify
the exact location of individual cremated remains. The Gardens are normally arranged
to provide a focal point for
visitors and may include a variety of memorial facilities.
20. What memorial facilities are available at the crematorium?
All crematoria have some form of memorial facility. The most usual form of permanent
memorial is The Book of Remembrance. The book is usually displayed in a special
memorial chapel and entries are available for viewing either automatically on the
anniversary of the date of death or on request. Some crematoria provide wall or
kerb mounted plaques in stone or metal although these are normally purchased for
a limited period only. Roses, trees and shrubs may be dedicated at some crematoria
for periods which may be extended by agreement. Donations are often accepted for
the provision of items to be used at all crematoriums or for the embellishment of
the buildings or grounds. The Funeral Director should be aware of the memorial options
available but direct enquiries to the Crematorium Registrar will ensure that full
details are provided together with a scale of charges.
21. What is the procedure followed at the crematorium on the day of the
The mourners will normally gather at the crematorium in the waiting room or close
to the entrance of the chapel a few minutes before the appointed time of the funeral
service. It is not usual for the ceremony to commence before the published time.
When the principal mourners are ready to proceed, the coffin will be conveyed into
the chapel by the Funeral Director unless family bearers are used by request. The
coffin will be placed on the catafalque and mourners will be directed to their seats
after which the service will proceed. At the moment during the service when the
committal of the body takes place the coffin may be obscured from view by curtains
or withdrawn from the chapel. At the end of the service the mourners leave the chapel
and may then inspect the floral tributes.
22. What happens to the coffin after the committal?
The coffin is withdrawn into the committal room where the nameplate is carefully
checked by the crematorium staff to ensure the correct identity. An identity card
will then accompany the coffin and the resultant remains until their final disposal
or removal from the crematorium.
23. Can relatives witness the committal of the coffin to the cremator?
The reception of the coffin into the committal room and its introduction into a
cremator can be witnessed by arrangement with the Crematorium Registrar. It is preferable
to advise the Funeral Director of these requirements as early as possible when making
the funeral arrangements.
24. Is the cremation of a body governed by a code of ethics and working
Cremation Authorities who are members of the Federation of British Cremation Authorities
are required to operate strictly in accordance with a Code of Cremation Practice.
This Code, which provides the only ethical standard of cremation practice in Great
Britain, is often displayed in the public areas of the building.
25. How soon after the service will the cremation take place?
The cremation will usually commence shortly after the service, but always within
24 hours of the service.
26. Should items of jewellery be left on a body for cremation?
It is preferable that all items of jewellery be removed from the body before the
coffin is conveyed to the crematorium. The Funeral Director should ascertain your
wishes in respect of this matter when the funeral arrangements are being discussed.
It will not be possible to recover any items of jewellery after the coffin has been
received at the crematorium.
27. What procedures are followed to ensure that cremated remains are kept
A cremator can physically accept only one coffin at a time and all remains are removed
before the unit can be used again. The identity card, referred to previously, accompanies
the coffin and cremated remains throughout the process until final disposal. The
Code of Ethics and practical necessity are complimentary and combine to ensure that
the separation of cremated remains is achieved.
28. How are cremated remains treated at the crematorium?
Cremated remains are removed from the cremator only when no further reduction is
possible. The remains are withdrawn into a cooling area and finally into a special
container for transfer to a purpose made unit which, after removal of ferrous metals,
will reduce the residue to a fine consistency suitable for storage and eventual
disposal. The remains are enclosed in a suitable and carefully identified container
to await dispersal or collection.
29. What quantity of remains will there be following a cremation?
The cremation of an adult will normally result in the presentation of cremated remains
weighing between 2 and 4 kg. In the case of a body of an infant it may not be possible
to guarantee that any remains will be collectable. This is due to the cartilaginous
nature of the bone structure.
30. What happens to the cremated remains strewn on the ground?
The cremated remains, which have assumed a granular form, are normally distributed
over a wide area of ground. Chemical reactions resulting from exposure to the elements
quickly break down the remains so that within a few days little trace of them can
be observed. Some crematoria follow the practice of dressing the area where the
cremated remains have been dispersed, with a suitable mixture of loam and sand.
31. Can cremated remains be interred and their position marked with a memorial?
The Gardens of Remembrance attached to a crematorium do not provide for the erection
of permanent memorials. Cremated remains interred in Gardens of Remembrance are
not normally contained in a casket or container of any kind. If it is required to
inter cremated remains in a grave with traditional facilities for memorialisation,
suitable enquiries should be made to the Registrar responsible for the selected
32. Can cremated remains be retained by the family pending final disposal?
The Applicant for cremation may collect and retain the cremated remains if required.
Cremated remains can be retained at the crematorium for a limited period though
a charge may be made for this facility.
33. What arrangements can be made to ensure that cremation is the selected
method of disposal following death?
Clear instructions in writing should be given to the person who will be responsible
for making the funeral arrangements. Such instructions are not binding in law and
it will therefore be necessary to ensure that the person instructed is someone who
is likely to carry out the wishes of the deceased. The final decision will rest
on the executors.
34. Can more information be obtained concerning cremation and if required
can a crematorium be visited by members of the public?
The matters referred to previously may be discussed in more detail with the staff
of the crematorium. The staff will be pleased to answer further questions and make
arrangements for any member of the public to be accompanied on a visit to the crematorium.