There is no legal requirement to use the services of a traditional high street funeral director. It is perfectly feasible to handle a lot of the process yourself – and you can make use of niche Direct Cremation and Simple Cremation specialists who will handle transportation of the body and the paperwork required for the cremation.
The cremation will take place at a licenced crematorium. These are normally located within the grounds of a cemetery and usually provide a chapel for the cremation service.
Some families opt to have a separate funeral service prior to the cremation, however there is no requirement to do this. Most crematoria have a chapel that can accommodate the mourners and a short committal service can be conducted prior to the body being cremated. You can then decide what to do with the cremated remains.
What happens at a cremation?
The body is transported to the crematorium in a hearse (the name for a vehicle used to carry the dead in a coffin/casket). The coffin will be brought into the chapel (by the funeral director or pallbearers) and placed on the catafalque (a raised platform located near the cremator). This can happen before or after the mourners enter the chapel.
You can then conduct a short service (the booking is usually available in half hour slots). This could be conducted by family members or a friend. Alternatively you may wish to appoint the funeral director or hire a celebrant to do this.
After the service and words of committal have been spoken, the coffin is moved into the cremation chamber and the cremation begins. You normally have the option for curtains to close around the coffin but it’s not really necessary. The mourners may depart either before this happens or afterwards.
Preparation of cremation paperwork
Once you have registered the death, you should have all the paperwork in place which, for a cremation, is the following:
- Certificate for Burial or Cremation (a green square form known as ‘the Green Form’). This is issued by the registrar free of charge and gives permission for a burial or an application for cremation. For deaths reported to the coroner, different forms apply (see here).
- Authorisation or Release Form (known as the ‘Yellow form’). This is issued by the hospital bereavement office if the body is being held at the hospital mortuary. Hand this form to the person who will collect the body.
- Cremation Form 1: This is the main form you will need in order to apply for cremation of the person who has died. In addition to details regarding the death, you will specify on the form the name of the crematorium, the name of the funeral director and what will happen with the ashes. You also need to include details of any implant placed in the body which may become hazardous when the body is cremated (e.g. a pacemaker).
- Cremation Forms 4 and 5: These are two medical certificates to confirm the cause of death. These papers are issued by the hospital mortuary and need to be taken to the crematorium a few days before the service to be inspected and approved by an independent doctor there before cremation can go ahead. The cost for this is £164 in England (no charge in Scotland).
If the death was reported to the Coroner, then the following forms take the place of Cremation Forms 4 and 5:
- Cremation Form 6: The certificate issued by the Coroner if there has been a coroner’s post mortem examination.
Various cremation forms can be found on the gov.uk website here.
Making arrangement prior to the cremation
- The coffin: The majority of funerals are cremations, meaning that the coffin will be presented for less than an hour. Bear this in mind when deciding on the budget for the coffin, a basic coffin is usually sufficient.
- Transportation: The body will need to be transported from the hospital mortuary or chapel of rest to the crematorium. A specialist vehicle (a ‘hearse’) is used for this.
- Carrying the coffin: You need to ensure there are enough pallbearers arranged to carry the coffin into the crematorium chapel. Costs can be avoided by using a wheeled transporter instead.
- An urn or casket: a container for cremated remains (crematoriums only supply standard plastic containers). Unless specified, these will be delivered in a plastic container, so you may wish to obtain a biodegradable container if the ashes will be interred. To buy urns online: www.urnsuk.com
- Flowers: you may wish to appoint a florist and ask mourners to place their orders with the florist. Alternatively, buy and bring your own flowers on the day.
- Music: music can be played over a sound system – most crematoria have these. Be sure to pick your music choices in advance (see Obitus system).
Optional extras are:
- A celebrant or minister
- Order of service
- Press notices
What happens with the ashes?
Most crematoria will provide the ashes in a container that can be collected by you or a person nominated by you, including your funeral director, a couple of days after the cremation. A Certificate of Cremation will be provided with the ashes.
You can then either keep the ashes at home in an urn or organise a formal burial of the ashes (‘Committal of Ashes’) or a more informal scattering of ashes.
Committal of Ashes
The burial of cremated remains is called the Committal of Ashes. The final resting place for cremated remains is a personal choice (e.g. a crematoriums memorial garden, a cremated remains plot in a cemetery, or a place of your choosing).
If you choose a memorial garden, the crematorium will offer a choice of options to commemorate the deceased:
- Placques: Wall placques, Floris placques, Posy vases
- Living memorials: Trees or shrubs
- Stone memorials: Vase blocks, Sanctum vaults or Wall niches
- Granite and Wooden Benches
- Hall of remembrance: This includes an entry in a book of remembrance.
Scattering of Ashes
There is no requirement to have a formal committal of ashes. You may simply choose to organise a private scattering of ashes, attended by friends and family, in any location you wish or in some woodland burial sites. To scatter ashes in private grounds, obtain consent from the landowners first.
If you are transporting the ashes overseas, you should obtain a special certificate from the crematorium and ensure the ashes are in a non-metallic urn.
To make scattering of ashes easier, you can buy scatter tubes in various sizes.
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