The Standard Cremation Process - 2021
Almost 80% are cremated. The UK has one of the highest rates in the world.
However most people are unsure about what happens at a crematorium, the cremation process and what happens with to the ashes afterwards.
Here is a basic overview of what happens in the UK (other countries may differ), it should help answer your questions…
1. What happens at the crematorium on the day of the funeral?
The coffin is brought in followed by the mourners. The coffin is placed on the catafalque (a raised and decorated platform). Then there is a service; either religious or secular (see below). Then the committal (removal of the coffin) takes place, the coffin may be obscured from view by curtains closing around it, different crematoria have different ways of doing this: sometimes the coffin is lowered from sight, or withdrawn through a gateway. Then the mourners leave the chapel.
2. Do I have to have a religious service?
No. You can have a religious, non religious or no service at all if you choose, if you are non religious, but wish to have a service conducted you may wish to use the service of a Celebrant - who can conduct non-religious, semi religious, spiritual ceremonies. Check here for Celebrants
For religious services contact your faith leader, as you will need to discuss which type of service you want.
3. How long does the cremation service last?
The whole process take between 40 minutes and an hour. Different crematorium have different durations, you should make sure you have allowed enough time for people to enter the chapel, hold the service and leave.
You are not allowed to impact on the time of those coming before or after you. This is not the funeral directors fault, they have to follow the time allotted by the crematoria.
Note: If you want a longer service speak to your funeral director - they can usually organise this for you (there may be an additional charge).
4. What happens to the coffin after the committal?
It is withdrawn into a committal room where the nameplate of the coffin is checked with the cremation order to ensure correct identity. The coffin is then labelled with a card prepared by the crematorium giving all the relevant information. This card will stay with the body from now on until the release of ashes back to the family.
The coffin is placed in the cremator, which is a cubicle that will only allow for one standard sized coffin to fit.
5. Does the cremation take place immediately?
Usually yes, if not it will be on the same day. The process takes between one to three hours.
6. Is the coffin cremated with the body?
Yes. The coffin is cremated with the body and nothing can be removed from the coffin after committal.
7. What happens to objects that are not combustible e.g. metal nails or jewellery?
A magnet removes the ferrous parts (ironware) and other metals (which now fused with other material and not recognisable) are removed. These traditional have been buried at the crematorium grounds. However many now send them off for recycling.
Note: the best advice would be not to leave jewellery on the deceased as it won’t be part of the ashes you receive back and it can’t be retrieved.
8. Can relatives witness the committal of the coffin to the cremator?
If you wish to yes, normally two people are allowed. You should ask in advance.
9. What happens to the remains after cremation process?
When the cremation process has finished the ashes are placed on a cooling tray. The metals are removed. The ashes transferred to a machine that reduces them in size. This is bone almost entirely bone matter.
Note: Ashes vary in size - depending n the machine used to reduce them. And ashes can vary in colour
10. How long after cremation does it take to get the ashes?
Occasionally ashes can be available for collection on the same day, although ordinarily cremated remains can be ready for collection within one working day.
11. What should I expect to receive after a cremation?
Afterward the crematorium will return the ashes to you (or your funeral director) in an unglamorous container - unless you have specified and paid for something different.
For an adult studies show that on average, the weight of cremated remains for men is about 7.13 pounds (plus or minus 1.2 pounds) roughly 3.5kg and for women, 4.9 pounds (plus or minus 1 pound) roughly 2.5kg.
The container will be the size of a large vase or old style sweet shop container. This is what the cremation authority are required to do - packaging
12. What happens if I choose to leave the ashes at the crematoria?
The ashes will be strewn in the gardens of remembrance if not collect or instructed to do so. A few crematoria have niches where urns may be placed (Columbarium), but these are usually on a lease basis and if not renewed periodically the ashes would be strewn or buried.
13. What are the Gardens of Remembrance at a crematorium?
The gardens of remembrance consist of areas set aside for the disposal of cremation ashes. Usually are not reserved or marked afterwards. Some crematoria offer plaques, dedicated rose bushes or similar – a lot of these are usually on a lease basis, so do check.
14. How long have I got to collect the ashes?
Some crematorium will keep them for up to one month before making a charge to store them. If there has been no prior instruction, they are strewn in the garden of remembrance. Before this happens the crematoria have to give 14 days notice in writing – they write to the person on the documentation at the time of cremation. However ashes are normally passed to the Funeral Director for collection.
13. Can anyone collect the ashes?
No, they will only be released to the funeral director or the person named on the paperwork (usually this is the person who paid for the funeral), those wishing to collect will usually need to bring along some identification. A Certificate of Cremation will be provided with the ashes. This is a legal document with the name of the deceased and date and place of the cremation.
The majority of the answers about the cremation process and what happens at a cremation are based on advice from The Federation of British Cremation Authorities.
The Cremation Process