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What is a direct cremation?

Last updated 23rd January 2020

A direct cremation is a cremation with no funeral service, no ceremony performed beforehand, and no attendees. The ashes will be returned to the family to do with as they wish.

Direct cremations are becoming increasingly popular, thanks to the likes of David Bowie who chose it as a no-fuss farewell.

If you’re interested in a direct cremation, read below to find out if it could be right for you and your funeral wishes.

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What is a direct cremation?

How does a direct cremation work?

What does a direct cremation include?

Direct cremation costs

How does a direct cremation differ from a traditional cremation?

Why might a direct cremation be right for me?

Simple grey cremation urn.

What is a direct cremation?

A direct cremation is the term used in the funeral industry for the quickest and simplest cremation available. It's a cremation with no funeral service, or ceremony performed beforehand.

It’s sometimes also known as a basic cremation, cremation without ceremony, or simple cremation.

After death, the body goes straight to the crematorium to be cremated usually in a very simple, plain coffin. After the cremation, the remains are returned to the loved ones, to be kept or scattered according to their wishes.

How does a direct cremation work?

Before a direct cremation can take place, there is some paperwork that needs to be completed.

If the deceased has chosen SunLife’s funeral plan, guidance and paperwork collection will be provided. This is organised by Simplicity Cremation, part of Dignity, one of the UK’s leading funeral providers.

The cremation will be held at a time suitable for the funeral director. The family will not have the opportunity to attend or view the deceased.

The ashes will be returned to the family to do with as they want, or some funeral providers might offer to scatter the ashes in their garden of remembrance, which can be visited by families.

What does a direct cremation include?

A direct cremation offers a simple disposition option. It doesn’t include any pre-funeral ceremony or formal funeral.

Basic features:

  • The body goes straight to the crematorium after death and is cremated when convenient for the crematorium
  • This eliminates the need for embalming or any other preparations for the body
  • This takes place in a simple coffin
  • The cremation takes place at a crematorium chosen by the funeral provider. The date and time cannot be chosen You won’t be able to choose the time or date.

It also appeals to people who simply can’t afford a traditional funeral service and all the trappings that go with them. And when someone has died abroad, a direct cremation can save the considerable cost of transporting the body home.

Direct cremation costs

In our 2020 Cost of Dying research, we found that the average cost of a direct cremation is now £1,626. Compared to the average cost of a basic funeral at £4,417, direct cremations are a more affordable option.

How does a direct cremation differ from a traditional cremation?

Put simply, a direct cremation is a cremation without a funeral service or a family viewing of their loved one.

The cremation is also held at time suitable for the funeral director, without the opportunity for the family to view the deceased or attend a funeral service.

When choosing a direct cremation, it’s worth checking that the funeral provider will be able to offer support and guidance at this hard time.

As with any cremation, the deceased is always treated with the utmost respect by the funeral director.

The ashes are returned to the family or with some funeral providers they will offer to scatter the ashes in their garden of remembrance. This is a pleasant garden that families can visit to remember their loved ones.

Traditional cremationDirect cremation
Average cremation cost of £3,858* Average cremation cost of £1,656*
Usually a wood effect coffin Coffin is usually simple and practical
Family viewing at a chapel of rest (sometimes may be restricted to office hours) There is no viewing before the cremation
A funeral service at a time agreed between the family and the funeral director will take place at a crematorium. A hearse is normally included and limousines for family and friends can also be arranged The cremation will take place at a time suitable for the funeral provider. As it will not be possible for family and friends to attend, many choose to hold a separate ceremony at a later date when the ashes are returned, to celebrate the life of the deceased

Why might a direction cremation be right for me?

With the average cost of a funeral on the rise, more people are choosing direct cremation as a more affordable option.

But that’s not the only reason for their rise in popularity. As people move away from more traditional funerals, direct cremations offer a variety of new options.

For some people, a traditional burial funeral is the only way they would like to go, or see their loved ones go.

However, there are a few reasons why a direct cremation might be more suitable.

1. The rising cost of funerals

The average cost of a funeral has soared by 130% since we began looking at the Cost of Dying back in 2004.

In 2019, the average basic cost of a funeral is £4,417, while the average cost of a direct cremation is a comparatively low £1,626.

With such a stark difference in price tags, it’s easy to see why a direct cremation might be a preferable option to some.

If cost is a determining factor for you in your choice of funerals, then a direct cremation could help save a considerable amount.

Find out how much a funeral could cost in your area with our funeral cost calculator

2. There are no time constraints

With a direct cremation, there are no timed proceedings, so your loved ones won’t know when the cremation will take place – they’ll be given the ashes afterwards.

Unlike most funerals, which have to take place soon after the death, a direct cremation allows you to postpone the memorial service, giving loved ones more time to make any arrangements.

This can be a good solution for those of us who have family far and wide who may need to travel a great distance.

It also allows for more time for loved ones to grieve and adjust.

Having the ashes, and not having to have the body stored, gives loved ones the time they might need to settle and organise a ceremony whenever and wherever feels right for them.

3. You want to avoid the funeral or cremation service

Some people don’t want their loved ones to witness a cremation or burial.

Whether they’ve had a bad experience of a funeral themselves, or simply don’t want their loved ones to have that as their lasting memory, choosing to opt for a direct cremation relieves that concern.

This also means that if you haven’t had the funeral chat, or made your funeral wishes known, you won’t be leaving your loved ones with any hard decisions to make, like choosing coffins, flowers or types of transportation.

4. You want a non-religious funeral

If you’re looking to move away from a religious funeral, direct cremation is a simple way of doing so.

Whether you’re not religious, or you have friends or family with varied beliefs, the simple nature of a direct cremation allows you to organise any celebration of life or memorial service in the style and place of your choosing.

5. You want less fuss

For some people, the idea of a direct cremation can seem a little too simple. But many people are opting for less fuss.

If you don’t have strong feelings about your funeral, don’t want to spend hours agonising over what coffin or flowers to choose, or simply don’t go in for elaborate displays, a direct cremation could be right for you.

If you are currently looking at different options, see our free funeral cost calculator to find out how much a basic funeral costs where you live.

Whatever you choose, letting your loved ones know your wishes will help them when the time comes, and make sure you get the send-off you want.

Source: Cost of Dying report 2020

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife?

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). 

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.