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A Complete Guide to the Cremation Process


When a loved one passes away, organising the funeral and memorial service can be difficult to face.  However, you’ll want to take a variety of factors into account, such as the deceased person’s wishes as well as financial concerns.

Cremation is an increasingly common choice, but it can be helpful to learn more about the process involved before making a final decision.

Preparing the Body

Before the cremation process can go ahead, the deceased person’s next of kin must give written authorisation.  In most cases, the funeral home will provide the relatives with this document to be signed and returned.

The funeral director will then process the body, removing any items not wished to be cremated, such as jewellery, and other items that cannot be exposed to high temperatures such as pacemakers.

The body does not need to be embalmed for cremation to take place, but the family may wish to do this if they would like a public viewing of the body or an open casket during the memorial service.

The body will then be placed in a cremation container, which is made out of cardboard with a plywood base, which burns easily.  Sometimes a wooden cremation casket is used instead.

The cremation container will be tagged or clearly marked so that it is easy to identify the cremated remains after they’re returned to the funeral home.  This ensures that the family receive the right remains when they collect the ashes.

The Cremation Process

The cremation container or casket containing the body is then placed in a cremation chamber, also known as a “retort”.  The floors and ceiling are made from fire retardant brick and the stone floor is compounded to withstand high temperatures.

The crematory operator will then start the machine, which will take a short while to warm up before the main burner ignites. The burners are fuelled by natural gas or propane and the temperature in the cremation chamber typically reaches 1000 degrees centigrade or more.

It normally takes between an hour and a half to two hours for the body to be incinerated until only bone fragments remain.  However, some older cremation furnaces may take longer.

The Ashes

The remains will be allowed to cool for thirty minutes to an hour, after which time the bone fragments can be handled.  The cremation remains and bone fragments will then be placed on a table and sorted by hand to remove any screws, nails, surgical pins or metal joint replacements by hand and with a magnet.

The remaining bone fragments will then be placed in a cylindrical container with metal blades at the bottom.  This will reduce the ashes down to a fine powder which can be placed in a plastic bag and within a temporary urn usually provided by the funeral home.  Once this is complete, the family of the deceased will be able to collect the ashes.

Cremation Costs

The cost of cremation is around the £550 – £600 mark.  However, the average cost of a funeral in the UK is now £7,622, so there are many things to consider when deciding what kind of funeral your loved one might have wanted.  In comparison, burial fees are typically more expensive, nearing £2,000.