Caring for a person’s body after their death is a significant responsibility. While some families choose to bury their loved ones, others opt for cremation. The hitch? These cremation services can cost thousands of dollars, rendering them financially impractical or downright unaffordable for many families.
There are plenty of cases where you may be responsible for arranging a cremation. If the deceased did not have life insurance or make funeral arrangements in advance, you may be tasked with making these decisions on behalf of the family—or all by yourself, if there is no remaining family in the picture.
If you find yourself in the difficult, stressful, and uncomfortable position of making cremation arrangements, it’s perfectly natural to seek affordable alternatives to traditional funerals. And that’s exactly what direct cremation is—an affordable, low-cost cremation option that skips the funeral service altogether.
What is Direct Cremation?
Direct cremation is a type of cremation that does not involve a funeral service or viewing of the body before cremation takes place. In a traditional cremation, the body is typically present at the funeral service before it is taken to the crematorium.
With direct cremation, there is no funeral service. The body is taken directly from the place of death—usually a hospital or nursing home—to the crematorium. In many cases, the body must also be referred to the local medical examiner or coroner for approval before cremation can take place.
How Much Does Direct Cremation Cost?
You can get direct cremation for under $1,000 in most cities as long as you diligently research affordable providers in your area. On the other hand, a cremation with a service averages almost $7,000 according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
The cost of direct cremation varies depending on the cremation provider, the geographic location, and the type of container used to transport the body. As a result, it’s important to compare prices from multiple providers before making a decision.
Is There Anything Cheaper Than Direct Cremation?
Direct cremation is the most affordable type of cremation available. In fact, it’s often referred to as “low-cost” or “basic” cremation because it is the simplest type of cremation with the fewest add-ons.
For sanitation reasons, there are strict regulations regarding the handling of human remains. This includes rules about how long a body can be kept before cremation, how the body must be transported to the crematorium, and what type of container the body must be placed in for transport. All of these regulations add time and costs to traditional funeral services—costs that are avoided with direct cremation.
If funeral costs are your primary concern and you don’t feel the need for a traditional funeral service or viewing, direct cremation is likely your best and cheapest option.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Direct Cremation
There are both advantages and disadvantages to direct cremation. On the plus side, direct cremation is usually much less expensive than a traditional funeral service with cremation. It can also be less emotionally charged since there is no viewing of the body or funeral service to attend.
On the downside, some people may find the lack of formal service or viewing to be too impersonal. And without a funeral service, you won’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to your loved one in the company of friends and family.
These disadvantages may be seen as more significant for people who place high importance on tradition or who feel that the funeral service is an important part of the grieving process.
If spirituality is important to you, a traditional funeral service may also be seen as a more significant way to honor the life of the deceased.
How to Plan a Direct Cremation
If you’ve decided that direct cremation is the right choice for your situation, there are a few steps you’ll need to take to make arrangements.
The first step is to find a cremation provider in your area. You can typically find these businesses listed in the yellow pages under “cremation” or “funeral homes.”
Once you’ve found a few providers, call each one and ask for a price list. Be sure to ask about any additional charges that may apply, such as transportation fees or the cost of an urn. You can save a ton of money by purchasing your urn separately rather than buying one through the crematorium.
Once you’ve selected a provider, you’ll need to make arrangements for the transportation of the body. This can typically be done through the funeral home or cremation provider.
Finally, you’ll need to obtain the necessary paperwork and death certificates. The specific requirements vary by state, but you’ll typically need to provide a death certificate and proof of the deceased’s identity. You may also need to obtain a cremation permit from the local medical examiner or coroner.
Direct Cremation and Your Spirituality
For many people, the decision of whether or not to have a formal funeral service is largely based on their spirituality.
If you practice a religion that does not require death rites or a service, direct cremation may be seen as perfectly acceptable. In fact, some religions—such as Hinduism and Buddhism—actually prefer cremation over burial.
On the other hand, if you believe that the funeral service is an important part of the grieving process or a way to honor the life of the deceased, you may feel that direct cremation is too impersonal.
If you yourself are not a spiritual individual, but you’re handling the remains of a stranger, you should always err on the side of caution and attempt to discern the wishes of the deceased before making any final arrangements.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to have a formal funeral service is a personal one. Consulting with your religious leader can be a good way to help you make this decision.
Other Common Questions About Direct Cremation
Still have questions about direct cremation? Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
How Long Does It Take for a Direct Cremation?
The actual cremation process only takes about 2-4 hours depending on the size of the body. Once the cremation is complete, the ashes need to be processed, which can take a few more hours using specialized machinery. This grinds down any large pieces of bone into a fine powder and sanitizes the ashes.
Keep in mind that the entire process—from the time of death to the final disposition of the ashes—can take several days. This is due to the fact that paperwork and permits are required before a cremation can take place.
How Quickly Can a Body Be Cremated After Death?
This depends on the cremation provider and the laws of your state. In most jurisdictions around the United States, a body must be approved by the medical examiner before it can be cremated. This is because cremation is a permanent process, and it’s important to make sure that there is no foul play involved in the death before the body is no longer available for examination.
In other parts of the world, such as Japan, it’s not uncommon for a body to be cremated as little as 24 hours after death.
Can I Have a Viewing if I Choose Direct Cremation?
No. This is the difference between direct cremation and a traditional funeral service with cremation. With a traditional service, the body is present for a visitation or viewing before it is cremated. Direct cremation skips this step and goes straight to the cremation process.
However, you can choose to privately stage a memorial service without the body present.
There is no reason you must hire a funeral home to do this—you can easily stage a memorial service at your church, in your backyard, or even at a public park. The significant difference is that there will not be any viewing available for friends and family members who wish to pay their respects.
If you do want to have a viewing, you can still opt for cremation, but you’ll need to make arrangements to have the body professionally embalmed and presented in an expensive casket.
Do I Need to Purchase a Casket for Direct Cremation?
No. You are not required to purchase a casket for direct cremation. In fact, funeral homes are required to provide you with a simple unfinished container that is specifically designed to save costs for direct cremation.
This alternative container is usually made of cheap wood and is not intended for public viewing. It simply serves to protect the body during transport from the place of death to the crematory.
Once you receive the cremation ashes, you’ll need a final storage vessel. If cost is your primary reason for considering direct cremation, you can find extremely affordable discount urns in our store.
You can also purchase an urn at a funeral home, but they will be significantly more expensive than buying one directly from the manufacturer through Memorials.com.
How Do I Know My Loved One is Handled With Care During Cremation?
When you choose a licensed cremation provider, you can be confident that your loved one will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity.
The body will be prepared for cremation in accordance with the wishes of the family, and all personal belongings will be removed before transport.
The body is then placed in a simple container or casket and transported to the crematory. Once at the crematory, the body is placed in the cremation chamber and incinerated at a very high temperature.
After the cremation is complete, the ashes are carefully gathered, processed, and placed in an urn or other storage vessel.
The entire process is closely monitored to ensure that your loved one is treated with care and respect at all times.
Who Can Attend the Cremation?
Attendance of the cremation itself is usually limited to close family members and close friends of the deceased.
However, each crematorium has different policies, so it’s best to check with the crematorium beforehand.
Remember, a direct cremation does not include a public viewing or funeral service, so the crematorium may severely restrict attendance depending on their available accommodations.
The party responsible for arranging the cremation may be the only person allowed to attend.
What Are the Cremation Ashes Used For?
The cremation ashes, or cremains, are the cremated remains of the body after cremation. They are typically stored in cremation urns or other storage vessels and may be kept at home, buried in a cemetery, or scattered in a special location.
This is a growing trend, and there are many companies that specialize in creating unique memorials from cremation ashes.
If you choose to bury the cremains in a cemetery, you may be required to purchase a plot of land or mausoleum space.
The cost of the land will depend on the location and size of the plot, but it can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
As a result, if you’re considering direct cremation primarily for economic reasons, you may want to consider keeping or spreading the ashes rather than laying them to rest in a burial.
Is Direct Cremation Right for Me?
Direct cremation is an increasingly popular choice for those looking for a simple, affordable, and dignified way to care for their loved ones after death.
It’s important to remember that direct cremation does not include a public viewing or funeral service, so it’s not right for everyone.
If you’re considering direct cremation, take the time to learn about the process and what to expect.
You should also consider your own needs and desires, as well as the wishes of your loved ones. Only you can decide whether direct cremation is the right choice for you.