The number of direct cremations in the UK is still small compared to traditional cremations that involve a funeral service. Two percent of the total number of cremations in 2018 were direct, but that number is expected to rise quickly (anecdotal evidence points to a doubling in 2019) as a number of factors are making direct cremation more attractive to the British public.
The first is simply an increased awareness that is it possible to have a cremation without a funeral service. Better defined by what it doesn’t have than what it does, the idea of a cremation without a procession, mourners, flowers, cars, readings or eulogies was until recently unfamiliar to most people in Britain.
The current low figures suggests more a lack of awareness rather than a lack of willingness. Recent surveys show that almost half of people who have recently organized a cremation have not heard of a direct cremation. The passing of style icons David Bowie in 2016 and Karl Lagerfield in February this year shone a celebrity spotlight on the idea of a cremation without a ceremony and will hopefully contribute to increased awareness.
Why choose a direct cremation?
While some people see a funeral as an important way to say goodbye, others want to separate their memorial from the distress of their passing. With a direct cremation, the timing of the remembrance ceremony is less rushed; first the cremation is performed unattended, and then the ceremony can be organised at a later date once the ashes have been returned.
Without the time pressure of a formal funeral service, family and friends are free to plan a memorial service at a time, and in a place that suits them. For some people, the simplicity of a direct cremation is the attraction, with neither them nor their family having to worry about the complicated logistics of a full-blown ceremony – from scheduling crematorium time to accommodating travel arrangements for mourners.
The weakening of established funeral traditions in the UK has also meant people feel able to say that they don’t want a traditional send-off. And for many, this opens up the possibility of a direct cremation as a cheaper alternative than significantly more expensive traditional funerals.
The costs of a funeral in the UK is as high as it has ever been with Sun Life reporting last year that the average amount paid for a basic funeral had risen to £4,271; burials averaged £4,798, cremations averaged £3,744. Direct cremation, with an average cost of £1,712, is about £2,000 less expensive.
In a survey for the Cost of Dying report 2018, SunLife’s found that 98% of people who had organised a funeral did not want a lavish funeral for themselves. The clear cost difference meant that, with the direct cremation option explained, 19% of respondents said they would have considered it for the deceased, and 44% said they would consider a direct cremation for their own funeral.
Likely to add to the popularity of direct cremation, prices are actually falling.
In stark contrast to the costs for other types of funeral, rising almost 5% in the last 12 months, the price paid for direct cremation is down by almost 7% over the same period.
Choosing how, where and when you want your final send-off to be is a very personal decision.
Today, more than ever, the range of choices available to people planning their own funerals is wider than ever. From the most traditional of church services to colourful celebration of life ceremonies, people that want a funeral service for themselves or their loved one have many options.
But equally, whether driven by a desire to avoid making a fuss or to simply save money, direct crematorium is increasingly an option being considered by people making their own end of life plans.