Frequently asked questions around funeral planning

Here’s a selection of our most frequently asked questions. If you’re struggling to find the answer to a question you have please don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of the team who will be happy to assist you with your query.

1968 was the first year in which the number of cremations exceeded disposal by burial for the first time, since then the proportion has increased and now approaches 72% of all funerals.

Yes. Today all Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, allow cremation. It is the normal method for Sikhs, Hindus, Parsees and Buddhists, but it is forbidden by Orthodox Jews and Muslims.

No. Generally the cost of a grave is much higher than the fee charged for cremation. The funeral director’s charges are much the same for both services. The only additional charge for cremation arises when the death has not been referred to the Coroner therefore fees to two doctors have to be paid for the necessary certificates. This does not apply to burial. With cremation there are usually no later costs for headstones, grave care etc., which arise with burial.

The services for burial and cremation are the same apart from the form of committal sentences. The service may take place in one’s own church or chapel with a short committal service in the Crematorium Chapel. Alternatively, the whole service may be conducted in the Crematorium Chapel. You may arrange for your own minister to conduct the service. The form of service should be arranged with the minister and if hymns are to be sung at the Crematorium, the organist there should be advised.

No. This is not obligatory. A civic ceremony can be conducted or there may be none at all. On occasions a memorial service is conducted separately from the cremation ceremony.

The cremation regulations are still quite complicated, and it is wisest to approach a funeral director immediately after death occurs and advise them that you desire to arrange for a cremation. Discuss with them how soon you wish the cremation to take place and whom you wish to officiate at the service, also the form of service. The funeral director will then do all that is needed to produce the necessary statutory forms for the cremation. You will need to sign the statutory form if you are the executor or the next of kin or are authorised by either to do so. The death will have to be registered and you will be advised how to do this.

You will probably be asked how you wish to dispose of the cremation ashes. If you know what you want at this stage, you will be asked to sign an Authorisation Form for the Crematorium to carry out your wishes. If you are undecided DO NOT sign this form. We will retain cremated remains for 2 weeks, to give you time to make a decision.

In 80% of cases, the crematorium ashes are buried in the Gardens of Remembrance at the Crematorium. A few Crematoria have niches where urns may be placed but these are usually on a rental basis and if not renewed periodically the ashes would be buried. The alternative is to remove the cremation ashes from the Crematorium in a suitable urn for disposal elsewhere. This may be burial in a family grave or by strewing the ashes at another Crematorium or in some favourite spot. However, it must be borne in mind that when ashes are strewn in other places, for example, graves, Churchyards, etc., prior permissions must be sought, and any local rules and regulations obeyed.

The Gardens of Remembrance consist of areas set aside for the disposal of cremation ashes. Usually, these areas have been dedicated for the purpose by representatives of the Christian Churches. Ashes may be buried but without any spot being reserved to any one person. Individual memorials are not permitted in such gardens to mark the spot. This is because the areas may be used again over the years for as long as the Crematorium is in operation.

Usually, the only permanent form of memorial available is an entry in the Book of Remembrance. This is usually displayed in a special Memorial Chapel and each day the entries for that day are on display for that person is remembered on the anniversary of the death. Some Crematoria allow Wall Plaques or Plaques on kerbstones, etc. but these are usually for a limited period and require periodical renewal by further payments. At some Crematoria it is possible to dedicate a rose bush or other garden item with a small plaque, but this again is for a limited period with the option of renewal on further payment. Again, some Crematoria are able to accept donations of such items as seats, stained glass windows, etc., where a memorial inscription may be permitted. Others have memorial funds to which relatives can make donations and the monies are used to provide additional embellishments for the grounds or buildings. If you are anxious about memorial facilities at the Crematorium, you should enquire of the funeral director at the time of making the arrangements in order to ascertain what facilities are available. This can avoid disappointment at a later date.

The coffin is usually brought into the Chapel followed by the mourners in procession. While it is being placed on the catafalque, the mourners take their seats and the service proceeds. At the point of committal, the coffin may be obscured from view by means of curtains closing around the catafalque, or it may be withdrawn through a gateway, or lowered from the catafalque into a committal room. The method varies at each Crematorium, but the most common method today is the use of curtains. At the end of the service, mourners leave the Chapel and may inspect the floral tributes before leaving.

It is withdrawn into a committal room where the nameplate of the coffin is checked with the crematorium 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 then until the final disposal of the cremation ashes.

Where possible, the cremation will follow immediately after the service. The Code of Cremation Practice, which is adhered to by members of the Federation of British Cremation Authorities, requires that the cremation shall take place on the same day as the cremation service.

Yes. The Code requires that nothing must be removed from the coffin after it has been received from the Chapel and it must be placed into the cremator exactly as received.

Cremation regulations require that all fittings shall be of combustible material and today the handles and name plate are usually made of hard plastic. Ferrous nails and screws do not burn and stay with the ashes until they are withdrawn from the cremator when they are subjected to a magnetic field which removes them.

The temperature at which a modern cremator operates (between 800°c and 1000°c) is such that these metals are fused with other material so that they are not recognisable. The Code of Practice states that a metallic material resulting from a cremation should be disposed of in accordance with the instructions of the Cremation Authority and recommends that this should be done by burial at a depth within the Crematorium grounds.

The best advice is that it should be removed after death unless it is intended to be cremated. Once the coffin has been placed in the Chapel, there is no way of recovering such items.

No. The only exceptions permitted to this rule are in the case of a mother and baby or twin children when the next of kin requests that the two be cremated together.

Yes, normally two persons are permitted to attend, and the superintendent should be advised in advance of this wish.

Each coffin is identified on arrival and the identity card is placed on the outside of the cremator as soon as the coffin is placed into it. The card stays there until the ashes are removed and it is then transferred to the cooling tray. The ashes then go to the preparation room and the card stays with them, finally being placed in an urn which contains the prepared remains. As each cremator will only accept one coffin, the ashes must be withdrawn before the cremator is used again, all cremation ashes are kept separate throughout the process. The size of the cremation chamber of the cremator is about 7 feet long by 2 feet 6 inches wise by 2 feet 3 inches high

When the cremation is complete, that is, when there is no further combustion taking place, the cremation ashes are withdrawn from the cremator into a cooling tray.
Often cooling is accelerated by means of a fan blowing air on to them. When cool, the ferrous material is removed by means of a magnetic field. The remaining ashes are then placed into a machine which reduces the remains to a fine white ash. All non-ferrous metals are cleared and disposed of in accordance with the Code of Practice.

The ashes are now totally bone ash and usually weigh between 4 and 6 pounds. They are now suitable for strewing.

As the highest bio-chemical activity exists at the surface of the soil and the cremation ashes are of a small granular form, weather and bio-chemical action quickly break down the ashes to form part of the earth, and within a short time there is no trace of them. Where ashes are strewn, it is the practice to dress the area with the suitable loam/sand mixtures to cover the remains.

In such a case it would be necessary to have the ashes buried in a Cremated Remains Grave in a Cemetery or Churchyard where provisions are made for this. The gardens of a Crematorium are not a burial ground within statutory law and when the ashes are buried there it is merely an extension of the idea of strewing and the ashes are not enclosed in an urn.

The applicant may do what they wish with the ashes and may keep them if this is desired. Some Crematoria will place ashes in a repository at the Crematorium if this is desired. An annual charge is made for this facility.

Clear instructions in writing should be given to the person who will be responsible for your funeral when you die. Such instructions are not binding in law so you should ensure that the person instructed is someone who is likely to carry out your wishes. The final decision will rest with your executors.

Telephone or visit your local Crematorium and discuss the matter with the superintendent there. They will be pleased to answer your queries and conduct you through the Crematorium to see how it is operated.

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