Cremation vs Burial
If you’re unsure about whether to choose a cremation or a burial for your loved one, this guide will give you all the information you need. From environmental implications to costs, read on to learn more about cremation vs burial and get help making this decision.
What is the cost of Cremation vs Burial?
The costs for a cremation vs burial can differ throughout the UK. On average, you’d expect a cremation to cost approximately £3,885*. For a detailed breakdown of what this cost includes, see our guide to cremation costs.
The costs for burials differ from cremation costs. The average cost of a burial in the UK is £5,033*. Our guide to burial costs goes into what’s included in more detail.
With both cremation and burial fees, it’s important to consider the extra costs involved. The location of the cremation or burial ground will influence the cost of transportation, while the type of service you opt for may increase costs too.
Environmental impact: cremation or burial?
Is cremation better for the environment than burials? There are many different considerations. You’ll need to think about the length of travel for people and flowers for example, and even the clothes the deceased will be dressed in.
Cremations and the environment:
The cremation process inevitably releases gasses into the atmosphere which are not released by the burial process. However, it is important to note that Crematoriums must adhere to stringent standards and processes in order to make the process as environmentally friendly as possible.
Embalming and the environment:
The chemicals used for embalming are toxic and carcinogenic. When an embalmed body is buried, these chemicals can leak out into the surrounding area and groundwater. However, the embalming process is not a requirement of burial. Bodies can be buried without being embalmed.
Eco-friendly coffins and caskets:
There are numerous eco-friendly funeral options available, from cardboard to wool, bamboo to banana-leaf. These minimise the impact on the environment by using sustainable resources and minimising the amount of wood used.
Eco-friendly funerals and woodland burials:
People are increasingly looking for eco-friendly funeral options such as woodland burials, which minimise the impact on the environment. There are 260 green burial sites throughout the UK and an increasing range of funeral options available for people who are more environmentally conscious.
If your loved one had a strong belief in preserving the environment and you need to factor in eco-friendly options as part of your decision, read more about eco-friendly burials. You can find out more about eco-friendly ways to dress the deceased, alternative coffin materials that have less of an environmental impact, different ways to travel to and from the cremation or burial and suggestions for a greener and more sustainable wake.
Cremation vs burial: The process
For many, an understanding of what actually happens during a burial or cremation may influence their decision.
The cremation process:
The coffin or casket will be brought into the crematorium by pallbearers, who will place it on a raised platform called a catafalque, ready for the committal. Different crematoria will manage the committal in different ways, usually by closing curtains around the coffin, or by lowering it out of sight.
Once the committal has taken place, the coffin will be taken into a committal room where the paperwork will be checked before it is placed into the cremator. The cremation itself takes between 60-90 minutes, after which the ashes are allowed to cool, before being transferred to an urn and stored, ready for collection. Our guide to what happens during a cremation will help to demystify the process.
The burial process:
A burial service usually takes place after the main funeral service. Once the coffin has been lowered into the ground, it is a common tradition to scatter soil onto the coffin. Other people may choose to throw funeral flowers into the grave.
When the ceremony concludes, family and friends place floral tributes near the grave and the gravediggers will fill the grave. Our what is a burial service page provides more information on what to expect at a burial.
Traditional burial vs cremation – religious beliefs
Your loved one’s religious beliefs may influence your decision to choose a cremation or burial for them. Some religions have differing views on cremation altogether, sometimes making a burial the default option:
Buddhists - Cremation or burial is acceptable to the Buddhist faith, although Cremation is more traditional.
Catholics – historically cremation was banned by the Catholic church, but nowadays it is widely accepted. But – most Catholic churches prefer the body to be present for Funeral Mass, meaning the cremation would have to wait until after this ceremony.
Christians - All Christian denominations accept cremation nowadays, after the Pope lifted the ban on cremation in 1963. Historically, cremation was seen as a sacrilegious act towards Christians and God, as it represented blasphemy and a non-acceptance of resurrection.
Eastern Orthodox – the Eastern Orthodox church prohibits cremation as it represents a denial in the acceptance of the physical body. Cremation is forbidden by Byzantine Canon law.
Hindus – it’s commonplace for all Hindus except for babies, saints and children to be cremated as part of the funeral process.
Orthodox Jews – cremation is not acceptable for Orthodox Jews, who believe all bodies should be buried in the ground.
Mormons – Mormons don’t prohibit cremation, but the Church does prefer bodies to be buried rather than cremated.
Muslims – cremation goes against the beliefs of Islam, meaning Muslims are prohibited from choosing cremation as an option.
Sikhs - Cremation is the preferred for Sikh funerals. Burials are acceptable if the circumstances do not allow for cremation.
After the funeral: Options for burials vs cremations
Whether you opt for a cremation or a burial, there is a wide range of memorials available. For burials, which have a dedicated plot allocated to the burial, headstones are a common choice. However, memorials such as benches, statues and trees are also increasingly common.
One of the key differences between burial and cremation is that the ashes are returned to the family following the cremation. With the location of the memorial less tied to a grave, families often opt to scatter ashes in a memorable place. They may also opt to have a cremation memorial or plaque, to plant the ashes along with a memorial tree, or even to use the ashes to create memorial jewellery.
Struggling with weighing up cremation vs burial?
Your local Dignity Funeral Director will be able to help you decide which is the best option for your loved one. You may align this decision to their personal beliefs or in fact consider their religion as the main influence. Whatever you decide, we’ll be there to help you organise a service that commemorates your loved one in a way that suits you and your family.
*Source: SunLife (2021), Cost of Dying Report, sunlife.co.uk/costofdying2021