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The Cremation Process explained


Organising a funeral

According to recent research, 77% of funerals in the UK are cremations. Despite cremations being more popular than burials, most of the process happens behind the scenes, leaving many questions unanswered. When making a big decision about the choice of funeral for your loved one, it can help to understand more about what happens during a cremation.

What happens when my loved one arrives at the crematorium?

This depends on the type of service you have chosen. A service may take place at your place of worship, at the crematorium itself or at another designated venue. Whichever choice you make, your loved one will be treated with the utmost respect and cared for at every step.

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.

What happens after the committal?

The coffin will be taken into a committal room where the identification plate will be checked and paperwork processed. The coffin will usually then be placed into the cremator. The cremation itself takes between 60-90 minutes, after which the ashes are allowed to cool and transferred to a cremulator to ensure that all of the ashes are of an equal size. The ashes are then transferred to an urn and stored, along with identification paperwork, ready for collection. The cremator is then thoroughly cleaned ready for the next cremation to take place.

Can the family observe the cremation?

Most crematoria will allow a family member or a couple of family members to witness the coffin being placed into the cremator. This is known as charging the coffin. Some crematoria are equipped with a viewing area, some have CCTV which allows families to watch from another location in the building and others will allow small groups to be present. If you wish to witness the charging of the coffin, please let your funeral director know.

Is more than one person cremated at the same time?

Each cremator is made to fit one coffin at a time. The only way that more than one person would be cremated at a time is if the crematorium has more than one cremator. Ashes cannot get mixed with those from other cremations.

The identity card accompanies the coffin and cremated remains throughout the process and is attached to the cremator while in use.

What happens to the coffin/casket during the cremation?

The coffin is cremated with the deceased. If you choose to place valuables in the coffin with your loved one, please be aware that these will also be placed into the cremator. Any metals present after cremation will be blackened and mixed with the ashes, before being removed using a magnet. We would therefore strongly recommend removing anything of sentimental value beforehand. Once the process has started, nothing can be retrieved from the coffin or casket.

How long does the cremation take?

The cremation process itself usually takes between 60-90 minutes, depending on the size and type of coffin.

How long does it take to have the ashes returned?

Although it can take up to five days, ashes are usually ready for collection the next working day following the service. In some instances, ashes can be made available on the same day as the cremation. However, it is important to let your funeral director know if you have a specific timescale for having the ashes returned to you. It takes a minimum of 5 hours to prepare the ashes.

Who can collect the ashes?

Ashes can be collected and returned to you by your Funeral Director. However, if you prefer, this can be taken care of by the person detailed on the Application for Cremation. Anyone other than the Funeral Director would need to show photographic ID to the Crematorium before they will release the ashes.

How can I be sure that I have the right ashes?

Most of the cremation process happens behind the scenes. For this reason, it is understandable that people want reassurance that the ashes they receive belong to their loved one.

When the coffin or casket arrives at the crematorium, it will be accompanied by a nameplate and transfer paperwork. This transfer paperwork stays with your loved one from when we first take them into our care right through to when the burial takes place or the ashes are returned to the family. The stringent and regular checks ensure that we have correctly identified the deceased at all times.

How do I know that my loved one will be taken care of?

The Federation of British Cremation Authorities has a strict Code of Cremation Practice, which governs both practical and ethical standards. A copy can be downloaded from the Federation website

What paperwork is needed for a cremation to take place?

Your Funeral Director will notify you of any paperwork required to arrange a cremation. This will usually include the Medical Certificate from the GP (needed by the family to register the death) and the green certificate issued by the registrar. You will also need an application for cremation.


If you have any questions about the cremation process, or the process of organising a funeral, you can contact any of our funeral directors across the UK, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


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