Direct cremation or burial? Pros and cons to consider

- 15/10/21

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Whether you’re planning ahead or supporting a loved one in their time of need, the choice between a direct cremation or burial can be a complex one with many factors to consider. Cost implications, the environmental impact and religious beliefs are just some of the points that people take into account when planning a funeral.

We’ll show you the different options available so that you can make the best decision for your family. Especially if you’re trying to decide between a cremation or a burial.

Direct Cremation vs Burial

The Direct Cremation Process

During a cremation, the coffin is brought directly to the crematorium and placed on a raised platform known as a catafalque. Following a service, the coffin is then ‘committed’ for cremation. The committal is done in different ways depending on the crematorium, some may close curtains and others may close a small set of doors around the coffin. Once the committal has taken place, the deceased will be taken into a private area to be cremated.

The process itself takes approximately two hours. When the cremation is complete, ashes and any unburnt remains are ground into a fine powder, creating ashes. With the ashes ready, they’re transferred to simple urns which are either scattered by staff in the crematorium grounds or returned to the family.

This is one of the key differences between burial and cremation, the remains can be returned to the family to scatter themselves or as a keepsake to remember their loved one.

For more information, you can read our full guide on what happens at a cremation.

The Burial Process

A burial usually takes place as part of a wider funeral service, bringing an end to the ceremonies. At a burial, once the coffin has been lowered into the ground, mourners typically scatter handfuls of soil over it to signify committal. Flowers are also sometimes thrown into the grave alongside the soil.

Once the service has concluded, friends and family leave floral tributes before gravediggers begin filling the grave.

Cost Differences Between Cremation and Burial

On average, you can expect to pay less for cremation than burial[1]. This is particularly true if you decide to go with a direct cremation where costs start from just £995. A direct cremation is a low-cost alternative to a traditional funeral since there are no processions, flowers, cars. As direct cremations are arranged directly with a cremation specialist, there’s is no need to pay extra for a funeral director to arrange the funeral.

While unattended cremations have the lowest costs, you can also have intimate private cremations that start from £1,345 and larger attended cremations that start at £1,845.

As burials usually take place as part of a wider funeral service and ceremony, and require the use of more resources, they tend to cost more. The average cost of a funeral with burial in the UK comes in at £5,033 although that tends to change dramatically depending on where the burial takes place[1].

Which is Better For the Environment: Cremation or Burial?

There are lots of environmental aspects to take into account when planning a cremation or burial. For example, if you’re expecting a lot of mourners to attend there’ll be the impact of travel as well as any flowers left for the deceased. Even the clothes your loved one is buried in addition to the cost if you’re buying new or having their favourite clothes specially cleaned.

The Environmental Impact of Cremations

Even though the cremation process produces high levels of CO2, cremations actually use far fewer resources when compared with burials. However, steps are being taken to ensure cremations become more environmentally friendly. In fact, our own Sirhowy Valley crematorium, recently became the first crematorium in the country to adopt a new Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA) policy dedicated to minimising the environmental impact of cremations. All crematoria in our network also follow these guidelines.

The Environmental Impact of Burial

Similarly, burials come with their own set of environmental challenges. The chemicals used during the embalming process are carcinogenic and when the body is buried, these chemicals can potentially leak into the surrounding area.

Although embalming is not always carried out before a burial, other elements such as the carbon footprint of the coffin and tombstone production should also be considered.

Religious Beliefs

Religious beliefs are also a large influence when deciding whether to have a burial or cremation for the deceased. Some religions have specific views on how the body should be laid to rest after death while others allow both cremation and burial amongst its followers.


Both burial and cremation are acceptable within the Buddhist faith, however cremation is considered the more traditional option. When David Bowie died in 2016 , he opted for direct cremation and had his ashes scattered in Bali in accordance with Buddhist tradition.


For funerals, the Catholic Church prefers that the body of the deceased is present for funeral mass. In Catholicism, burial has been the traditional choice, however in more recent times cremation has become just as popular. If a member of the Catholic Church is being cremated, the funeral service is usually held in a Catholic church for funeral mass before being transferred to the crematorium after.


Historically, cremation has been considered blasphemy across various Christian demonstrations as it was considered to be a representation of the rejection of resurrection, which the body was necessary for. However, this is now considered outdated, with most faith groups accepting cremation.


Cremation is commonplace within the Hindu faith apart from when infants or saints pass. According to Hindu death rituals, the deceased should be cremated within 24 hours of death as cremation is believed to be the quickest way to release the soul from the body and aid their reincarnation.


Depending on the branch of Judaism followed, cremation may or may not be allowed. In the Jewish Orthodox faith, it’s believed all bodies should be buried in the ground, disallowing cremation. However, non-Orthodox Judaism accepts cremation and is an ever-increasing choice amongst its members.


Within Islam, funeral rights are prescribed by divine law. The preparation and burial of the deceased following a death is considered a sacred duty, with strict guidelines for the body to be buried intact with minimal interference after death. As a result, cremation is considered a desecration of the deceased by many Muslims.


Cremation is the preferred option for Sikhs as similar to Hindu beliefs, the cremation assists in the release of the soul from the body. Although burial is accepted if a cremation can’t take place.

Which is Better Cremation or Burial?

Cremations and burials are very different ways in which to say goodbye to a loved one. Both come with distinct pros and cons that may, or may not, suit your needs. If you’re still unsure, it may be worth speaking with one of our advisors who’ll be able to talk you through all of the processes and options that come with one of our cremations.

If you’re planning ahead, check our simple, low cost and fuss-free, prepaid cremation plans.


  1. SunLife (2021)

Distinct Cremations is a trading name of Distinct Cremations Limited I Registered in England, No. 13366310 and Distinct Funeral Plans Limited (Prepaid Funeral plan provider) I Registered in England, No. 13366327 | Registered Office Westerleigh Crematorium, Westerleigh Road, Bristol BS37 8QP | Part of the Westerleigh Group |