What happens at a cremation?

- 01/10/21

Many of us are familiar with the idea of cremation, but for those who’ve never attended one the question of what happens at a cremation still remains. While each funeral is unique to the deceased and their families, all cremations will have some similarities.

Here are the answers to your most common questions about what happens before, during and after the cremation process.

What happens at a cremation service?

With the service itself, there’s little difference between a cremation and a burial. Family and friends of the deceased are invited to say their farewells, sing or listen to songs and hymns and spend some time reflecting about their loved one.

During the funeral service, the coffin containing the deceased will be placed at the head of the congregation on a catafalque. Some services include a moment for the mourners to approach the coffin, letting people say their goodbyes. When the service is complete, some crematoria draw curtains around the coffin as the mourners depart. Once the mourners have all left the chapel, the crematorium staff will respectfully begin the cremation of the deceased, away from view of their loved ones.

At a burial, attendees (typically just close friends and family) are invited to attend the interment of the coffin after the service. Whereas with a cremation, the congregation are asked to leave following the service.

If you’ve chosen to have an unattended direct cremation, the deceased will be taken directly to the crematorium and be cremated without a service. This is a fuss-free cremation option for those who want a simple cremation without a ceremony.

How long is a cremation service?

Most cremation services last somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes. For some, a simple 15-minute send-off with some time for reflection and a few words from a family member or a friend is more than enough. For others, a full service with hymns, readings, prayers and eulogies can extend the service time.

The service time can also be affected by whether or not the individual being cremated was religious, with certain ceremonies and traditions being observed prior to the cremation itself. For example, you can expect a humanist service to be shorter than a catholic service.

The Cremation Process - How does a cremation work?

People often wonder what happens at a cremation behind the scenes. Cremation works by burning the remains of the deceased at high temperatures in specialised units called cremators, not too unlike kilns.

To start the cremation process, the coffin is committed to the cremator and the burning process begins. Once the cremation is complete, the remains are gathered together and any metals from the coffin are removed. Then the ashes and any unburnt fragments are placed in a specialised machine that grinds it all into a fine sand-like ash.

How long does the cremation process take?

One of the most common questions around what happens at a funeral is ‘how long does a cremation take?’ Using modern methods, a typical cremation only takes between one and two hours.

Once the cremation has taken place, either the crematoria or the funeral director that organised the funeral will let you know.

What happens to the ashes after the cremation?

After the cremation the ashes are placed in an urn which is either returned to the family of the deceased or scattered at the crematorium by staff.

If you need to arrange a funeral today contact us now and our advisors will guide you through the cremation process and make all the arrangements on your behalf. If you would like a basic low-cost cremation that involves no funeral service, then a direct cremation is the right choice for you. Alternatively, choose an attended direct cremation which enables a small number of attendees to spend some time and say goodbye to their loved one.

Distinct Cremations Limited [Trading as Distinct Cremations] | Registered in England No: 13366310 | Registered Office Westerleigh Crematorium, Westerleigh Road, Bristol BS37 8QP | Part of the Westerleigh Group