5 popular alternatives to a traditional funeral

Alternatives to a traditional funeral have become much more popular in recent years. Below we outline the different options available and look at why people are opting for something a little bit different.

Traditional funeral alternatives

The list of alternatives to a traditional funeral has grown considerably over the past decade, with the option of a direct cremation, a small attended cremation, a celebration of life, or something more environmentally friendly all having risen sharply in popularity,

We look at each traditional funeral alternative below and we also look at the reasons why people opt for something a little bit different - whether that's because they want something a little more upbeat, something more straightforward or something that suits their personality more appropriately.

Direct cremation

A direct cremation, now favoured by 20% of the UK population*, has quickly become the most popular alternative to a traditional funeral and has been preferred by celebrities such as megastar David Bowie, booker prize winner Anita Brookner and rapper Coolio.

Direct cremations are the simplest way to have a funeral and take place without mourners or a funeral service. Upon cremation the ashes will be returned to the family, allowing them to have the option of a memorial service.

Many like the idea of a direct cremation because it allows the family to have a memorial service separate from a funeral which can be a celebratory event rather than a mournful one.

A memorial service gives an opportunity to say goodbye in whatever unique and personal way the family would like, and can therefore be organised as such.

Read more about our direct cremations.

* SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2024, sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs

"Perhaps the example of Bowie and Brookner can help us replace the notion of the funeral as an obligatory and frightening ordeal and replace it with a moment in which death is marked by celebration, recognition and love"

Renowned journalist Rosie Millard [1]

Sue bench with funeral plan guide

Small, attended cremation

A small attended cremation, sometimes referred to as a family-led funeral, is a funeral service designed and guided by the family of the deceased, without a celebrant or religious minister.

This can be arranged with a personal eulogy, an appropriate piece of music and curated to match the personality of the deceased. The choice of how the service looks is entirely with the family.

A small, attended cremation or family-led funeral is an intimate affair usually favoured by those looking to say farewell in the most straightforward way possible. There is no procession and the service can be as traditional or non-traditional as the family want.

With Distinct Cremations, our family-led attended cremations offer either a 10 minute service with up to 8 people attending or a 20 minute service with up to 20 people attending. Our attended cremations start from just £1,499 making them a far more cost-effective alternative to a traditional funeral.

There is also the option to choose and pay for an attended cremation service in advance with a funeral plan. See our Small Attended Cremation Plans, which cost from just £2,099.

“We can confirm that the funeral of the singer George Michael took place today. Family and close friends gathered for the small, private ceremony to say goodbye to their beloved son, brother and friend.”

Statement after George Michael's funeral [2]

Sue bench with funeral plan guide

Our funeral services

At Distinct Cremations we're focused on taking the stress away from your family, making the process as easy and straightforward as possible.

Our cremations are fuss-free, simple and affordable delivered with care, dignity and respect. And from beginning to end, our expert team will be on hand, 24/7, for your support.

Find our services below or alternatively you can view our price list or CMA standardised price list.

Unattended Cremation

From £1,099

Our Unattended Cremation is a great choice for those looking for a simple, low-cost unattended cremation without a funeral ceremony. Unattended cremations take place with no service or mourners present at our high-quality crematoria where dignified care is guaranteed throughout.

View Our Unattended Cremation

Private Cremation

From £1,499

Our Private Cremation is a perfect option for those looking for a fuss-free farewell and a final chance to say goodbye. With an attended cremation you can have up to 20 people attending for a 20 minute service, making this a dignified and affordable option.

View Our Private Cremation

How is a funeral with Distinct Cremations different?

Choosing a simple funeral instead of a traditional cremation lets you celebrate a loved one’s life however you wish, with less stress and no fuss.

You can see the key differences between a simple funeral and a traditional funeral in more detail below.

Cremation with Distinct
A simple funeral with Distinct Cremations

The contemporary, simple, fuss-free farewell, free of tradition

  • A choice of two options: an unattended cremation with no mourners present or an attended cremation with a 20 minute service for up to 20 people
  • A compassionate, attentive team there 24/7 for your questions and support with paperwork
  • A service free of pomp and ceremony
  • You can organise a separate memorial service that's personal and unique to your loved one
  • On average 73% cheaper* than a traditional funeral, with prices starting from just £1,099

* 73% saving is based on the cost of a basic funeral at £4,141 (SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2024, sunlife.co.uk/ funeral-costs) vs the cost of a Distinct Cremations direct cremation at £1,099

Traditional Funeral
Traditional funeral

A fixed format funeral, with a set service

  • A set format 20-50 minute service held in a traditional setting like a church or chapel with mourners present
  • Traditionally less personal and flexible
  • Option to have a procession with a hearse and limousines
  • Funeral and service coordination from a funeral director
  • Costs on average £4,141# for a basic funeral

    # The average cost of a basic funeral in 2023 (SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2024, sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs)

Celebration of life

A celebration of life is an all-encompassing term for a number of different types of funeral and memorial services.

Commonly, a celebration of life can mean a funeral service which is a celebratory event rather than a traditionally mournful one, or a celebratory memorial service held after a funeral or direct cremation at a venue of the family’s choice.

This could be held at a park, at the local pub, on the beach, at someone’s house or wherever feels appropriate. And instead of focusing on mourning the loss, a celebration of life focuses on exactly what it says on the tin: celebrating the life of the deceased.

“It’ll be loud and bright and joyous. That’s the kind of girl she was. It’s one last show before the curtain goes down.”

Christopher Biggins, before his best friend Lynda Bellingham’s funeral [3]

Sue bench with funeral plan guide

Natural burial

Natural burials are a type of green funeral which are fast becoming a popular choice to an alternative funeral as people become more environmentally aware.

A natural burial, occasionally referred to as a woodland burial or green burial, is where the deceased is buried at a green burial site in a natural coffin or shroud.

A green burial site is often in a forest, meadow or wooded area. Currently in the UK, these aren’t especially common, however they are increasing in availability as demand increases.

“He wasn't a churchgoer so it would have been a bit hypocritical given his lifestyle for him to spend eternity in a churchyard. He became a devoted family man and his last wish was for a green funeral.”

A friend, before Peter Stringfellow’s green, woodland burial [4]

Sue bench with funeral plan guide

Water cremation

Otherwise known as a resomation or aquamation, a water cremation is not currently available in the UK, but is popular in other parts of the world.

With a water cremation, the body is placed in a pressurised tank and pressed into powder. It is an environmentally friendlier alternative to a traditional cremation, though the process can take up to 16 hours.

In the same way as the ashes are returned to the family following a traditional cremation, the powder can also be returned to the deceased following a resomation.

"He vociferously campaigned for gentler stewardship of the Earth, and against the coming ravages of climate change, a real example of how human survival rests on our ubuntu-spirited ability to cooperate."

Desmond Tutu’s death notice read ahead of his water cremation [5]

Sue bench with funeral plan guide

Get in touch with us today

Whether you're wanting to arrange a funeral today, interested in funeral plans, or looking for something else, our customer service specialists are here for you 24/7 to answer any questions you may have.

Call on 01543 211997

Other helpful articles

Below are a few further articles that you may be interested in.

Arrange a funeral

Sue Arrange

At Distinct Cremations, we provide no fuss funerals which are simple to arrange, affordable and delivered with care, dignity and respect. Prices start from just £1,099 if you need to arrange a funeral today.

Arrange a funeral

Choosing a provider

Older couple looking at tablet

Choosing a funeral provider is never easy, so we've created a table comparing the best funeral providers' key features and inclusions to help you compare, contrast and choose the right funeral provider for you.

Compare funeral providers

Cremation or burial?

Traditional Burial

Whether you’re planning ahead or supporting a loved one in their time of need, the choice between a cremation or burial can be a complex one with many factors to consider. We explain more in our article.

Cremation or burial


[1] The Independent. (2016). Thank God people are starting to opt out of funerals. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/i-m-glad-people-including-david-bowie-are-starting-to-opt-for-direct-cremation-funerals-are-outdated-and-overpriced-a6939516.html

[2] Sky News. (2017). George Michael’s funeral: Singer laid to rest at private ceremony. Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/george-michaels-funeral-singer-laid-to-rest-at-private-ceremony-10817743

[3] HuffPost UK. (2014). Stars Say Goodbye To Lynda. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/03/lynda-bellingham-funeral-pictures_n_6092848.html

[4] Daily Express (2018). Peter Stringfellow funeral: Star to be laid to rest in woodland burial. Available at: https://www.express.co.uk/celebrity-news/976348/Peter-Stringfellow-funeral-dead-wife-Bella-death-died-news-latest-updates

[5] Yahoo (2022). Desmond Tutu, Anti-Apartheid Human Rights Activist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Dies at 90. [online] Available at: https://nz.finance.yahoo.com/news/desmond-tutu-anti-apartheid-human-140714492.html

We offer the highest level of support, but don't take our word for it

Below are a selection of reviews from those who have arranged a funeral or purchased a funeral plan through Distinct Cremations.

"Smooth and straightforward purchase with plenty of contact and feedback."

“Easy to use and very helpful. Very easy to use their services and always called with updates. Sorry to say I've had to use their services twice now and I've already booked my own service. On both times I've used this service I've been kept informed by calls to everything going on. All my requests were made to feel like no trouble whatsoever, happy to help attitude made what was a very emotional time pass with no problems. Ty to all the teams involved"

"Quick and easy to arrange. Very good value. The information pack arrived days after I made my enquiry. It was so easy to arrange the plan that I wanted. The follow up call was very reassuring. I am very happy with the service provided."

"Already recommended to other family members. Easy to access and apply for a plan at a good price, and even better, in 20 years time there will be no additional cost. It's not a subject that anyone wants to think about but now I have it sorted it has given me peace of mind knowing my family won't have the worry or cost when that time comes, now I can forget it and enjoy many more years, highly recommended. Hassle free application that was completed in minutes but I'm not planning on using this plan anytime soon!!"

"I was very pleased with the prompt efficient service that I got, everything was explained to me, and the paperwork was easy to understand, and there was no pressure put on me for a decision. I would most certainly recommended this company for price and efficiency."

“Happy with everything. We were well pleased with the consultant Sarah Mills she was very helpful and made us feel very confident that we were doing the right thing about our funeral plan."

"Positive without being pushy. Easy to understand the scheme, helpful brochure and a realistic price. The staff I contacted were polite and professional. Great value. An ideal alternative for those of us who don't want a lot of fuss."

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