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 alternative funerals 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. Instead the funeral provider collects the deceased, cares for them at their mortuary facilities, then carries out the cremation at a crematorium. Upon cremation the ashes will be returned to the family, allowing them to have the option of a memorial service.

Why opt for a direct cremation?

Cost-effective: Direct cremations are more affordable than traditional funerals. Without the expenses associated with embalming, a procession, or an elaborate service, families can save a significant amount of money on a direct cremation. Compared to a traditional funeral, a direct cremation is on average 71% cheaper.**

Flexibility: By separating the cremation from a formal service, families have the freedom to plan a memorial or celebration of life that truly reflects the personality and wishes of the deceased. This could take place in various settings, such as:

  • At home: Hosting a gathering at the family home allows for an intimate and personal farewell.
  • At a pub or restaurant: Some may choose to honour their loved one in a relaxed setting, sharing memories over food and drinks.
  • Outdoors: Holding a memorial in a favourite park or natural spot can add a meaningful touch.
  • Community centre or event space: For larger gatherings, renting a venue can provide space for friends and family to come together

Celebratory atmosphere: Many are drawn to the idea of a direct cremation because it allows for a memorial service that celebrates the life of the departed rather than dwelling on loss. This approach shifts the focus from mourning to honouring cherished memories and shared experiences.

Read more about our direct cremations.

* SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2024, sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs
** 71% 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 £1,199

"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

Family-led funeral

A family-led funeral, sometimes referred to as a small attended cremation, 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.

Why opt for a family-led funeral?

Personalised tribute: As it's designed and guided by the family, this can allow for a deeply personal and meaningful farewell, which can include a personal eulogy and choice of appropriate music tailored to reflect the deceased's personality and life. The family also has full control over the appearance of the service, and can ensure it aligns with their wishes and honours the memory of their loved one.

Intimate and meaningful: A family-led funeral is an intimate affair and is often favoured by those looking for a straightforward and heartfelt way to say goodbye with no procession where families can customise the service to be as traditional or non-traditional as they desire.

Flexible options:

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 £1,599 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 £1,199

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

Small Attended Cremations

From £1,599

Our small attended cremation services offer those looking for a fuss-free farewell the final chance to say goodbye. With our attended cremation you can have up to 8 people attending a 10 minute service or 20 people attending a 20 minute service, making this a dignified option.

View our Attended Cremation

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.

A celebration of life is the perfect accompaniment for a direct cremation as a direct cremation doesn't have a service, therefore the onus is more on what happens after the cremation.

A celebration of life also offers solace to joyfully reminiscence which can foster a positive atmosphere where mourners can honour the departed in a relaxed environment. By focusing on cherished memories and shared experiences, this can promote healing, acceptance, and a sense of closure amidst the grief.

Why opt for a celebration of life?

Versatility and flexibility: A celebration of life can be held at a variety of locations, including parks, pubs, beaches, homes, or any other meaningful place, this allows the family to select a venue that reflects the personality and interests of the departed, creating a more personalised and meaningful experience.

Emphasis on celebration: A celebration of life encourages mourners to honour the life, achievements, and contributions of the deceased through joyful and commemorative activities which may include music, dancing, laughter, and other elements that celebrate the unique essence of the departed.

Inclusive and reflective: A celebration of life welcomes a diverse range of participants, including family, friends, colleagues, and community members, fostering a sense of unity and connection to honour the life in a way that feels authentic and meaningful to those who knew them best.

“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 alternative funeral choice 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.

Why opt for a natural burial?

Environmentally sustainable: A natural burial reduces the environmental impact by avoiding embalming fluids, metal caskets, and concrete burial vaults, while it also promotes the conservation of natural resources and minimises carbon emissions associated with traditional burial or cremation practices.

Connects with nature: A natural burial allows the deceased to return to the earth in a natural and harmonious way, promoting a sense of connection with the environment and provides a serene and tranquil final resting place surrounded by natural beauty.

Help wildlife conservation Some natural burials support wildlife conservation efforts by preserving natural habitats and promoting the growth of native vegetation, and creating sanctuaries for wildlife and restoration of natural ecosystems.

“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.

As a water cremation isn't available in the UK, the nearest alternative is a direct cremation.

Why opt for a water cremation?

Eco friendly: As a water cremation utilises water-based alkaline hydrolysis to break down remains, this offers a greener alternative to traditional cremation methods.

Gentle process: A water cremation provides a gentle and dignified farewell, preserving the integrity of the deceased while returning nutrients to the environment.


"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

Non religious funeral

Non-religious funerals, also known as secular or humanist ceremonies, offer a meaningful alternative to religious services. This can be a family-led funeral, a direct cremation or a traditional cremation.

These ceremonies celebrate the life of the deceased without religious rituals, accommodating diverse beliefs and backgrounds and can take place at a chapel, a crematorium or even a secular church.

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.

Why opt for a non-religious funeral?

Inclusive and personalised: Non-religious funerals welcome individuals of all beliefs and backgrounds, providing a respectful and inclusive environment for honouring the deceased. Families can personalise the service according to their values, preferences, and the unique life of the departed.

Focus on celebration and tribute: These ceremonies shift the focus from religious rituals to celebrating the life, achievements, and legacy of the departed. They offer flexibility in ceremony design, allowing for creative and heartfelt tributes that reflect the individuality and spirit of the deceased.

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

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

An alternative 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
  • 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 71% cheaper* than a traditional funeral, with prices starting from just £1,199


* 71% 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 £1,199

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)

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 £1,199 if you need to arrange a funeral today.

Arrange a funeral

Cremation or burial?

Older couple looking at tablet

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

References

[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 followed their instinct with Distinct and chose to buy a funeral with us.

5/5
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Anon 30 May 2024
first class
Mark 21 May 2024
Excellent communication, very helpful and we got just what we wanted in a service. Highly recommended and we will use again. Mark Oliver
Anon 2 May 2024
Service very efficient, and comprehensive. Understandably, you "chased me up" when there was a delay in my response to place an order, but this delay was whilst I contacted all those relatives who might have had a view to express.
Anon 24 Apr 2024
I was very happy with the service I received and they are only a phone call away if I or my sons should need advice or help in any way
Wendy 8 Apr 2024
This is a good company, the cremation was dealt with very smoothly without any problems. The staff were very courteous and professional throughout. Everything was explained over the phone and they were very patient answering my questions. The ashes were delivered on time to my door. Highly recommended.
Anon 7 Apr 2024
They gave a superb service, they were very professional from start to finish, but also friendly and empathetic too, at what was a very difficult time for myself and the family
Anon 6 Apr 2024
Dee was lovely and understanding and advice was easy to understand
Anon 5 Apr 2024
Very kind and helpful lady. She talked me through everything that I asked her about.
5/5
Based on 714 reviews
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