Cremation or burial: How to decide which is best?

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.

Cremation vs Burial

Cremations now account for 73% of funerals in the UK, with burials being favoured by just 27% of the population*. But why are cremations so popular?

The cost, environmental impact and religious beliefs are just some of the reasons why and in the article below, we’ll look at this in more detail, comparing and contrasting the two options so you can make the best decision for you and your loved ones when you come to arranging a funeral.

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

What is cheaper a cremation or a burial?

Just like most things you purchase in the UK, the price of a funeral differs from region to region:

Average funeral cost by region
East & West Midlands - £4,150** London - £5,171**
North East England - £3,973** North West England - £3,802**
Northern Ireland - £3,256** Scotland - £4,030**
South East & East of England - £4,643** South West England - £4,032**
Yorkshire and the Humber - £4,065** Wales - £4,286**

This can be simply due to the different living costs across the UK, but in some areas it may be the case that certain funeral directors have a stronger hold than others and therefore charge a little more.

Below is the average cost for cremation and burial in the UK, and how much a cremation costs with Distinct Cremations.

Average cost of UK cremation - £3,795**

Traditional cremation

This price includes the help and organisation of a funeral director, collection of the deceased, doctor’s fee, minister's fee, viewing of the deceased, cremation fee, a basic coffin, hearse and a simple service.

Average cost of UK burial - £5,077**

Traditional Burial

Very similarly to a traditional cremation, a burial includes the help and organisation of a funeral director, collection of the deceased, doctor’s fee, minister's fee, burial fee, a basic coffin, hearse and a simple service.

Cremation with Distinct Cremations - £1,099

Sue Arrange

At Distinct Cremations, we specialise in direct cremations which take place without a service and attendees. The price includes 24/7 support, collection, a basic coffin, cremation fees and return of the ashes.

** The average cost of funeral, cremation and burial in 2023 (SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2024, sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs)

The cremation and burial process

The funeral service at a cremation and a burial is likely to be very similar, however once the service has taken place, they will differ somewhat. Here are the basics of what's different:

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Cremation

During a cremation, the coffin is brought to the crematorium and placed on a raised platform. Following a service, the coffin is then ‘committed’ for cremation. The committal is done 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 which will take approximately two hours. When complete, any unburnt remains are ground into a fine powder, creating ashes. With the ashes ready, the family can then choose what to do with them.

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Burial

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. A gravestone may be placed at the head of the grave, though this can take up to a year to do as the ground needs time to settle.

The steps involved in a cremation with Distinct Cremations

At Distinct Cremations, we take care of all the arrangements. From arranging the funeral to making sure all your paperwork has been filled in correctly. From the collection of the deceased, right through to the hand-delivery of the ashes. And everything in between.

With expert guidance on-hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, our customer service and funeral teams at Distinct Cremations will help with all your funeral arrangements as you need them, when you need them.

Funeral planning is never an easy task, but our team can help ease the load.

We’re here for you 24/7. You can call us on 0808 134 5865 before a passing to give you and your loved ones time to prepare or you can call us when the time comes. All we need from you is some basic information to start getting your cremation arrangements in place.

Our caring team will collect the deceased from anywhere in the mainland UK, whether your loved one is at home, in a care home or at a hospital. The deceased will be then taken to our professional mortuary facilities before cremation.

We will prepare your loved one for cremation, bathe them, remove any artificial items and dress your loved one upon request. We will then lay them to rest in the coffin, transport them to the crematorium and we will inform you of the date of cremation.

The cremation will take place at one of our 40 crematoriums in the UK. The coffin is taken through the front door, rested on the catafalque while a song of your choice is played or a moment of silence is respected, then the cremation takes place.

The ashes will be hand-delivered back to you within 14 days or scattered in the garden of remembrance upon request. You may then like to arrange a memorial service to commemorate the life of your loved one.

Get in touch with us today

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

Ask a question today or call us on 01543 211 997.
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Is a cremation or burial better for the environment?

There are lots of environmental aspects to take into account when planning a funeral. For example, if you’re expecting a lot of mourners to attend there’ll be the impact of travel that needs to be considered as well as the cremation or burial itself.

But just considering the cremation or the burial alone, the environmental impact differs quite noticeably between the two.

The environmental impact of a cremation

Even though the cremation process produces high levels of CO2, cremations actually use far fewer resources when compared with burials and 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 a 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.

Religions and their views on cremations and burials

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.

Buddhism

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.

Christianity

Historically, cremation has been considered blasphemy in most Christian denominations, especially Catholicism, 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 Christian faith groups accepting cremation.

Islam

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.

Hinduism

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.

Judaism

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.

Sikhism

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.

Other helpful articles

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

Funeral alternatives

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

Alternatives to a traditional funeral

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.

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Choosing a provider

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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.

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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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