What happens at a Cremation?

In the UK cremation is very common, over 70% of us end up being cremated.

However most people are unsure about the process of cremation and what happens with the cremated funeral ashes afterwards.

Here is a basic overview from the day of the cremation that should help answer your questions…

What happens at the crematorium on the day of the funeral?

The coffin is brought in followed by the mourners. The coffin is placed on the catafalque (a raised and decorated platform). Then there is a service; either religious or secular (see below). Then the committal (remove of the coffin) takes place, the coffin may be obscured from view by means of curtains closing around it, different crematoria have ways of doing this, sometimes the coffin is lowered from sight or withdrawn through a gateway. Then the mourners leave the chapel.

Do I have to have a religious service?

No. You can a have religious, non religious or no service at all if you choose, if you are non religious, but wish to have a service conducted  you may wish to use the service of a Celebrant – who can conduct non-religious, semi religious, spiritual ceremonies.

For religious services contact your faith leader, as you will need to discuss with the type of service you wish.

What happens to the coffin after the committal?
It is withdrawn into a committal room where the name plate of the coffin is checked with the cremation order to ensure correct identity. The coffin is then labelled with a card prepared by the crematorium giving all the relevant information. This card will stay with the body from now on until the final disposal of the cremation ashes. The coffin is placed in the cremator which is a cubicle which only allows for one standard sized coffin.

Does the cremation take place immediately?

Usually yes, if not it will be on the same day.

Is the coffin cremated with the body?
Yes. And nothing can be removed from the coffin after committal.

What happens to object that not combustible e.g. nails or jewellery?

A magnet removes the ferrous parts and other metals (which now fused with other material and not recognisable) are removed and buried at a depth in the crematoria grounds.

Therefore best advice would be not to leave jewellery on the deceased as it won’t be part of the ashes you receive back and it can’t be retrieved.

Can relatives witness the committal of the coffin to the cremator?
If you wish to Yes, normal two people are allowed

What happens to the remains after cremation?
When the cremation process has finished the ashes are placed on a cooling tray. The metals are removed and the ashes are reduced to fine white ash. This is bone ash. Cremated remains can be ready for collection within one working day.

What should I expect to receive after a cremation?

After cremation human ashes will be given to you in an unglamorous container – unless you have specified and paid for something different. For an adult the container will weigh about 2.5kg or 6lbs and be the size of a large vase or old style sweet shop container.

What happens if I choose to leave the ashes at the crematoria?
The ashes will be strewn in the gardens of remembrance. A few crematoria have niches where urns may be placed, but these are usually on a lease basis and if not renewed periodically the ashes would be strewn or buried.

What are the Gardens of Remembrance at a crematorium?

The gardens of remembrance consist of areas set aside for the disposal of cremation ashes. Places are not reserved or marked afterwards. Some crematoria offer plaques, dedicated rose bushes or similar – a lot of these are usually on a lease basis, so check.

How long have I got to collect the ashes?

Some crematorium will keep them for up to one month before making a charge to store them. If there has been no prior instruction, they are strewn in the garden of remembrance. Before this happens the crematoria have to give 14 days’ notice in writing – they write to the person on the documentation at the time of cremation.

Can anyone collect the ashes?
No. They will only be released to the funeral director or a named individual who will usually you will need to bring along some identification.  A Certificate of Cremation will be provided with the ashes.  This is a legal document with the name of the deceased and date and location of the cremation.

The majority of the answers are based on advice from The Federation of British Cremation Authorities




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