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Direct Disposal

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 What is direct disposal?

Direct disposal means that the body of the person who has died goes straight off to be cremated or buried without a funeral ceremony. John Lennon was directly cremated, as were Anita Brookner and David Bowie. No one was there. If even one person pops in to say farewell, it’s not a direct cremation, it’s a funeral. If you think it’s direct disposal you want, you need to understand that.

Compared with a conventional funeral it’s cheap. And it’s increasingly popular. Why do people opt for direct disposal?

Perhaps the person who died didn’t see the point of a funeral – what good does a funeral do, really?

Perhaps they had lost touch with their family

Perhaps there’s very little money

Perhaps there’s lots of money – there usually is – but that’s not the point

Maybe there will be an alternative ceremony of some sort, perhaps involving the ashes – a harvest ritual as distinct from a corpse ritual.

Yes, you can still hold a commemorative event before or afterwards if you want – anything from a memorial service to a private family-and-friends affair. There are pros and there are cons. You need to think them through.

Click on the questions and statements below and consider the issues:

Direct cremation

More and more people are choosing direct cremation or direct burial as an alternative to a conventional funeral. The person who has died is cremated or buried without any family or friends there. There is no funeral service.

Direct cremation and direct burial are for:

  • People who, in line with their beliefs and values, do not feel they need to have a formal, public funeral service at which the body of the person who has died is present.
  • People who cannot afford a traditional funeral. Because of its simplicity, direct cremation is your cheapest option.

Direct cremation and direct burial do not stop you from holding a family-led memorial service either before or after the cremation or burial. You can host a ceremony like this anywhere you like.

Most people who opt for direct cremation or direct burial could easily afford a traditional funeral but choose not to.

Direct cremation costs roughly £1200-1800 all in. Direct burial costs roughly £1500-2000.

You don’t go to visit the person who has died in the funeral home.

You don’t choose the day and time of the cremation/burial.

There is no hearse, no procession, no service in the crematorium or at the graveside – nothing.

The body goes straight off to be cremated or buried without ceremony and without anyone else there.

Direct cremation and direct burial do not stop you having a farewell ceremony – a funeral service – either before or after the event. This is sometimes called a harvest ceremony or a memorial meeting.

If you choose direct cremation you can hold a memorial meeting of your own devising with, if you wish, the ashes present.

Alternatively, you can have the ashes scattered at the crematorium.

Some people see direct cremation as a way of preparing a body for a funeral. Instead of the body of the person who died at the funeral service, you have their ashes.

This gives you the freedom to say farewell in your own time, in a place of your choosing, in a way you may find more personal, more fitting and more satisfying.

Once a body has been cremated, the ashes are:

  • Durable (they’ll keep forever).
  • Portable (around 6 lbs).
  • Divisible (you can divide them up, you don’t have to scatter them all at once).

So you can take the ashes to any venue you want, at any time you choose, and hold a commemorative event of your own devising — in a church, a village hall, a restaurant. Or on a mountain top or at the seaside. Pretty much anywhere.

The ceremony can be as long or as short as you want. You can invite whoever you want. It may finish with the scattering of the ashes – as the sun sets or rises, perhaps. But not necessarily. The ashes can simply be divided up amongst certain people and kept.

Some people believe that if you’re going to hold a funeral you have to have the body of the person who has died there with you.

Other people don’t. They believe you can have just as meaningful an occasion without.

When John Lennon was killed, Yoko Ono wanted no focus on his bullet-ridden corpse. She had it cremated unceremoniously, unwitnessed. She held a memorial ceremony instead. “Pray for his soul from wherever you are,” she said. And people did. Presumably this is what John wanted, too. When the playwright Arthur Miller was asked if he’d be going to the funeral of his ex-wife, Marilyn Monroe, he replied, “Why would I go? She won’t be there.”

If you are considering direct cremation your beliefs are going to influence the decision you make — up to a point.

Above all, you should go with what you feel to be right.

Most funeral directors now offer direct cremation and direct burial.

Some funeral directors see it for the positive choice it very often is – an alternative to a conventional funeral.

But not all of them get it. Some think it’s inappropriate, just for poor people and skinflints. You can tell by the tone they use when you phone.

Don’t deal with anyone who views direct cremation as an under-the-counter, shameful thing to do.

It’s important to do your research and ask the right questions because there are some less than satisfactory outfits out there.

Direct cremation is still reckoned unconventional, especially as an alternative to a normal funeral.

If you choose it, it may well raise an eyebrow here and there. Alternatively, some people are likely to say “I wish I’d thought of that”.

You may want to take into account the needs and expectations of your family and the friends of the person who has died. What’s best for them?

  • Funeral director’s time and overheads.
  • Storage in funeral director’s mortuary.
  • Removal of pacemaker, prosthetic, etc if necessary.
  • Simple coffin.
  • Transport.
  • Crematorium fee.
  • Doctor’s fee x 2 @ £82 each – you need 2 doctors to certify cause of death. Note: if the person who has died has been seen by the coroner there is no fee.

Direct cremation is an attractive option for people who want to take someone who has died abroad back to their home country.

It saves the considerable costs of embalming and air freight.

There should not be any problem bringing ashes into the UK or taking them out so long as you comply with the laws of the country you are travelling to/from and you have enquired with the carrier you are travelling with (sea, air, rail or road). This is what the Department of Transport say.

Who does it?

All of our Good Funeral Guide Recommended Funeral Directors offer a direct cremation service.  

If you are shopping around locally though, be careful.

 

Some tradition-bound undertakers hate direct cremation because they think it’s undermining their business model, which relies on clients buying a full-service funeral including extremely expensive vehicles. They may also think that direct cremation is a poor way to mark the death of someone — that it is undignified, skinflint, etc. In short, they simply don’t get it. Don’t engage an undertaker who is grudging or reluctant.

Online direct cremation specialists

Remember, when it comes to price, in funerals as in life, you tend to get what you pay for. The direct cremation market has grown very fast in recent years. Google it and you’ll find all sorts of online specialists offering great deals. If you want the body of the person who has died to be treated with respect, be very careful. A precious few of these outfits are excellent but there are some are dreadful ones, too. This is an unregulated industry, remember: the bad guys can get away with… anything. The good guys ask us to visit them and check them out so that we can confidently recommend them. The bad ones, obviously, don’t.

 

If after browsing the website you don’t feel you have a clear idea of the identity of the owner, AVOID. If there is no postal address on the website, AVOID.

 

We note there has been a recent entry to the direct cremation market – Dignity Caring Funeral Services, trading under the name Simplicity Cremations. At the time of writing we are not clear whether this option is routinely offered to clients who choose a Dignity owned funeral director (they trade under their original names) as an alternative to their much more expensive traditional funerals – oddly there is no mention of their direct cremation service on the Dignity website.

 

We currently recommend only one specialist direct cremation service: 

Simplicita Cremations – run by Nick Gandon, the pioneer of direct cremation.

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