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Direct Disposal

Private ambulance

 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

Increasing numbers of people are turning to direct cremation or direct burial as alternatives to a conventional funeral.

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, ceremonial funeral at which the body of the person who has died is present.

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

People who cannot afford a traditional funeral. Because of its simplicity, direct cremation is the cheapest way of disposing of a dead person.

Direct cremation costs as little as £1000 all in.

You don’t go to visit the person who has died in the funeral home. You do not 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 is an attractive option for people wanting to bring the person who has died abroad to their home country. It saves the considerable costs of embalming and air freight.

Direct cremation and direct burial do not stop you from having a farewell ceremony – a funeral – if you wish, after the event. If you choose direct cremation you can hold a memorial event of your own devising with, if you wish, the ashes present. Alternatively, you can have the ashes scattered at the crematorium. Whichever you choose, you can have a memorial service.

Direct cremation is for people who regard cremation as a way of preparing a body for a funeral – because you get the ashes back. For them it offers the opportunity to say farewell to someone who has died in their own time and in a way they find more personal, more fitting and more satisfying.

Once the body has been cremated, the ashes are:

Durable (they’ll keep forever).

Portable (around 6 lbs).

Divisible (you can share them out, you don’t have to scatter them all at once).

You can carry them to any venue you choose, whenever you choose, and hold a commemorative event of your own devising — in a church, a village hall, a restaurant; on a mountain top; at the seaside. The ceremony may conclude with a scattering of ashes – as the sun sets or rises, perhaps. But not necessarily. They can be divided up amongst certain people and kept.

Ask yourself: What good will a conventional funeral do, really? There’s no point in just going through the motions. There’s no point in holding a funeral unless you know exactly why you’re doing it and what you are intending to accomplish.

Ask yourself: What is the status of a body after death? If you think the spirit has departed from the person who’s died – that the body is no longer the person – then you may feel that their body is just like old clothes. Which is why, 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, to take place “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.”

You can dispose of a body in a ceremonial way by holding a funeral, or you can arrange to have it buried or cremated with no one there. The consequence for the body is the same in either case.

Many 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: they think it’s inappropriate, it’s just for poor people and skinflints. You can tell by the tone they use when you phone. Many funeral directors offer direct cremation under separate branding, often on the internet, to keep it well away from their ‘conventional’ business.

Don’t deal with anyone who views it as an under-the-counter and 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”.

Have a think about the issues involved, then decide.

Funeral director’s time and overheads

Storage in funeral director’s mortuary

Removal of pacemaker, prosthetic, etc if necessary

Simple coffin


Crematorium fee

Doctor’s fee x 2 @ £82 each – you need 2 doctors to certify cause of death and if the person who has died has been seen by the coroner there is no fee

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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