Direct cremation in the UK

Updated 16th Mar 2020
  • A simple cremation without ceremony
  • Flexibility to say goodbye your way
  • A modern alternative to a funeral service
  • Leave more money to family rather than spend it on funeral costs 
In this guide: We explain what direct cremation is, how it works and why families choose this simple cremation only option

What does direct cremation mean?

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Direct cremation is a simple cremation without a funeral service. An affordable, dignified disposal of the body that is fuss free and saves money on funeral costs. A direct cremation is usually unattended however the ashes are returned to family so they can say goodbye in a more relaxing environment.

How does direct cremation work?

Direct Cremation or direct funeral as it is also known is a simple, low cost alternative to a traditional funeral, suitable for those looking to save money and avoid the upset of funeral service. Here’s how cremation without a funeral works:

  • The deceased is collected by the company arranging the direct funeral
  • They are taken back to their premises and cared for until the time of the cremation
  • The death is registered by the family
  • The service provider completes the paperwork legally required for a UK cremation
  • The deceased is placed in a simple coffin and transported to the crematorium
  • Cremation takes place. The crematorium, date and time of cremation are chosen by the company
  • The ashes are either scattered at the crematorium garden of remembrance or returned to family – whichever you prefer

What's the difference between cremation and direct cremation?

There are two main differences between cremation and direct cremation; cost and service. A traditional cremation has a funeral service held at the crematorium, so mourners attend. A direct cremation however has no service, therefore no attendees, which is why costs are much lower.

What you get Direct cremation Traditional cremation
Professional support Yes Yes
Collection of the deceased Yes Yes
Family viewing No Yes
Coffin A simple coffin Choice of coffin
Choice of Crematorium No Yes
Choice of Cremation Date No Yes
Transport to crematorium A suitable vehicle A hearse
Funeral Service No Yes
Wake or reception When & where you choose On day of cremation
Return of ashes Yes Yes
Typical costs Cost between £995 to £2,000 Cost between £3,000 to £5,000
Request more information Prepaid direct cremation plan guide Traditional prepaid cremation plan guide

Pros and cons of direct cremation

Direct cremation is worth considering if you don’t want the ceremony and cost of a formal service however there are pros and cons. For example, avoiding the upset of attending the crematorium may seem like a good idea, but not so great if your family prefer a service.

Therefore understanding the pros and cons of direct cremation will help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.

The pros

  • A fraction of the price of a traditional funeral service
  • Avoids the formality and upset of attending the crematorium
  • Gives family freedom to say goodbye their way in a more relaxed environment
  • Ashes can be returned to family or scattered on the garden of remembrance

The cons

  • The lack of a traditional service may upset family
  • No visiting the deceased at a chapel of rest
  • Crematorium may not be local to you

Direct cremation costs

Direct Cremation costs are cheaper than traditional funerals as you’re not paying for the services of a funeral director, limousines or expensive coffins. With direct cremation, you only pay for collection and care of the deceased, administration fees, cremation in a simple coffin and delivery of ashes.

This explains why the cost of many cremation only funeral plans that let you arrange and pay for a direct cremation in advance can be at least £2,000 lower.

Top 8 reasons for choosing direct cremation

  • Don’t want family going through an upsetting service at the crematorium
  • Don’t believe in funerals
  • Family dispute would make a funeral service difficult to attend
  • Save money
  • Prefer to leave money to family than spend it on funeral costs
  • Would family rather have a party than a funeral service
  • Family live abroad so unable to attend a funeral
  • Few people or no one to attend a funeral
Prepaid direct cremation brochure

Are no fuss funerals respectful?

No fuss cremation funerals are respectful however it’s important to talk to your friends and family to let them know you’re considering a direct funeral. It might take a couple of conversations to help others understand what else they can do to say goodbye.

Read more

Perhaps a celebration of life or memorial service in more relaxed environment rather than the crematorium; arranged at a time to suit everyone. Or a family gathering at a special happy place to scatter the ashes.

And don’t forget, choosing a simple cremation without a funeral service means you are in good company. You may recall that David Bowie famously had a direct funeral and was cremated without a service in January 2016. But did you know that John Lennon also adopted a similar approach with his direct funeral way back in December 1980.

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What if it's not for me?

If you want a simple cremation but don’t like the ‘no funeral just cremation’ idea, then other options are available. Many UK funeral plan providers have recently introduced more basic funeral plan options that offer a traditional funeral service with restrictions

Read more

For example the date and time of the cremation service or the size of the allowance included for third party cremation expenses and minister’s fees.

Do be careful to read the small print though as this could be a false economy if it means your family has more to pay when the time comes; especially when you consider the eye watering cremation costs in certain areas of the country

For more information on how to arrange and pay for your funeral in advance with a prepaid funeral plan, take a look at our guides and "compare funeral plans" section.

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Is direct cremation a good idea?

Direct cremation is a good idea if you want to save money on funeral costs and avoid the formality of a funeral service at the crematorium. However, a direct cremation may not be a good idea if your family aren’t happy with the prospect of such a simple cremation.

Which is why it’s important to speak to family before making your decision.

Do you have to have a funeral?

You don’t have to have a funeral in the UK or use a funeral director. However, the law does require you to dispose of the body safely; usually through burial or cremation. For example, direct cremation without a service is one option, or perhaps a natural woodland burial.

It’s worth mentioning that you can take care of everything yourself however this will include care of the deceased whilst the relevant arrangements are being made. Therefore some help from specialists such as providers of direct funerals or a funeral director may be advantageous.

What should I do now?

We hope this guide has been useful in helping you decide if a direct cremation is for you.

Over50choices specialise in offering prepaid direct cremation and traditional funeral plans, if however, you are looking for a cremation service for someone who has just died please call us on 0800 133 7656. 

You can find out more about prepaid options here, alongside our reviews of the leading providers.

If you have any questions please email us at or call us on 0800 133 7656.

Did you find this information helpful?

Frequently asked questions

  • Can I choose the crematorium?
    • The crematorium will be chosen by your direct cremation provider. Some companies use a specific crematorium and will transport the deceased there. Other providers of direct cremations operate through nationwide crematoriums.

  • Can you attend a direct cremation?
    • You cannot usually attend direct cremations however some companies allow a small number of people to attend the committal.

  • What is a simple cremation?
    • A simple cremation is a term often used to describe direct cremation; a cremation with no funeral service. However, it can also mean a cremation with a simple, short, non-religious service at the crematorium. Both options are available. You just need to decide if you want a service or not.

  • What’s included in a direct cremation?
    • Direct cremations include collection and care of the deceased, completion of paperwork legally required for a cremation, a coffin, the cremation itself and return of ashes to family.

      Some direct cremation plans are fully guaranteed whereas other may charge additional fees for services such as collection out of working hours.

  • How much is direct cremation?
    • Direct cremation costs in the UK range between £995 to £1,800 depending on whether you are purchasing a plan for someone who has just died or whether you are buying a prepaid plan. The latter costs more as the provider is guaranteeing to fix the cost at today’s prices.

  • Can you have a direct cremation in Scotland?
    • Yes you can have a direct cremation in Scotland although not all prepaid funeral plan providers cover this area of the UK.

  • Do the Co-op offer direct cremation?
    • Yes, the Coop do offer direct cremation for someone who has just died, but not a prepaid plan.

Direct Cremation provider FCA Regulated Customer Rating National or Regional
Avalon Funeral Plans     National
Choice Funeral Plans tick 4.7  Regional
Coop Funeral Plans     National
Dignity content two content three National
Disticnt Cremations content two content three National
Ecclesiastical Funeral Plans     National
Golden Charter content two content three National
Golden Leaves tick 4.7  National
One Life Funeral Planning      
Open Prepaid Funerals     National
Rest Assured Funeral Plans      

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