What happens at a cremation service?

Cremations are a popular choice for funeral arrangements in the UK. But what happens at a cremation service and how does it differ from other funerals?

Here’s a guide to what happens at a cremation service, answering some of the typical questions about planning a cremation funeral.

Where is a cremation service held?

If you choose cremation for your funeral arrangements, the cremation service can be held in the crematorium, or another venue such as a place of worship or town hall. Cremation services are usually held before the body is cremated.

Before the cremation service

The funeral director will meet the family at their home with the hearse and any limousines, and they'll be driven to the crematorium for the service. Alternatively, the family may decide to meet the funeral procession at the crematorium.

What can you put in a coffin for cremation?

Before the cremation, the family may choose to put personal items into the coffin. Items that are allowed in the coffin before cremation include:

  • wooden rosary beads
  • soft toys or blankets
  • written messages or cards
  • flowers
  • jewellery
  • books

Anything that is in the coffin that cannot be cremated will be taken out and returned to the family after the cremation. If you're unsure whether an item is allowed, your local funeral director will be able to help and advise you.

During the cremation service

A cremation service is similar to other funeral services, in that the order of service can follow a religious ritual or it can be personalised by the family.

At the cremation service, pallbearers will lift the coffin and walk into the crematorium, unless a wheeled bier is used.

The family can decide whether they want the guests to stand outside or wait inside, before the coffin enters the crematorium.

Typically, the family will follow the coffin into the venue and be seated at the front.

An officiant will lead the cremation service, which usually includes readings, eulogies and music. These can be chosen by the family.

Some crematoriums have curtains. Closing these curtains can indicate the end of the service, however this is the family's choice. It is at this time when the coffin is taken to be cremated.

If the cremation service is being held at a different location before the crematorium, at the end of the service, pallbearers will carry the coffin into the hearse, and the funeral procession will go to the crematorium for the committal.

Ideas for the cremation service

Many people choose to personalise their loved one's funerals. Here are some ideas for what you might like to include in the cremation service:

  1. Place a framed photo of the person who has died at the front of the service
  2. Play music that was enjoyed by the deceased before and after the service
  3. Read poems or excerpts from a favourite book or verse
  4. Live-stream the cremation service for people who cannot attend

Video streaming at crematoria

In many crematoria, there are video streaming facilities available for those that cannot attend the service in person. Check with your funeral director to see if this option is available in your local crematorium.

After the cremation service

After the cremation service finishes, the family will often leave the crematorium first. In some cases, the family may decide they want to stay for a few moments of private reflection afterwards or may arrange to have a memorial placed in some way.

Family members may line up outside the door to greet people as they leave the service. There might be a wake or social gathering planned for after the cremation service - these further plans will be up to the family to decide.

If the family chose to use limousines, the funeral director can take them on to the wake, or back to their home.

How long does a cremation service last?

A cremation service usually lasts 45 minutes. A longer time slot can be arranged if needed, but note that crematoriums can be very busy - there are usually funerals taking place one after another.

Can I have a memorial at the crematorium?

Some crematoriums can offer a range of memorial options.

The most common form of memorial at a cremation is an entry in the Book of Remembrance. This will involve a written entry with the name of the person who has died under the date of the cremation. These are usually permanent memorials, kept safe in the crematorium for family to visit if they wish. Check with your crematorium about the possibility for an entry in the Book of Remembrance.

Alternatively, you might be able to have a memorial plaque placed at the crematorium. Not all crematoriums will have this option, so check with your funeral director.

Otherwise, you may prefer to place a memorial where you bury or scatter the ashes of your loved one, either in a cemetery or in other land like parks or gardens.

Find more information on arranging a cremation.

If someone has died and you need immediate assistance please contact your local funeral director or speak to one of our team who are here to help and support you on 0800 088 4883

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