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Choosing between a cremation or burial is one of the most important things you’ll need to decide when arranging a funeral.
When someone passes away, particularly if it’s unexpected, then final wishes such as whether they wanted to be cremated or buried may not have been thought about.
This highlights the importance of planning ahead, for example making a Will or having a funeral cover, to ensure your loved ones have instructions at the time of need.
In this guide, we provide you with all the key information you need to decide between cremation or burial funeral.
Continue reading as we compare the following factors for both options:
Most people opt for a cremation in the UK, but this doesn’t mean this is the better option for you and your family.
As every individual is unique, with different beliefs and values, the decision you’ll make will be a personal one.
Here’s a summary of some key factors of cremation vs burial:
|Ceremony||Religious or non-religious||Religious or non-religious|
|Location||Crematorium, church, or a place of the family’s choosing||Church, cemetery chapel or a place of the family’s choosing|
|Committal||Crematorium||Churchyard, cemetery or natural burial ground|
|Waiting times||Approximately two weeks (longer for busy crematoriums)||Approximately two weeks|
|Flexibility||Option to have the ceremony before the committal at the crematorium or at a separate venue, or at a later date with the ashes||Ceremony is usually held before the body is committed to the ground. However an unattended burial is also possible, with the ceremony held at a later date|
|Memorialisation||Choice of options of what to do with the ashes||A traditional headstone or memorial at the burial ground|
|Environmental impact||Uses a lot of energy and releases carbon dioxide emissions||A wholly natural burial is the most environmentally friendly option|
|Religion||Not accepted by Judaism, Islam and some Christian faiths||Widely accepted|
In the UK, cremations have been the most popular choice for over 50 years. Here are the statistics from 2021:
Cremation or burial review.
Typically, a traditional funeral with cremation is cheaper than a traditional funeral with burial in the UK.
Let’s take a look at funeral costs cremation vs burial:
Average cremation costs
According to research carried out in 2021, the average cost of a traditional funeral with cremation is £3,885. A cremation tends to be the cheaper option because crematorium fees are lower than cemetery fees.
However, a cremation could easily be more expensive than a burial depending on which elements you wish to include for the funeral service beforehand, and what you decide to do with the ashes afterwards.
The cheapest option above anything else is to have a direct cremation, which is a simple cremation without a funeral service. A direct cremation costs on average £1,647 in the UK.
Average burial costs
For a traditional funeral with burial, the average cost is £5,033. Burial is usually the more expensive choice because, as mentioned, cemetery fees are higher than cremation fees. Cemetery fees include the cost of purchasing a burial plot and gravedigger fees.
Burial plots vary in price across the UK from a few hundred pounds to tens of thousands of pounds.
Tip: Price lists for your local cemeteries and crematoriums can be found online via the funeral director’s website or through the local authority website.
The SunLife Guaranteed Funeral Plan is an insurance policy which guarantees to cover the cost of your chosen funeral services after two years.
It’s an affordable way to pay for your cremation funeral in advance and protect loved ones from the financial worry in the future.
You can choose from two different levels of cover, depending on your needs and budget.
Services covered in each funeral cover option include:
Premiums begin from just £19.18 a month ^ and a pay out is guaranteed after two years.
You can take out a SunLife Guaranteed Funeral Plan if you’re a UK resident aged 50 - 80.
Get in touch with our award-winning broker service today to learn more about the funeral cover we have available and to compare your free, no-obligation quotes.
Please note, Reassured do not offer a direct cremation cover
Cremation may be considered more flexible than burial for several reasons, mainly because you have lots of options as to what to do with the ashes.
You can choose the most fitting way to preserve your loved one’s memory. Some of the most common options for ashes include:
Cremation can also be more flexible because you can choose whether to have the ceremony at the crematorium before the cremation, or at a later date with the ashes.
Some people opt for a direct cremation, which is an unattended cremation, and then have a memorial service later on with the ashes present.
This may be suitable for you if it’s difficult getting family and friends together for the occasion or you need more time to make the arrangements.
While it’s not easy to think about, understanding what happens at a cremation or burial service may help you with making your decision.
We’ve briefly explained the process for both, according to Co-op Funeralcare:
What happens at a cremation?
What happens at a burial?
It’s difficult to say whether cremation or burial is better for the environment due to the various factors involved, and both options carry their risks.
For example, cremation uses an enormous amount of energy and releases a significant amount of carbon dioxide emissions.
Whilst when a body is buried, there’s a chance that toxic chemicals such as such as formaldehyde (used for embalming and in the making of most coffins), will leak into the surrounding area and groundwater.
The choices you make for the funeral can also have an environmental impact, for example how far people will need to travel for the service, where the flowers are produced and the type of coffin you choose.
|Less environmentally friendly||More environmentally friendly|
|Cremation in a conventional coffin (maximum carbon dioxide emissions) or deep burial, burial in clay soils or within the water table||Cremation or burial||Burial in a re-used or reclaimed grave or burial in a natural / woodland burial site. Cremation with eco-coffin could reduce emissions by 50%|
|Embalming uses formaldehyde – a chemical which leaks into the surrounding area and groundwater after burial||Embalming||No embalming|
|Traditional coffins made from non-sustainable materials or coffins made from chipboard, MDF with veneer and plastic handles||Coffin||Coffins made from bio-degradable materials such as cardboard, bamboo and wicker. Preferably locally produced|
|Air freighted flowers with plastic wrappings and oasis||Flowers||Locally produced flowers with recycled wrapping, or garden/home produced flowers with no wrappings or charity donations instead of floral tributes|
|Conventional cremation with cremator. One cremation generates the same amount of CO2 as a 500-mile car journey||Energy use||Burial in mechanically or hand excavated grave|
|Funerals within 20 miles of home||Travel||Funerals within 5 miles of home|
So, is it more environmentally friendly to be buried or cremated?
A natural or woodland burial is considered the most environmentally friendly option.
The carbon footprint tends to be reduced due to the following reasons:
The UK has 270 natural burial sites in the UK and most funeral directors can help you arrange this type of send-off.
For more information you can visit our in-depth woodland funerals guide »
Some religions forbid the process of cremation, these include:
The Roman Catholic Church doesn't forbid cremation, but the ashes of the deceased must be kept in a sacred place such as a church cemetery.
Religions that accept either cremation or burial include:
According to several sources, the bible doesn't specifically state the way in which a body must be disposed of.
Although, burial was certainly the favoured method and is referenced on many occasions in the bible.
Cremation is only touched upon briefly in the old and new testament, usually in a negative light - however, the bible doesn't directly forbid cremation.
You may have found that the experience of arranging a funeral for a loved one is one that’s difficult and also costly.
If they didn’t have a form of funeral insurance in place, the financial burden falls to loved ones.
With funeral cover for cremation or burial, you could have the opportunity to alleviate this burden but also ensure that they won’t have the additional stress of planning the funeral.
Funeral cover arranged through Reassured beginning from as little as £19.18 a month.
Our award-winning broker service can compare quotes for free and help you fill in any paperwork to get you set up.
So why not make the most of this and contact Reassured today?
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