Cremation or burial UK

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:

  • Pros and cons
  • Cost
  • Flexibility
  • Process
  • Environmental impact
  • Religion

Cremation or burial, which is better?

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:

CremationBurial
Average cost[1]£3,765£4,927
CeremonyReligious or non-religiousReligious or non-religious
LocationCrematorium, church, or a place of the family’s choosingChurch, cemetery chapel or a place of the family’s choosing
CommittalCrematoriumChurchyard, cemetery or natural burial ground
Waiting timesApproximately two weeks (longer for busy crematoriums)Approximately two weeks
FlexibilityOption to have the ceremony before the committal at the crematorium or at a separate venue, or at a later date with the ashesCeremony 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
MemorialisationChoice of options of what to do with the ashesA traditional headstone or memorial at the burial ground
Environmental impactUses a lot of energy and releases carbon dioxide emissionsA wholly natural burial is the most environmentally friendly option
ReligionNot accepted by Judaism, Islam and some Christian faithsWidely accepted

Cremation vs burial statistics: which is more popular?

In the UK, cremations have been the most popular choice for over 50 years. Here are the statistics from 2021[1]:

  • 49% of funerals were with a cremation
  • 24% of funerals were described as direct cremation
  • 27% of funerals were with a burial

Cremation vs burial pros and cons

What does a funeral plan for over 50s cover most popular plan

Cremation

Pros:

  • Cremation is generally more affordable than burial, with direct cremation being the most cost-effective option
  • Ashes can be transported easily
  • Helps save space in overcrowded traditional cemeteries
  • There’re many options for memorialisation. For example, scattering the ashes, keeping them at home or putting them in jewellery

Cons:

  • Less environmentally friendly than a natural burial
  • Cremation is an irreversible process
  • Cremation is not accepted by Judaism, Islam and some Christian faiths

Cremation or burial review.

What does a funeral plan for over 50s cover more comprehensive plan

Burial

Pros:

  • Eco-friendly burial options possible, such as a natural or woodland burial
  • A permanent place for family to visit
  • Burial widely accepted by all religions
  • Considered the more traditional way to say a final farewell
  • The body can be exhumed if required

Cons:

  • Burial fees are more expensive than cremation fees
  • Additional costs involved such as a memorial and maintenance fees
  • Some cemeteries and churchyards have rules which may be restrictive, like when the burial can take place or the type of service you can have
  • Difficult and costly to move burial site if you move home
  • Contributes to the overcrowding cemeteries in the UK

Which is cheaper, burial or cremation UK?

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[1] 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.

Protect loved ones with a SunLife Guaranteed Funeral Plan

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.

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Services covered in each funeral cover option include:

  • Cremation fees
  • Cremation service
  • Coffin
  • Hearse
  • Return of ashes

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

Which is more flexible, cremation or burial?

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:

  • Scattering at the Garden of Remembrance or a sentimental location
  • Display at home in an urn or keepsake urn
  • Burying at a cemetery, church yard or natural burial ground
  • Wearing in memorial jewellery

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.

What happens at a cremation vs burial?

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?

  • A cremation service from start to finish usually lasts 45 minutes
  • Pallbearers will carry the coffin into the crematorium chapel and place it on a raised platform
  • Family may follow the coffin and be seated at the front, followed by the other guests
  • The service is led by an officiant or celebrant. It may be religious or non-religious, and may include readings, eulogies and music
  • At the end of the service, the coffin is removed from view (the ‘committal’), sometimes by curtains closing around the coffin or the platform is lowered out of site
  • The cremation itself involves placing the body (and coffin) inside a very hot incinerator, called a cremator, for several hours until only ashes remain
  • The ashes are cooled, placed into a container, and returned to family
  • A wake may follow the committal, or a memorial service may take place on another day with the ashes present

What happens at a burial?

  • A burial service from start to finish usually lasts one hour
  • Pallbearers will carry the coffin into the venue and place it on a raised platform
  • Family may follow the coffin and be seated at the front, followed by the other guests
  • The service is led by an officiant or celebrant and can be religious or non-religious. It may include readings, eulogies and music
  • After the funeral service, the hearse and procession will travel to the cemetery or natural burial ground
  • Pallbearers will carry the coffin to the graveside and a short burial service may be held
  • The coffin is lowered into the ground by pallbearers
  • Family may throw soil or flowers on to the coffin
  • A wake may follow the burial

Which is better for the environment cremation or 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 friendlyMore environmentally friendly
Cremation in a conventional coffin (maximum carbon dioxide emissions) or deep burial, burial in clay soils or within the water tableCremation or burialBurial 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 burialEmbalmingNo embalming
Traditional coffins made from non-sustainable materials or coffins made from chipboard, MDF with veneer and plastic handlesCoffinCoffins made from bio-degradable materials such as cardboard, bamboo and wicker. Preferably locally produced
Air freighted flowers with plastic wrappings and oasisFlowersLocally 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[2]Energy useBurial in mechanically or hand excavated grave
Funerals within 20 miles of homeTravelFunerals within 5 miles of home

Source: https://www.flintshire.gov.uk/en/PDFFiles/Funerals,-Cremations--Bereavement/Environmental-Impact-of-a-Funeral.pdf

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:

  • Embalming isn’t usually allowed
  • The coffin must be made from bio-degradable materials
  • The body must be dressed in natural fabrics such as cotton
  • The grave is much shallower than a typical grave
  • Traditional gravestones are not permitted

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 »

What religions do not believe in cremation?

Some religions forbid the process of cremation, these include:

  • Judaism
  • Islam
  • Eastern Orthodox

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:

  • Hinduism
  • Sikhism
  • Buddhism
  • Christianity
  • Parsees

Burial or cremation what does the bible say?

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[3].

Funeral cover for cremation or burial

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?

Sources:

[1] https://www.sunlife.co.uk/siteassets/documents/cost-of-dying/cost-of-dying-report.pdf/

[2] https://www.restassuredplans.co.uk/ten-ways-to-go-greener-with-your-funeral/

[3] https://www.cremationresource.org/cremation/what-does-the-bible-say-about-cremation.html

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