Cremation or burial UK

Arranging a funeral and having trouble deciding if it should be a cremation or burial?

If so, perhaps your decision between cremation or burial is swayed more so by cost and/or how you wish to remember that person, rather than religious beliefs or family tradition.

Or you may be concerned about the current rules and restrictions imposed for funerals due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It may be that you’re responsible for arranging a funeral for a deceased loved one and they haven’t specified in their will or discussed with family if they wish to be buried or cremated, which isn’t uncommon.

No matter your circumstances, deciding between a cremation or burial can be tough.

Reassured, an award-winning and FCA registered broker, has put together the below guide to help you with this important decision of cremation vs burial.

Continue reading as we compare both options in terms of cost, the process, environmental impact, flexibility, religion and more…

Cremation or burial, which is better?

Nowadays, cremation funerals are far more common than burial funerals in the UK.

But the option that’s better for you really depends on your personal circumstances.

Below is a quick summary of some cremation vs burial pros and cons:


  • A basic cremation is less expensive on average than a basic burial in the UK (-£1,117)[1]
  • A cremation service can be religious or non-religious, held at the crematorium chapel or at your own place of worship
  • Scatter the ashes at a place special to the deceased or keep them in the family home
  • Ashes can be transported easily and taken with you if you move away
  • You may not have a local crematorium
  • Cremation is not accepted by Judaism, Islam and some Christian faiths


  • A basic burial is more expensive on average than a basic cremation in the UK (+£1,117)
  • A burial service can be religious or non-religious, held at the cemetery chapel or at your own place of worship
  • Eco-friendly burial options possible, such as a natural, woodland burial or even sea burial
  • Offers a physical place for family to visit, which can be marked with a memorial or headstone (or natural memorial if having an eco-burial)
  • If family move away, it may be very difficult or costly to move the burial site with them
  • Your local cemetery may have rules and regulations which may be restricting, such as when the burial service can take place
  • Burial is widely accepted

What is cheaper, burial or cremation UK?

The average cremation is cheaper than the average burial in the UK.

However, the total cost of a cremation or burial funeral will depend on a number of factors, including where in the UK the funeral will take place.

UK total average cremation cost: £3,858

  • Funeral directors’ fees: £2,687 
  • Cremation fees: £860
  • Minister or celebrant fees: £169
  • Doctors fees: £164 (£0 in Scotland)

Funeral director fees include the coffin, a hearse, a limousine, collection and care of the deceased, viewing at the chapel of rest and professional guidance.

UK total average burial cost: £4,975

  • Funeral directors’ fees: £2,687
  • Burial fees (includes doctors fees, minister fees and burial plot): £2,288

Funeral director fees include the coffin, a hearse, a limousine, collection and care of the deceased, viewing at the chapel of rest and professional guidance.


As you can see, cremation fees are considerably less than burial fees.

This is because burial fees take into account the cost of the burial plot itself (which can cost anything from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand pounds depending on the location).

Whereas, there’s no need to purchase a burial plot for a cremation, unless of course, you wish to bury the ashes of your loved one.

Whilst a cremation is cheaper, how you choose to personalise the funeral with optional extras will really determine the final cost.

These optional extras may include:

  • Order of service sheets
  • Flower arrangements
  • Embalming of the body
  • Extra limousine or executive car
  • Memorial or headstone
  • An urn
  • Catering
  • Venue hire

Though bearing in mind, not all of these are necessary, particularly if you decide to have a cremation.

For example, a traditional burial may require a memorial or headstone to mark the grave whereas a cremation allows you to scatter the ashes at no cost at all.

Unfortunately, with funeral prices being higher than ever, many people are torn between providing the perfect final farewell and keeping within a sensible budget.

However, if you’re particularly concerned over cost, then there are some affordable cremation options that also allow you to arrange a unique and special day.

For example, you may consider a direct cremation which is a simple cremation without a service or any attendees.

A direct cremation costs on average £1,626 in the UK which is considerably less than a standard cremation.

Protect your loved ones from the expense of your funeral

Prepaid funeral plans arranged through Reassured for either a cremation or burial start from just £3,220 or £20.38 a month*.

With a funeral plan you can:

  1. Freeze today’s funeral costs, saving your loved one’s money in the future as funeral costs continue to rise
  2. Arrange your own funeral, which includes deciding if it should be a cremation or burial, protecting your loved ones from this difficult decision when the time comes
  3. Have peace of mind that all your essential funeral services, including cremation or burial fees, are covered in your plan**

Get in touch with Reassured today for your personalised prepaid funeral plan quote.

How do you arrange a cremation or burial?

Before arranging a cremation or burial you’ll need to ensure that you have the necessary paperwork.

After you’ve registered the death at the registry office, you’ll receive either a ‘Certificate for a burial’ or a ‘Certificate for cremation’.

One of these must be handed over to the funeral director or to the crematorium for the funeral to go ahead.

For a cremation, the funeral director may give you an ‘Application for cremation’ which needs to be filled in by a family member and this will also be handed over to the crematorium.

If you have appointed the services of a funeral director, they’ll be able to help you with all the paperwork and can explain any part of the process you’re unsure of.

They’ll also help set in motion the plans for the funeral, which includes liaising with the local crematorium or cemetery on your behalf.

Did you know that if you have a prepaid funeral plan, then all the arrangements would have already been taken care of?

You could protect your loved ones from having to arrange your funeral during an already difficult time.

They’d simply need to call the funeral plan provider to inform them of your death, and the funeral will go ahead as per your wishes.

Funeral plans arranged through Reassured are FPA approved, giving you peace of mind that your money is safe.

Learn more by getting in touch with our award-winning team today.

What happens at a cremation or burial funeral?

It can be hard to envisage the process of either a cremation or burial, especially when you’re arranging the funeral for someone dear to you.

But understanding how each type of funeral is carried out on the day may be helpful in making your decision.

We have summarised what may happen at either a cremation or burial funeral below, according to leading funeral provider, the Co-op.

What happens at a cremation?

A standard cremation funeral may take place as follows:

  • The funeral procession travels from the family home to where the service is taking place (at the crematorium or other venue)
  • At the service, pallbearers may carry the coffin into the crematorium whilst guests wait outside
  • Family tend to follow the coffin in and sit at the front
  • The coffin is placed on a raised platform ready for the committal
  • Keepsakes such as photographs and jewellery can be placed into the coffin
  • The cremation service will be held, either in a religious or non-religious format
  • The order of service can be decided by the family (or be carried out as per the wishes of the deceased)
  • A minister or celebrant may lead the cremation service, which lasts up to 45 minutes, and includes readings, eulogies, music and so on
  • Following this, the committal will take place. Curtains may close around the coffin or the platform may lower out of sight
  • The coffin is placed into the cremator; the cremation itself lasts 60-90 minutes
  • After the cremation service, guests may travel to another venue for the wake
  • The ashes are cooled and placed into a container to be given to family

What happens at a burial?

A standard burial funeral may take place as follows:

  • The funeral procession travels from the family home to where the service is taking place (at the cemetery chapel, church or another venue)
  • At the service, pallbearers may carry the coffin into the funeral venue whilst guests wait outside
  • Family tend to follow the coffin in and sit at the front
  • The funeral service will be held, either in a religious or non-religious format. The order of service can be decided by the family (or be carried out as per the wishes of the deceased)
  • A minister or celebrant may lead the service, which usually lasts up to 45 minutes, and includes readings, eulogies, music and so on
  • After the service, the funeral procession travels to the location where the burial takes place
  • Pallbearers carry the coffin to the graveside where guests would gather
  • The coffin is lowered into the grave by pallbearers
  • Family are able to place flowers or earth into the grave
  • Following the burial, guests may travel to another venue for the wake

Which is better for the environment cremation or burial?

Unfortunately, cremations and traditional burials have some negative impact on the environment one way or another.


  • The cremation process uses a lot of energy and generates a significant amount of carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) emissions
  • Apparently one cremation uses 285kWh of gas and 15kWh of electricity, which generates the same amount of CO2 as a 500-mile car journey[2]
  • Up until recently, cremations were also contributing to a significant amount of mercury pollution in the air, from dental fillings


  • Toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde are used for embalming (the process to preserve the body for the funeral), and these chemicals leak into the surrounding area and groundwater
  • Formaldehyde is also used in the making of most coffins, and eventually, this also leaks into the groundwater

Of course, a burial or cremation must go ahead, however, there are ways you can reduce your carbon footprint if this is something that’s important to you (or to the person who has passed).

There are greener funeral options

Some funeral providers, including the Co-op, offer eco-friendly funerals that include a burial in a ‘natural’ or ‘green’ setting.

This could be in a woodland area, at a natural burial site, in a green cemetery, or even in a garden at home.

To preserve the environment, the body isn’t embalmed before burial and only a biodegradable coffin is used, made from natural materials such as wicker or bamboo.

Sometimes the grave can be marked with a simple, natural memorial such as the planting of a tree, although not all natural burial sites allow a memorial.

Natural burials tend to be less expensive than a traditional burial, but still more expensive than a cremation, as a burial plot is still required.

So, is it more environmentally friendly to be buried or cremated?

It seems that a ‘natural’ burial could be the most environmentally friendly way to be laid to rest.

However, if you feel that this isn’t suitable but would still like to be as eco-friendly as possible for the funeral, then you may consider:

  • Choosing a biodegradable coffin
  • Taking public transport to the funeral venue
  • Avoiding the embalming process
  • Ensuring that the deceased is dressed in natural materials

How flexible is cremation vs burial?

Nowadays, both cremation and burial funerals can be flexible in a number of ways.

Funeral providers are usually able to tailor their services to meet your specific needs for either cremation or burial.

For example, you can have a religious or non-religious service, a celebration of life or no formal service at all – a small gathering at a family members' home to share memories and look through photo albums may suffice.

A cremation may be more flexible in terms of memorialisation, as family members are able to choose how to memorialise the ashes.

For example, the ashes can be stored in an urn and kept at the family home, or alternatively scattered at a location of special meaning to your loved one.

Some people have come up with new and unique ways to pay tribute to their loved ones, for example, placing the ashes in a firework, scattering them during a skydive or creating a tattoo[3].

The ashes can also be transported easily if the family choose to move to a new location.

With a burial, you’ll be more restricted by the location of the burial plot and how this is marked.

Councils tend to have rules and regulations for cemeteries, which may pose some restrictions to visitors, such as when they are able to visit.

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[4].

Funeral plans for cremation or burial

You may have found that the experience of arranging a funeral for a loved one is one that’s difficult but also costly.

If they didn’t have a form of funeral insurance in place, the financial burden falls to loved ones.

With a funeral plan 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 plans arranged through Reassured start from as little as £3,220 or £20.38* a month.

Our award-winning broker service can compare quotes for free on your behalf and help you fill in any paperwork to get you set up.

So why not make the most of this and contact Reassured today.


[1] SunLife (2020), Cost of Dying Report,




*£20.38 per month includes a £75 discount only available to Co-op members, based on a 50-year-old purchasing a Simple Funeral Plan at £3,220 after discount with 25 years payment term (total amount payable £6,115.40), as of 20th November 2020

**Excluding the cost of a burial plot

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All of the funeral plans we provide are fully regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) ensuring you and your money are protected.

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