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. Making a Will can provide your loved ones with your funeral wishes, while life insurance could help towards the cost.

If you’re at an age where you’re planning ahead for your funeral, Reassured can help you secure an over 50s life insurance policy to help pay for your funeral.

Over 50s plans are policies for UK residents aged between 50 - 85 and guarantee to pay out when you pass away. Policies don’t require medical information and could help towards the cost of your funeral and service.

Quotes are personalised, no-obligation and completely fee-free. Simply get in contact today.

Cremation or burial - Which is better?

Cremation has been the most popular funeral choice in the UK for more than 50 years.

According to a recent poll, 54% of people wish for a cremation, compared to 15% wanting a burial[1].

The SunLife’s Cost of Dying report shows that in 2022:

  • 57% of funerals were with a cremation
  • 18% of funerals were described as direct cremation
  • 25% of funerals were with a burial

However, 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 of the key factors of cremation vs burial:

CremationBurial
Average cost£3,673£4,794
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 2 weeks (longer for busy crematoriums)Approximately 2 weeks
FlexibilityOption to have the ceremony before the committal, at the crematorium, at a separate venue, or held later with the ashesCeremony is usually held before the body is committed to the ground. However, an unattended burial is possible, with the ceremony, or held later
MemorialisationVariety of options, including urns and scattering of 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


While both cremation and burials have their advantages, it’s important to determine the type of funeral you require so your family can respect your wishes and beliefs.

Reassured can help find you over 50 life insurance to help pay towards your funeral costs. Quotes are personalised, fee-free and no-obligation.

Cremation vs burial pros and cons

You may have already established the type of funeral and service you want.

However, for those who are unsure, here are the pros and cons of both cremation and burial funerals:

Cremation pros and cons

Cremation

  • 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 - scattering the ashes, keeping them at home or putting them in jewellery
  • Less environmentally friendly than a natural burial
  • Cremation is an irreversible process
  • Cremation isn’t accepted by Judaism, Islam and some Christian faiths
Burial pros and cons

Burial

  • Eco-friendly burial options possible, including natural or woodland burial
  • Provides a permanent place for family to visit
  • Burial is widely accepted by all religions
  • Considered the more traditional way to say a final farewell
  • The body can be exhumed if required
  • Burial fees are more expensive than cremation fees
  • Additional costs involved such as a memorial and maintenance fees
  • Some cemeteries and churchyards have specific rules and regulations which may be restricting, such as when the burial service 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.

Funeral

Average cremation costs - SunLife’s cost of dying report discovered the average cost of a traditional funeral with cremation is £3,673.

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 is a direct cremation, which is a simple cremation without a funeral service. A direct cremation costs on average £1,511[2] in the UK.

Funeral director

Average burial costs - For a traditional funeral with burial, the average cost is £4,794.

Burial is usually the more expensive choice because 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.

Is over 50s life insurance an option to pay for a cremation or burial?

An alternative way to help towards the cost of your funeral is by securing a life insurance policy.

Life insurance is a product which provides a sum assured (lump sum pay out) to your loved ones after you pass away. In return, you pay a monthly fixed premium.

If you’re a UK resident aged between 50 - 85, over 50s life insurance can be a great way to help cover some costs for your funeral once you’ve passed away.

This can help prevent your family from accruing debts paying for your funeral.

Reassured can help find you quotes which are no-obligation, personalised and completely fee-free.

No medical information is required, and acceptance is guaranteed for UK residents aged 50 - 85.

Simply contact us and our friendly team will be happy to assist you.

Which is more flexible - Cremation or burial?

Cremation may be considered more flexible than a burial - 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

You can also choose whether to have the ceremony at the crematorium before the cremation or at a later date with the ashes. Direct cremations usually have a memorial service after with the ashes present.

However, if you want an eco-friendly funeral or are part of a religion/religious denomination which is against cremation, then burials could provide more flexibility within your beliefs.

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 cremations and burials, according to Co-op Funeralcare:

Cremation

A cremation service is, on average, 45 minutes

Pallbearers carry the coffin into the designated 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. 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 (committal), sometimes by curtains closing or the platform lowered out of sight

The cremation itself involves placing the body (and coffin) inside an incinerator, called a cremator, until only ashes remain

The ashes are cooled, placed into a container, and returned to family

A wake may follow

Burial

A burial service usually lasts approximately one hour

Pallbearers carry the coffin into the designated 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. It may be religious or non-religious, and 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

Which is better for the environment, cremation or burial?

It’s difficult to say whether a 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 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

Resomation (water cremation) can be more environmentally friendly, but isn’t widely available in the UK
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[3]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 in the UK?

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[3] in the UK and most funeral directors can help you arrange this type of send-off.

Cremations, burials, and religion

While burials are widely accepted by all religions, some religions forbid the process of cremation:

Cremation not accepted:

  • Judaism
  • Islam
  • Eastern Orthodox

Cremation accepted:

  • Hinduism
  • Sikhism
  • Buddhism
  • Christianity
  • Parsees
  • Roman Catholic±

±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

Secure cover to help pay towards your cremation or burial

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

Without the right protection in place, the financial burden falls to loved ones.

To help ensure your family aren’t saddled with an unaffordable bill, it’s important to consider life insurance.

Over 50s life insurance is a guaranteed life insurance plan which will pay out a lump sum to your loved ones upon your passing. This payment can be used to help pay towards your funeral.

Reassured can find competitive quotes from some of the UK’s leading providers, helping you to provide funds towards your funeral when the time comes.

Our friendly team can help you compare quotes and complete the application. Simply contact us today.

Sources:

[1] https://www.funeralplans.co.uk/in-the-news/cremation-is-the-most-popular-funeral-choice-in-the-UK-poll-shows/

[2] https://www.sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs/

[3] http://www.naturaldeath.org.uk/index.php?page=find-a-natural-burial-site

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