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Advice & Information on funerals, burials, cremations, wills, inheritance and death-related subjects

What Happens at a Cremation Service?

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A lit candle with red funeral flowers

Cremation services in the UK are governed by a code of conduct that all crematoria must abide by. This includes how a coffin is received, the way a service is performed and the process of cremation itself. 

In this guide, we take a look at what happens before, during and after a cremation service as well as answering some common questions about the cremation process. We also give you some information about the collection of the ashes.

How Long Does a Cremation Service Last?

A cremation service is relatively short and typically takes between 30-40 minutes. This can be shorter depending on the format of the funeral or, occasionally, longer.

Things that can affect the length of a cremation service include:

  • Number of speakers and length of reading(s).
  • Number of mourners. 
  • Any specific religious rites which must be observed.

Crematoria management are routinely used to dealing with a variety of services and will be able to advise on the typical length of service. 

You are not allowed to impact on the time of the cremation service following so it is important that, if you think you will require more time then this can be accommodated; however, this can attract an additional cost.

As a result, delays at a cremation service are very rare but can sometimes occur. 

What Happens During a Cremation Service?

The order of events at a cremation service can vary a little by crematorium depending on a number of factors including the order of service (religious, non-religious), the number of mourners attending and the layout of the venue.

However, it is common that mourners are first invited into the main chapel to take their seats (standing room is also provided by some crematoria but the aisle must be kept clear for the arrival of the deceased’s coffin).

The coffin is then brought in by the pall bearers who place it on a raised platform at the front of the chapel; this platform is called a catafalque. This procession is usually accompanied by music chosen by the family of the deceased.

The service is then led by either a religious minister or a celebrant. This can take around 25-30 minutes and usually incorporates readings by close friends and family. It may also include additional music, songs or prayers. Many families request that there is a moment of silence during which the congregated mourners can reflect on the passing of the deceased.

Once the service has come to a conclusion, the committal takes place. 

The process of committal refers to the removal of the coffin. Depending on the crematorium itself, this could be via the closing of a curtain to obscure the view of the coffin, lowered from sight or withdrawn entirely through an automated gateway.

The funeral director or crematorium staff will then lead the immediate family out of the chapel from a different door from which they entered by. This exit usually leads to the crematorium’s Garden of Rest. 

Once the family have exited, the rest of the mourners may follow.

What Happens After a Cremation Service?

Once the deceased has been withdrawn to a committal room, crematorium staff will check the nameplate on the coffin to establish identity and then issue a label with some further information. 

This label is then used to identify the deceased from this point until the cremation ashes have been finally disposed or collected. 

Cremation takes place in a single cubicle cremator which is designed to take only one coffin at a time.

Where there are religious (or personal) reasons for doing so, a family member can witness the ‘charging’ of the cremators.

How Long After a Funeral is the Body Cremated?

Cremation usually takes place immediately following the service but, if this is not practicable then it should take place on the same day. 

If cremation is unable to take place on the same day then the crematorium should have written consent of the Applicant for cremation. If this is the case then the deceased will be accommodated in a secure and sanitary space.

How Long Does the Cremation Process Take?

Once the coffin has been placed in the cremator, the process of cremation takes up to three hours. Metal debris is then removed from the remains which can take a further 1-2 hours.

How Long After Cremation Does It Take To Get the Ashes?

It can take between 7-10 days to receive the ashes of the deceased but some crematoria may be able to allow you to collect them within one working day. 

Who Can Collect the Ashes?

Ashes will only be released to either the funeral directors that you have appointed or a named person. Either of these people will need to prove their identity before the ashes will be released.

The ashes will be accompanied by a legal document, called a Certificate of Cremation. This paperwork confirms the date and place of the cremation along with the name of the deceased.

You may also be interested in our article 'Ideas for loved ones ashes' which describes many various ways in which you can keep or scatter the ashes of your loved one.