Deciding between burial or cremation following a funeral ceremony means taking several factors into account. Here are the key considerations you should be aware of.
Burial and cremation both have their roots in centuries-old cultures. The Ancient Egyptians buried their dead alongside their possessions, while archaeological records have found evidence of cremation dating back thousands of years. Both methods are still in use today, and the choice you make will depend on three key considerations:
- The ceremony you want
- Financial and environmental factors
- Choice of memorialisation
This is of course in addition to any preference expressed by the deceased and their family.
The ceremony you want
With a burial, the body of the deceased is placed in a coffin, which is sealed before it is placed in the ground, while cremation refers to the process in which the body is burned to ashes. A burial usually involves a ‘traditional’ ceremony, which follows a set structure and doesn’t offer much potential for personalisation. This can be a good thing, as the pressure of adding customised elements to the funeral arrangements when you are dealing with the grief of losing a loved one can feel overwhelming. However, a cremation can offer more flexibility if that is what you want. A service can follow the structure of a traditional funeral, or it can resemble a more intimate gathering. In addition, burials must be done in a relatively short amount of time, but with a cremation you can schedule a time and location to bury or scatter the ashes that suits everyone, which can offer you a longer opportunity to start to come to terms with your loss.
Financial and environmental factors
Burial costs include the coffin and cemetery plot, and for these reasons there is often the perception that it’s a more expensive option compared to cremation. However, low-cost coffins made with veneer or chipboard, or even cardboard that can be decorated as you wish, can help ease these financial considerations. In addition, the deceased and their friends and family might want to hold an eco-friendly funeral that has a minimal impact on the planet. In terms of burial, dispensing with embalming and opting for a willow coffin – also known as a wicker coffin or basket coffin – is an increasingly popular choice. Other biodegradable or ‘green’ materials that can reduce the impact of burial on the environment include banana leaf, seagrass, rattan, wool and bamboo. Also bear in mind that while cremation doesn’t involve embalming, it still uses fuel and produces emissions that are potentially harmful to the environment.
Choice of memorialisation
If you choose to bury the deceased, either in a cemetery or on private land – providing you have permission – a headstone can mark the place and offer friends and family a physical place to visit and remember their loved one. This can still be the case with cremation, so remember that scattering the ashes is just one option. You could keep the ashes in an urn, or arrange for them to be buried in the crematorium’s garden of remembrance. This means the ashes will either be scattered under a tree or bush, or placed in a sealed compartment in the garden wall that is marked with a plaque.
Whatever you decide, finding the right funeral director will take a lot of the anxiety out of the arrangements, and our online comparison service can help. Find out more here.