When can a funeral be held
Some religious funerals have rules that determine when they should take place, but for most, they take place 1-2 weeks after the death. However, if special arrangements must be made or family must travel a significant distance to attend, this can be later. If the death has had to be investigated by a coroner, this can also cause delays.
While there are no formal rules on how long you should wait before holding a funeral, the amount of time you take to make arrangements will depend on the type of service you want to hold.
A funeral can be held on any day of the week, but this may cost more for things like transport or catering. Some religions prohibit certain days.
How long do funerals usually take?
The length of a funeral service will differ depending on what type of service has been chosen. Religious ceremonies may have certain traditions that must take place, or there may be readings or hymns involved.
If cremation is taking place, this might be a shorter service, and for public health funerals — where no next of kin attends — there may be no service at all, simply prayers from the priest.
How long after a passing should a funeral be held?
There is no official legislation on how soon a funeral should take place, but documents and arrangements must be in place before they can.
If the body is embalmed, delays to a funeral are less concerning. However, if the body is not embalmed, even with refrigeration, you should wait no longer than 3-5 days.
Burial and cremation
How to decide whether to cremate or bury?
The decision whether to be buried or cremated is an incredibly personal one. Burials tend to be considered as more traditional, but cremation allows for the scattering of ashes and for many, saves money.
The resting place provided by a burial and gravestone can give comfort to those who want to have somewhere they can visit a loved one who has passed, but cremation allows the placing of ashes into an urn, which can be displayed in the home or placed somewhere equally as meaningful.
According to a YouGov poll in 2016, 58% adults preferred cremation while only 17% wanted burial, with the trend leaning towards people warming towards cremation as they got older — 42% of 18-24 year-olds chose cremation, as opposed to 71% for the over-65s.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you or the family of the deceased. Take a look at the differences between burial and cremation over on our Funeral Finance page.
Why do most Christians believe in burial over cremation?
Some Christians believe that cremation is destroying the body, therefore denying the act of Resurrection. However, this view is generally less observed as cremation has become more popular.
Interest in cremation started in the 19th century when Queen Victoria’s surgeon Sir Henry Thompson wrote Cremation: The Treatment of the Body After Death . He was primarily concerned with hygiene.
Is it illegal to be buried without a coffin?
There is currently no UK law that states you must be buried in a coffin. It does however state that it is an offence to expose a dead body near a public highway or in a public place. This is related to laws surrounding decency. The way a body is covered for burial is entirely up to the deceased or their relatives after they have died.
For some, they prefer not to be embalmed or have a coffin included in their funeral plans. This is considered an entirely natural burial. Embalming is a requirement for visiting a body in a funeral home or when an open coffin will be on display. It is however not part of any legal requirement.
What happens when a cemetery gets full?
When a cemetery becomes full, they will usually declare themselves as closed to any new burials. Some may still allow for the scattering of ashes over the consecrated ground. You would have to gain permission for this.
Will we ever run out of room for people's graves?
This is a mounting problem, however, as eventually there will no longer be enough space to bury people without re-using space. An example of this is when cemeteries use a grave for more than one burial:
“The City of London Cemetery in the east of the city has already re-used 1,500 graves. In most cases this involves deepening the grave, so the original remains are lower in the ground, and making a second burial on top.”
Excerpt from Re-using graves means UK cemetery will never run out of space from The Guardian Online.
Can you have a cremation without a funeral?
It is possible to be cremated without a funeral. This is called a direct cremation. There is no ceremony and no minister provided for the funeral. Some people may wish to bypass the organising of a traditional ceremony, so this is an option available to them. Direct cremations are often available for less than £1,000.
What is the typical depth for a burial today?
The term ‘6 feet under’ is an expression that has led to the common misconception that all graves must be at least 6 feet deep. In actual fact, the minimum is 3 feet.
During the Great Plague of London in 1665, with 20 percent of London’s population succumbing to the bubonic plague, the death rate reached over 8,000 per week. The disease continued to sweep the country due in part to the shallow graves that bodies were buried in, or so they believed at the time.
The then Lord Mayor of London enacted a series of rules to try and control the spread of disease. This included a mandate that all graves be dug a minimum of 6 feet deep.
The Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management states the following regarding the depths of graves:
- No body shall be buried in such a manner that any part of the coffin is less than three feet below the level of any ground adjoining the grave
- No body shall be buried in a grave unless the coffin is effectively separated from any coffin interred in a grave on a previous occasion, by means of a layer of earth not less than six inches thick
What happens during cremation?
During cremation, the body is burned until it becomes ashes. It is not necessary to embalm a body before the cremation unless, the family wishes to have a public viewing of the body during a memorial service or funeral.
If the deceased had a pacemaker or other type of medical device, it will need to be removed to prevent an explosion from occurring during the cremation process.
The body is placed in a cremation coffin, usually made of wood, or more often a cremation container which is a large cardboard box with a plywood bottom to provide sturdiness.
The funeral director or crematory operator will place an identification tag in the cremation container with the body to properly identify the cremated remains once they return to the funeral home. This ensures the family does not end up with the wrong set of cremated ashes.
It takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours for a body to be completely reduced to just the bone fragments by cremation. These are removed from the cremation chamber and the crematory operator removes any metal debris such as screws, nails, surgical pins or titanium limbs/joints with a magnet and by hand.
The remaining bone fragments are then placed in a special processor which breaks the bone fragments down to a fine powder called cremains or more commonly referred to as the ashes.
The ashes are then placed in a bag within a temporary cremation container or an urn if one has already been chosen. The ashes are then returned to the family.
What happens to the coffin if someone is cremated?
The coffin is burned as part of the cremation process. If it has a metal nameplate attached, this will be removed beforehand and used as part of the identification afterwards, or can be used to decorate the urn that the ashes go in.
There are some companies who will rent out caskets and coffins for a funeral service, the body is then transferred to a simple coffin for cremation. This isn’t common in the UK because once the body enters the coffin, the coffin is sealed. This makes transferal of the body to another coffin for burning impossible.