How many people are cremated today in Great Britain?
The annual number of cremations exceeded burials for the first time in 1968. Since then cremation has increased considerably. Current figures suggest that around 70% of all funerals are cremations, with urban areas exceeding that figure.
Do any religious groups forbid cremation?
All Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, now allow cremation. It is also the traditional method of disposing of the dead for Sikhs, Hindus, Parsees and Buddhists. It is, however, forbidden by Orthodox Jews and Muslims.
Is cremation more expensive than burial?
No. Cremation and burial fees vary greatly from region to region, but cremation is usually less expensive than burial, especially when the cost of buying a grave is taken into account. The only additional charges are for doctors' signatures to permit the cremation to proceed. These are necessary because there is no possibility of further examination of the body after cremation, whereas a buried body can always be exhumed if doubts emerge as to the cause of death.
What religious ceremony can I have with cremation?
The standard service cremation is the same as for burial, apart from the words used at the time of committal. The service may take place at a separate place of worship with a short committal service in the crematorium chapel, or the whole service can be conducted at the crematorium chapel. Alternatively, a non-religious or civil ceremony can be conducted for a large group of people or as a private ceremony for individual members of family or friends. Some people prefer to have no service at all.
How is a cremation arranged?
A number of arrangements need to be made following a death. The responsibility normally falls on the executor or the nearest surviving relative. At such a distressing time most people approach a professional funeral director who will undertake the arrangements on their behalf. Normally the funeral director will discuss what is required with the family and will assist in completing the necessary paperwork and will pay the various fees in advance.
The funeral director will also make the practical arrangements for the collection of the body and will obtain the necessary medical certificates. The executor will have to register the death, however, and information will be provided by the funeral director to assist in completing that duty.
Can a cremation be arranged without the services of a funeral director?
Yes. The executor or nearest surviving relative may arrange the cremation service themselves. Crematoria such as Parc Gwyn that are members of the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management's (ICCM) Charter for the Bereaved will provide advice to persons arranging a cremation without the use of a funeral director.
Do relatives need to decide at this stage about the disposal of cremated remains?
Normally it is optional at this stage. The funeral director will discuss with relatives the alternative arrangements that may be adopted for the disposal of cremated remains. The executor, nearest surviving relative or other person making the arrangements (known as the "Applicant for Cremation") will be asked to sign a document advising the crematorium of their wishes. If they are undecided it will be possible for the cremated remains to be retained, either at the crematorium or at the funeral director's premises, pending a decision.
What are the normal options for disposal of cremated remains?
All crematoria provide a Garden of Remembrance where cremated remains can be dispersed. At Parc Gwyn the remains are always buried, but in some crematoria ashes are scattered. Some crematoria provide niches where remains can be stored for limited periods, sometimes with personal memorial tributes alongside.
Cremated remains can be removed from the crematorium in a suitable container for disposal elsewhere. This may include interment in a grave in a cemetery or churchyard, dispersal at another crematorium or disposal privately in a particular area selected by the family. Permission should be obtained from the appropriate authority in all these cases.
What is a Garden of Remembrance and what facilities may be provided there?
The Gardens of Remembrance consist of special areas, often adjacent to the crematorium, set aside for the disposal of cremated remains. They are used continually for this purpose and as a result it may not be possible or appropriate to mark or identify the exact location of individual cremated remains. The gardens are normally arranged to provide a focal point for visitors and may include a variety of memorial facilities.
What memorial facilities are available at crematoria?
All crematoria have some form of memorial facility. The most usual form of permanent memorial is the Book of Remembrance. This book is usually displayed in a special memorial chapel and entries are available for viewing either automatically on the anniversary of the date of death or on request. At Parc Gwyn this facility has been expanded to include a digital version. Inscriptions in the Book of Remembrance can be viewed as a digital picture to which other additional material such as a photograph of the deceased or their life history may be attached. There are also cards that can be inscribed with a copy of the original inscription and memorial wallets that can be inscribed and will also accept photographic images.
Many crematoria provide wall or kerb mounted plaques in stone or metal and roses, trees and shrubs may be dedicated as memorials. These memorials are usually dedicated for fixed periods that may be extended by agreement. Donations are often accepted for the provision of items to be used at the crematorium or for the embellishment of the buildings or grounds.
For details of memorials at Parc Gwyn you should contact the crematorium office or visit the crematorium pages on www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk. The funeral director should be aware of the memorial options available, but direct enquiries will ensure that full details are provided. It is usual for the "Applicant for Cremation" to be sent these details following the cremation. At Parc Gwyn this occurs after two weeks unless the "Applicant for Cremation" requests otherwise.
What is the procedure followed at the crematorium on the day of the funeral?
The mourners will normally gather at the crematorium in the waiting room or close to the entrance of the chapel a few minutes before the appointed time of the funeral service. It is not usual for the ceremony to commence before the publicised time. When the principal mourners are ready to proceed, the funeral director and his assistants will convey the coffin into the chapel. Family members may request to carry out this function.
The coffin will normally be placed on the catafalque. (This is a strategically placed raised platform with rollers to permit easy removal of the coffin at the time of the committal.) Mourners will be directed to their seats after which the service will proceed. At the moment during the service when the committal of the body takes place, the coffin may be obscured from view by curtains or withdrawn from the chapel. At the end of the service the mourners exit the chapel and may then inspect the floral tributes.
In the Chapel at Parc Gwyn there is no fixed catafalque. The coffin is usually conveyed on a black bier or trolley into a niche at the altar end of the chapel. At the committal a curtain is drawn across obscuring the coffin from view.
What happens to the coffin after the committal?
The coffin is withdrawn into the committal room where the nameplate is carefully checked by crematorium staff to ensure the correct identity. The coffin is then transferred to a special bier equipped with rollers to facilitate placing the coffin in the cremator. The bier may be equipped for manual or automated loading. Whichever method is used, the coffin can be loaded into the cremator in a dignified manner, but without undue risk to crematorium staff.
How soon after the service will the cremation take place?
The cremation of the deceased normally takes place as soon as possible after the funeral service. However, in certain circumstances, it may be necessary for environmental and operational reasons to wait until the following morning. In such circumstances the body is always securely and respectfully held overnight at the crematorium and the cremation takes place within 24 hours of the service in accordance with our Code of Practice.
Is the coffin always cremated with the body?
In all cases the body of the deceased and the coffin are cremated as delivered to us. The remains are not disturbed during the cremation process and all the residues from the process are separately collected. However, the residues often contain metal medical implants that have traditionally been buried in the crematorium grounds after the cremation is completed. Recent legal advice has confirmed that such implants are the property of the deceased's estate and should only be disposed of with the permission of the executor. At Parc Gwyn this is now requested at the time of arranging the funeral. Over a period of time burial of these implants can have an adverse environmental impact and Parc Gwyn has joined many other crematoria in a national non profit-making recycling scheme to reuse these metals to benefit others and preserve the environment. Many thousands of pounds have been donated to charities dealing with the terminally ill and other organisations associated with bereavement.
How are cremated remains kept separate?
A cremator can only accept one coffin at a time and all the remains are removed from the cremator before the next cremation. When the coffin is placed in the cremator, the identity card is fixed on the cremator adjacent to where the ashes will be extracted at the end of the cremation process. The card will then accompany the ashes until their final disposal or removal from the crematorium. An identity card is used throughout the whole process until the final disposal, thereby ensuring correct identification.
Can relatives witness the placing of the coffin in the cremator?
Parc Gwyn has CCTV installed so that the placing of the coffin can be witnessed. Some crematoria have a viewing area that overlooks the cremators or they may allow a supervised group into the crematory to witness the committal. Normally this must be arranged in advance so that preparations can be made. Regrettably the design of the building at Parc Gwyn does not provide any such opportunity. The crematory is too small to allow public access during cremations and there is no suitable viewing facility.
What happens to the cremated remains after cremation?
The law relating to cremation requires that cremated remains are disposed of in accordance with the written instructions of the "Applicant for Cremation" There is usually no need to make a hurried decision with regard the final resting-place of the remains. Most crematoria have a facility to hold the remains until a decision is made. Should a crematorium not be contacted with a decision after a period of time has elapsed you may receive a letter asking if you are ready to go ahead. If you are not ready, simply tell the crematorium that you need more time. (A fee may be applicable.) Should a crematorium receive no reply to their letter, they may scatter or bury the cremated remains within their grounds after giving two weeks written notice.
At Parc Gwyn a retention fee is payable after one month. When the "Applicant for Cremation" signs to request retention at the crematorium he or she agrees that the crematorium may dispose of the remains if a decision has not been made at six months after the date of the cremation.
Should items of jewellery be left on a body for cremation?
It is preferable that all items of jewellery be removed from the body before the coffin is conveyed to the crematorium. The funeral director should ascertain your wishes in respect of this matter when the funeral arrangements are being discussed. It will not be possible to recover any items of jewellery after the coffin has been received at the crematorium.
Can more than one body be cremated at a time?
No, each cremation is carried out separately. The aperture through which the coffin passes in the cremator and the cremation chamber are of dimensions that will only safely accept one coffin. However, exceptions can be made in the case of a mother and baby or small twin children, so long as the next of kin or executor has made this specific request.
Most crematoria will allow public inspection of the ‘behind the scenes' procedures in an attempt to enlighten the public on all aspects of the cremation process.
Are coffins sold back to funeral directors for re-use?
No. The coffin and the body inside are cremated together. There are, however, occasions where a cardboard coffin is used and a more aesthetically pleasing outer cover is requested for during the service. A pall (a cloth covering the coffin), or a 'cocoon coffin' (an outer shell that covers a cardboard coffin) may be used. Neither the pall nor the cocoon is cremated as they are simply superficial coverings.
Can I visit a crematorium and see what happens behind the scenes?
Yes. All crematoria will arrange for such a visit if given prior notice. However, at Parc Gwyn visits are not allowed whilst cremations are taking place for health and safety reasons. Even so, on seeing the equipment used for the cremation process, the viewer can be reassured that all cremations take place individually, coffins are cremated with the deceased and that the identity of the remains is maintained throughout the process.
Where can I find out more information about cremation?
The ICCM Charter for the Bereaved gives detailed information about all aspects of the cremation process and encompasses environmental and social aspects. Cremation authorities that have adopted the Charter for the Bereaved will provide information and guidance and you can obtain a full reference copy of the Charter document from the ICCM website at www.iccm-uk.com (opens new window)