What is Direct Cremation?

Not sure what it is? Don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone. But now is the right time to find out more, as direct cremations are on the rise…….

As Bob Dylan wrote, ‘the times, they are a-changin’!’


The term ‘direct cremation’ is used when the remains of the deceased are collected and taken straight to a crematorium where they are disposed of without any mourners, friends or family present. The New York State’s health department website describes it as “the disposition of human remains by cremation without a formal viewing, visitation, or ceremony”.

In the UK, we are culturally drawn to traditional funerals as an opportunity to mourn together, to gather together, to accept the reality of death and to wrap ourselves in the ritual of it all. There is no doubt that these factors have some important healing properties for the bereaved. In fact, the direct cremation can still contribute to comforting the bereaved, just in a different way.

Once the cremation of the deceased has taken place (the family would not usually be informed of this date and time in the purest meaning of the direct cremation), the ashes are returned to the appropriate person. It is at this point that many of the factors we associate with traditional crematorium funerals can be arranged, only the deceased is present in ashes form rather than in a stark coffin. Generally, this is less upsetting and harrowing for the mourners, particularly if there are children present, so one would hope that the atmosphere would be less gloomy and desperate. The celebration of life event can then be filled with as much ritual, ceremony and social support, music, poetry, and anecdotes as is desired; in fact whatever the deceased or the bereaved wish to do to honour and celebrate the life that is over.



Back in 2016, David Bowie, who was not religious, opted for a direct cremation, reportedly for several reasons.

  1. He didn’t want to put his family and close friends through a harrowing funeral.
  2. He wanted the mourners to express themselves creatively instead and celebrate his life and work.

It was reported by some newspapers that he has a ‘secret’ cremation but the reality was that it was simply a direct cremation. Statistics suggest that the number of direct cremations rose by 400% in the months after Bowie’s was reported, perhaps as other people got to hear that there is a creative and less expensive alternative.



As your funeral celebrant and celebration of life event planner, I will give you all the options and choices, so that you are entirely comfortable with the arrangements. The decisions are yours alone.


My interest in promoting direct cremations is mainly because of the following :-


  • The mourners have plenty of time to plan a suitable place, date and time for the end of life celebration and ceremony so that as many people who want to be present can attend
  • The venue can be chosen to fit with the ethos of the occasion instead of having to rely on an impersonal crematorium chapel. It can be outside or inside
  • There won’t be any stress or angst about the next funeral waiting at the door for you to leave
  • As many or as few people as you like can add to the occasion with photos and stories to commemorate the person who has died
  • It costs far less than a basic traditional funeral, leaving you more to spend on the celebration of life ceremony


*No time limits        *Endless venue choices        *Truly unique send-off      *Considerably less expensive

Caroline James Farewells & Funerals can arrange a

direct cremation and simple celebration of life ceremony for £1,495.00


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