Common Questions about Cremations

What is direct cremation?

With a direct cremation, there is no funeral or memorial service. The body is cremated and then returned to the family. Often (such as the case with my father in law) the family has their own memorial service or gathering after the cremation.

What Can We Do With The Cremated Remains?

Unlike a traditional burial, you have many more options with cremation. Cremated remains can be buried in a traditional cemetery, you may keep them in your personal possession, you may scatter them in a place of significance (make sure to check local laws regarding the scattering of ashes)

Do Funeral Homes perform cremations?

Most funeral homes have to subcontract cremations out to a cremation company, or crematory. There are some funeral homes that do perform cremations onsite. The funeral home must tell you (if you ask) if the procedure is done on-site or at another location.

How Long Does It Take To Cremate a Person?

Cremations can take anywhere from 2-4 hours, depending on the weight of the individual. For an average size adult, cremation takes from two to three hours. An infant would take a much shorter amount of time, just as a larger person would take longer.

Can Two Cremations Be Performed At Once?

No. This is illegal and due to the size of most cremation chambers, impossible.

If I am cremated, do I need a casket?

Yes and No. While in many (if not most) states, you do have to have a casket (often called an alternative container) for the actual cremation process, you do not need to buy a ‘fancy’ or expensive casket. Some families may select to purchase a casket if they are having a memorial service and wish for the body to be present. Many funeral homes offer ‘rental’ caskets that are used for this purpose.

If I am cremated, do I have to be embalmed?

Laws vary from state to state, but in the majority of locations and in the majority of cases, no.

Can the body be viewed if the person is not embalmed?

Of course you can. In fact, many crematories and cremation centers will allow you to have a few moments with your loved one before the cremation process begins. Some cremation centers will even allow you to be present for most of the process.

Do I have to buy an urn for the ashes?

No, you do not have to purchase an urn. The ashes will be returned to you in a temporary container. This temporary container may be a plastic or heavy weight cardboard container. If the ashes are to be interred in a columbarium or buried in a cemetery plot, the cemetery may have rules regarding the cremation urn (your funeral director or the cemetery staff can advise you on specific policies). If you are keeping or scattering the ashes, you do not need to purchase a different urn unless you want to.

Is Cremation Accepted By All Religions?

With the exception of Orthodox Jewish, Islamic, Eastern Orthodox and a few Fundamentalist Christian faiths, most religions do not have a problem with cremation. In fact, for many non-Christian religions, cremation is the standard for disposition after death. In recent years, the Catholic Church has accepted cremation as long as it is not chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teachings.

What Do The Cremated Remains Look Like?

Although cremated remains are called ashes, they are not actually ashes. Physically, they look like whitish gray course sand.

Will I receive all of the cremated remains of my loved one?

Yes. Of course there may be dust and microscopic pieces that are impossible to return to you. Other than that, all recoverable remains are placed in the temporary urn.

February 15, 2010

By Funeral Home Resource Team