Basic features of direct cremation
- The body is cremated immediately after death, which means that you may engage the services of a crematory directly rather than a funeral home. This can potentially save you a significant amount of money.
- The body is usually cremated in a simple container, rather than an expensive casket
- There is no viewing, visitation, or wake before the cremation, which eliminates the need for embalming or other body preparations
- A memorial service may be held at a later date, which eliminates the need for an expensive casket and funeral arrangements
If you are interested in a direct cremation but want to have a formal service as well, that service will likely take the form of a memorial service at a later date. If you want to have a service before the cremation, you will not be planning a direct cremation, but rather a "traditional" cremation.
How to arrange a direct cremation
In most cases, the staff at the crematory will be able handle all aspects of the cremation, including completing the death certificate and transporting the body to the crematory for a nominal fee. In addition, a crematory will often charge a fraction of the price that a funeral home would charge for the same services.
You may also work with a funeral home to plan a direct cremation. The funeral home will complete the death certificate and transport the body to the crematory for a small fee, in addition to the Basic Services Fee that they will charge for their services.
To find a crematory, use our resource Guide: Finding a Crematory.
To find a funeral home, use our resource Guide: Finding a Funeral Home.
Direct cremation costs
Direct cremation is the least expensive disposition option, as the most expensive purchases—casket, preparing the body, funeral service, extensive transportation—are avoided. In addition, some funeral homes may charge a lower Basic Services Fee (funeral homes' non-declinable flat fee) for direct cremation. If you are interested in saving money, it's worth calling a number of different funeral homes to find one with a lower direct cremation Basic Services Fee.
If you are planning on burying the cremated remains in a cemetery plot or interring them in a columbarium, you will also need to take into consideration any cemetery costs, such as the cost of the plot or columbarium niche, the cost of a headstone or grave marker, and any cemetery fees such as opening and closing of the grave, headstone installation fees, and endowment care or perpetual care fees, among others.
For advice on how to choose a cemetery, see our article How to Choose a Cemetery.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, you have the following rights when it comes to planning a direct cremation:
- You are never required to use or purchase a casket for direct cremation
- The funeral home or crematory you’re working with must make available an unfinished wood box or alternative container for the cremation
- If you provide an urn to the crematory, they must return the cremated remains to you in the urn you provided; if you don’t provide an urn, they must return the cremated remains to you in a container, which may be a cardboard box