Harold White News

Is a direct cremation right for me or my loved one?

We explain why more and more people are choosing direct cremations over traditional funeral services. And we consider why they might not be right for everyone.

Organising a funeral tends to be something that no one really prepares you for. When faced with organising one for the first time, it can feel quite overwhelming, and the costs might be surprising for anyone that hasn’t been through the process before.

According to a report from SunLife, the cost of dying continues to rise. As of 2023, the national average price of a basic funeral hovers around the £4,100 mark (the same funeral costs over a thousand pounds more in London) while the national average for a direct cremation sits at £1,498. But what exactly is a direct cremation and why are they so much cheaper?

Direct cremation, also known as simple cremation, is a cremation where there are no mourners present, and your loved one is cremated without a service. This means the cremation can take place in less sought-after time slots, usually the morning, and the costs of a more ornate coffin, celebrants and ministers, fresh flowers, orders of service etc. are no longer needed.

This type of service rose to the fore during the Coronavirus pandemic, but has since continued to become an increasingly popular choice. SunLife reported that in 2019, direct cremations accounted for 3% of all funerals in the UK. Four years later in 2023, one in five funerals (20%) include a direct cremation. That’s an increase of well over 500%.


Direct cremations have helped to make funerals much more affordable and simultaneously given grieving families more flexibility when it comes to saying goodbye. With the cremation taking place in isolation, they are free to arrange a separate memorial service at a time and place that’s convenient to them and their guests.

A separate memorial can give people the freedom to celebrate a loved one’s life in more personal, intimate ways. Leaving the confines of a formal setting like a crematorium or a religious building can help to create a more relaxed environment. This could be a gathering at home, a special location to scatter the ashes or even a night out at your loved one’s favourite watering hole. There are no rules.

For others, having a little more time to make the arrangements is important. Maybe you want a bit more space to gather your thoughts and feelings before having a ceremony. More time to ponder on a fitting farewell. Or a little more notice for family and friends who live overseas and need time to make travel arrangements. Not everyone wants more time to dwell on the situation but it’s important that you’re happy with the plans and don’t feel rushed into something that doesn’t feel right.

Memorial service photography by Shaun Foulds at ukfuneralvideoservices.com

An impersonal choice?

There are some people who choose direct cremations purely to save money or because they don’t want the inconvenience of a more elaborate ceremony. However, there are many others who make this choice out of personal preference or because they’d rather spend their money on an alternative type of memorial service.

The idea that direct cremations are an impersonal choice is quickly becoming an outdated way of thinking. Of course, there are companies who approach this service differently, but we count ourselves among the creditable funeral directors who strive to deliver a personal service, no matter what type of funeral somebody wants.

If you choose a direct cremation with Harold White, you can expect many of the same benefits that would be included with an attended cremation. For instance, we make our chapel of rest available for friends and family to visit and sit with their loved one. We will tell you when and where your loved one is being cremated (always a local crematorium) and our round-the-clock support is still very much part of the package.

Not for everyone

The numbers show that the demand for direct cremations, for more flexibility, space, and time to say goodbye in increasingly diverse ways, is here to stay. However, it’s worth also noting that this choice might not be for everyone.

If you’re putting together your own funeral plan, or making your wishes known to friends or family, you may want to consider how your decisions may affect them. It’s often said that a death is most difficult for those that we leave behind, and how those closest to us deal with loss is going to be different from one person to the next.

For some, the decision to forego the service in the more formal environment of a crematorium or church may seem like a straightforward choice. For others, the setting and ceremony of a traditional cremation or burial is an essential part of the healing process. It creates a space for shared mourning, a reverent occasion which forms a foundation to move forward from. It’s important to remember that mourning, processing grief, and closure is not a one size fits all matter.

Dealing with death is never easy. It can be painful and complicated. Whether you’re looking to keep a close eye on the bottom line, or striving to celebrate your loved one’s life in the most fitting way possible, our team at Harold White will help you make sure it’s carried out with tenderness, sentiment and care. Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

If you’re struggling to pay for a funeral, there may be help available.

Get in touch or arrange a call back

You can call us anytime on 0208 529 1530 or send us a message and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible. Please let us know if you’d prefer to receive an email rather than a telephone call (or vice versa).