The time spent waiting between a loved one’s death and the return of their ashes can be painful. Often, we see cremation as the moment a person is properly ‘laid to rest’, making delays, at best, frustrating. So, how long does cremation take? Here, we’ll break down all the usual questions around cremation timings from start to finish.


When does the cremation service take place?

According to our data, most funerals are held between one and three weeks after the death.

Usually, a longer wait is due to it being a busy time at the crematorium. This is particularly the case around January, as families who lose loved ones during the Christmas period often prefer to wait to hold the funeral until the new year.

Another reason might be that the coroner is involved. A post-mortem can delay the funeral by five or six days.

Did you know? If you’d like to reduce the wait, it can help to mention to your funeral director that you don’t mind an early morning weekday slot for the service, or that you’d be willing to travel to a crematorium further away if the nearest one is busy. Direct cremations, which don’t include a service, can also take place sooner.


Can you have a cremation on a Saturday or Sunday?

Yes, although crematoria sometimes only offer this by request. They usually charge between £500 and £1,000 more for weekend and bank holiday services.

Some ministers and celebrants also charge more, while others don’t perform weekend services at all. It’s best to check with both crematorium staff and your chosen minister or celebrant to be sure.


How long is a cremation service?

So, once the time has arrived, how long does a cremation service last?

The standard slot for a cremation service at the crematorium is 30 minutes. In practice, when you take into account the time taken up by guests arriving, settling down, and leaving, this works out at around 20 minutes of speaking.

If you feel like the service will take more time (ask your minister or celebrant to be sure), you can ask the crematorium if you can book two slots. This often costs a little more but can help you keep the service from feeling rushed.

Don’t want a service yet? You can arrange a direct cremation for just £1,195 with Beyond. It’s a modern, fuss-free alternative to standard cremation without a service, so you can plan a celebration of your loved one’s life in your own time. Find out more here.


How long after a funeral is the body cremated?

The cremation will take place right away after the service if possible, and if not, will happen later that day. If you’d like, you can ask to be there for the committal of the coffin to the cremator.


How long does it take to cremate a body?

It’s natural to be curious about this. The cremation itself usually takes between one and a half and three hours. Cooling, collecting and preparing the ashes for the family usually takes another one or two hours. The ashes are then carefully placed in a temporary container for collection.

Want to find out more about the cremation process? Take a look at our guide to what happens during a cremation.


How long after the cremation are the ashes ready to be collected?

Ashes are usually ready to collect from the crematorium about one working day after the service. It’s worth remembering that the ashes can only be picked up by the person who filled out the application for cremation form, unless they also stated on the form that the funeral director could do this on their behalf.


How long do funeral directors keep ashes for, if the family won’t take them?

Some people find it emotionally hard to pick up a loved one’s ashes, which is why some of the longest standing funeral homes find themselves with a collection of unclaimed urns.

There’s no law on how long funeral directors have to hold on to these before scattering them, but the National Association of Funeral Directors recommends that its members keep unclaimed ashes for up to five years, and to make every effort to contact the family before dealing with them.

Crematoria are more likely to have clear guidelines on how long they keep ashes for – say, six months – but it differs from place to place.

If a family never collects the ashes, the funeral director or crematorium will usually scatter them in a garden of remembrance or a local beauty spot.


Planning a cremation?

Our find a funeral director tool lets you browse local funeral homes and compare them on price and reviews. Or, if a direct cremation is what you have in mind, you can find out more about Beyond’s simple direct cremation service here.


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