An Overview of Direct Cremation

The process of cremation involves the use of intense heat and flame to reduce the body of a dead human being to bone fragments. Cremation is generally considered a simpler form of final disposition vs. burying a body in the ground.

Many people who choose to cremate a deceased loved one still decide to hold a wake/visitation and/or a funeral beforehand with the embalmed body present in an open casket, whether in a funeral home, a church or another location chosen by the family. On the other hand, direct cremation involves only the minimal services necessary to cremate a body. These generally include:

  • Local pickup and transportation from the location of death to the direct-cremation provider, such as a funeral home or crematory.
  • Processing and filing of all legally required documents, such as the death certificate and cremation authorization.
  • Placement of the body in an "alternative container"—a heavy-walled cardboard box with a lid.
  • Cremation of the body in a cremation chamber, also known as a crematory or retort—an industrial furnace specifically designed and manufactured to reduce a corpse to bone fragments.
  • Return of the cremated remains to the family in a minimum (temporary) cremation container—a plastic or heavy-duty cardboard box.
Père Lachaise Cemetery. The Columbarium.
Fred de Noyelle / Corbis Documentary / Getty Images


Direct cremation is less expensive than a traditional funeral service involving burial or cremation because there is no need to embalm, fix features, cosmeticize, provide hair care, dress, etc., of the deceased, or to arrange a funeral and/or burial service. The cost of a direct cremation in the United States is generally around $1,000 but varies widely. For example, a New Jersey-based funeral home offers direct cremation for $795, for example, while a Colorado-based firm offers it for $1,295.

If you decide to directly cremate the body of a deceased loved one (or your body), it is important to understand that you can still arrange and conduct a funeral or memorialization service at any time following a direct cremation. There are several reasons to choose cremation as the form of final bodily disposition, but one of the most compelling is that cremation offers highly flexible service options afterward versus burial below or above ground.

Thus, direct cremation doesn't prevent you from scattering cremated remains at a location significant to the deceased or to the family, burying the cremated remains in a cemetery or placing them in a columbarium, or just conducting a service meaningful to you, your family and friends and to other loved ones present.

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