Burial or cremation: the options

Burial or cremation: the options

Here’s a quick rundown of the options you have when planning either to be cremated or buried. While there’s nothing wrong with a crematorium send-off or your local parish cemetery, it may be that a look at some alternatives make you re-think your own preferences.

What options do I have if I choose cremation?

You can have the service and committal all within the grounds of a crematorium. Or, you can combine and mix different details. You can have a typical funeral service, in a church for example, then hot foot it over to the crematorium afterwards. There’s also the option of having a direct cremation. This is where your body is simply cremated without a funeral ceremony. We’ve covered the basics of what you can expect from a direct cremation in a quick article. Of course, your ashes need to be put somewhere. Here’s a few suggestions to get you thinking. 

Scatter your ashes somewhere personal to you

Your remains will usually be handed over to your family in an unattractive plastic container, save with your name on. Though, you can remedy this by being scattered somewhere you’ve always thought pleasant such as your favourite park or hillside perch. If your chosen spot is so attractive it’s been put under the UNESCO protection scheme, your scatterers may come up against a few disapproving looks. Overall, the law surrounding ashes scattering in the UK is quite relaxed – just get the landowner’s permission. Our article on arranging a cremation looks at the guidelines surrounding ashes scattering in more detail.


You can be buried once you’re cremated – either at a crematorium, cemetery or natural burial ground. From artistic renderings, to biodegradable and even handmade out of papier mache, your remains can be contained appropriate to you. As for the urn’s final resting place, on the rise are barrows modelled on ancient burial practices. In these you can place your urn in an underground structure and rest in peace, prehistoric-style.

A fireworks display

Many fireworks providers can also create a small display using human ashes. It’s usually a quick show, and you’ll need to find an area not heavily populated, but it can be a suitably audacious send off for extroverts and pyromaniacs alike. It’s unlikely that this sort of send off will be be available from the local crematorium’s catalogue – it may wreak havoc with their hydrangeas – but this doesn’t mean there’s not a market out there.

On water

Many of the UK’s waterways, rivers and seas are host to ashes scattering ceremonies. Your family will need a boat and some motion sickness pills, but these are readily available. Many boat companies that operate on rivers also include an ashes scattering option, usually complete with hot cups of tea. It can be a moving ceremony, in more ways than one. 

What are some of the options I have if I choose a burial?

For many, a burial means a church service and the local parish cemetery. A traditional choice, humans have been ritually burying each other for one hundred thousand years or more; there’s no stopping us, now. Though, there are ways you can personalise this long-established ceremony. Whether you want to revel in being the first in your family to claim the back garden as their final resting place or you’re interested in an eco funeral, here’s some ideas for a burial.

A natural or woodland burial

Some people forego the local cemetery and opt for what’s known as an eco funeral. Natural burial sites and woodland areas designated for burial usually do without headstones, embalming and materials that affect the soil. It may be that you find it comforting to be a part of a wider life cycle. Or, you’re just practical and think that, if you’re going to decay, you may as well give back to the environment all of your soluble nutrients. 

Burial at sea

This is traditionally a Navy-approved method, but there are certain areas in the UK where burial at sea can take place for anyone. You can apply for a marine licence to bury someone at sea from the Gov website. Burial at sea can be an impressive send off that requires some forward planning and nights in listening to the Shipping Forecast.

The back garden

Home burials are legal, so long as the body is buried at least 2 feet below the soil. Bodies must also be placed 50 metres from any spring or well that supplies water. It’s an option. Rest assured, there are plenty of health and safety guidelines to get your teeth into if you’re thinking about a home burial. In any case, it’ll be worth notifying local authorities or neighbourhood gossipers before you go.

Do I need a funeral director?

It’s not a legal requirement, and it could be that your family carry out all that’s needed to give you a send off. Read our article about arranging a funeral without professional help. You’ll need a few robust volunteers to collect your body, but a DIY approach can be a very personal way of going about a funeral.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of all the possibilities for where your body, however it turns out, will go after your death

There’s the possibility of either donating specific organs or giving your whole body over to scientific research. And, of course, we’re at a juncture of possibility in the arenas of science and technology. Why not consider the brave new world of the many (unsuccessful) developments in cryogenics or the new technology surrounding dissolving bones in alkaline – a new approach to cremation. This is only the beginning of your end.

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