How to Arrange a Direct Cremation: Step-by-Step


With the cost of traditional funerals and burials on the rise, more people are turning to direct cremation. A direct cremation is faster, and it’s significantly more cost-effective than a traditional cremation. During a direct cremation, the body is cremated quickly after the death. Because there are fewer preparations and materials, this greatly reduces the overall cremation cost.

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In other words, a direct cremation is the most basic type of cremation. There’s no viewing of the body, and the ashes are returned simply to the family. For families who don’t need their loved one’s body present, this is an affordable, effective choice. 

However, even though most people have an idea of how cremation works, there’s a lot of confusion around direct cremation. It’s normal to have questions, and it’s okay to ask for help along the way. With more direct cremations being arranged online, it’s important to know what you’re getting into when you choose this option. 

In this guide, we share how to arrange a direct cremation step-by-step. This breakdown walks you through everything you need to know about direct cremation, what you can expect, and more. It’s time to pull back the curtain on the direct cremation industry to help people make an informed choice. 

What Information Will You Need Before You Arrange a Direct Cremation?

First, you need to make sure you have the right information before you begin your arrangements. While your funeral home or funeral director can guide you through this process, it’s important to have as much as you can in advance. This speeds up the process, making the direct cremation seamless. You’ll need:

  • Your loved one’s full name
  • Your loved one’s dates of birth and passing
  • Information about loved one’s mechanical implants (pacemakers, etc.)
  • Your loved one’s location (funeral home, hospital, coroner, etc.)
  • Your loved one’s weight (approximate) 
  • Your personal information

Each state has its own laws about who is allowed to authorize cremation on behalf of a loved one. This usually needs to be a spouse, adult child, surviving parent, sibling, or an authorized executor. This person should complete these forms and gather information on behalf of the funeral. 

You can allow anyone to receive the urn. Most cremation providers mail ashes within a simple urn to a recipient of your choice, and this can be anyone. A signature will be required at the time of delivery. 

Finally, it’s also a good idea to talk with your family about what’s important to you in a direct cremation. There are a lot of benefits of cremation, but you’ll still need to consider a casket (or rental), unique urn, or small viewing. These are questions you should answer prior to working with a cremation provider. The more you understand the process, the easier it is to make arrangements efficiently. 

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Steps to Arrange a Direct Cremation

When you’re ready to arrange a direct cremation, the process is relatively straightforward. While the specific requirements vary by state, you should expect to go through the steps below. 

Step 1: Choose your direct cremation provider

To begin, you need to search your area for the right cremation provider. Many funeral homes offer different types of cremation, and not all have direct cremation. You can do a simple search online, ask for referrals, or read reviews. 

All funeral homes are required under federal law to be transparent about pricing. Don’t hesitate to ask for clear pricing when shopping around for the right value for your needs. Keep in mind that add-ons like urns, transportation, and more will be an extra fee. 

Step 2: Contact your funeral home or plan online

Next, make arrangements for the direct cremation. You can do this by calling your crematorium, or you can arrange it online. Some funeral homes today operate completely online, and this is a way to streamline your plans. 

You’ll first need to share information about your loved one. This includes their full legal name, date of birth, date of death, and whether they have any mechanical implants. Some of these need to be removed prior to cremation, so ask your funeral home when in doubt. 

Step 3: Make sure you’re authorized

Depending on your state, you may or may not be authorized to sign for the cremation of a loved one. This usually must be the legal next-of-kin or the designated agent. A next-of-kin could be a spouse, sibling, parent, or adult child. If there are multiple children who qualify, for example, a majority is needed to complete the request. 

Step 4: Arrange for transportation

The next step is to arrange for transportation of your loved one’s body. This is usually handled by the funeral home or crematorium. The body is transferred by professionals to a cremation facility in the nearby area. This might cost an extra fee on top of the cremation itself. 

Step 5: Choose a casket

For most direct cremations, a minimal casket is used. The body might be placed in a wooden box, paper box, or shroud. The material should be flammable, making it easy to break down these materials in the crematorium. 

In some cases, you might choose to purchase a different casket for your loved one’s cremation. This is entirely up to you, but remember this will raise the cost. If you’re holding a short visitation, a rental casket can be used. 

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Step 6: Collect the ashes

Lastly, make a plan to collect your loved one’s ashes. Many direct funeral homes mail the ashes to you after the cremation is complete. Otherwise, you can arrange a time to pick them up. These ashes are stored in a simple box or bag for safekeeping. You’re free to scatter the ashes, bury them in a cemetery, or use a traditional urn. 

If you have any more cremation questions about the process, talk to your funeral home. It’s their job to make sure you’re comfortable at every step throughout this process. 

Tips for Arranging a Direct Cremation

Finally, what are the best tips to keep in mind when arranging a direct cremation? Since this is a process most people aren’t very familiar with, it’s only natural to want to learn as much as you can. Let these tips simplify the process. 

1. Compare prices and services

To begin, don’t be afraid to compare prices and services. This is a big purchase. Even a direct cremation can cost upwards of $800. In some states, it’s even more expensive. There’s no reason to pay more than you need to for the same services. 

If possible, search around for the best price. This is especially worthwhile if you’re working with a strict budget. You should spend your money honoring your loved one, not worrying about rising cremation costs. 

2. Hold your own memorial service

You don’t need your loved one’s body present at the memorial service to honor his or her legacy. With this in mind, you don’t need to hold your loved one’s memory at the funeral home. You can save a pretty penny by having the funeral or memorial at your own home, a special location, or even outdoors. 

3. Plan in advance

Whenever possible, do planning in advance. If a loved one is reaching the end of their life, help them make these decisions. It’s helpful not only to know what a loved one wants after death but to reduce this burden for family members. Don’t forget to share your own end-of-life plans with trusted relatives. 

4. Buy an urn online

Most cremation providers have their own selection or showroom for urns. While these are convenient, they can be significantly higher cost. Though more affordable than a casket, urns can still be expensive. You can always buy an urn online, or you can skip an urn altogether. It’s entirely up to you. 

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5. Keep in mind what can be cremated

Did you know not all clothing can be cremated? Some things aren’t allowed into the cremation chamber since they’re a potential risk. If you plan to dress your loved one in clothes or have your funeral home do this on your behalf, be mindful. You can’t cremate any metal, plastics, glass, or certain synthetic materials. 

6. Set a budget upfront

It’s easy to say you’re going to stick to a budget, but this isn’t always effortless in practice. The cost of funerals and cremation is on the rise. No matter where you live, you could be shocked at the overall cost of your loved one’s cremation.

Though a direct cremation is a low-cost alternative, you still need to set up a budget in advance. The sooner you can put money aside, the less likely you’ll go overboard and purchase extras you don’t need. 

7. Skip cosmetology and embalming

In our society, it’s common to embalm the dead. While this is commonplace for many modern burials, it’s not required. If your loved one is going to be cremated, skip the embalming and cosmetology. This is truly only recommended if you’re holding a viewing at a funeral. Otherwise, it’s not worth the cost. 

8. Find a facility near you

Last but not least, do the best you can to find a cremation provider near you. The farther the body has to travel to the crematorium, the more expensive transportation fees are. If the body has to go across state lines, this becomes even more complicated. 

When in doubt, choose a facility nearby. This also helps you learn more about the funeral home from the nearby community. You should always trust the facility you choose, no matter where it’s located. 

Organize a Direct Cremation

Are you planning to organize a direct cremation? Whether you’re pre-planning for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to know the ins and outs of this process. There is a lot of mystery around direct cremation compared to traditional cremation. The good news is it’s much less complicated than it sounds. In many cases, it saves you both time and money.

Everyone deserves a meaningful final sendoff. No matter your wishes, make sure your loved one is honored in the end. A direct cremation is a modern alternative to time-consuming funerals of the past. As the saying goes, funerals are truly for the living. 


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