Cremation Basics: Full Service vs. Direct Cremation

Some people plan their own funerals, right down to specific scripture verses and pieces of music. Others think that what happens to their remains after their death is a matter for loved ones to decide. Tragically, some families experience sudden and unexpected loss and are left making decisions about the disposition of a loved one’s body amidst the shock of grief.

However it comes about, death is a certainty for us all. Deciding what to do with a person’s remains after they depart this world can be difficult and confusing. Learning the cremation basics and understanding the differences between full service and direct cremation before a loss occurs will make the process easier.

What Is Cremation?

Many people have a general idea of what cremation is, understanding that it means burning a deceased person’s body and returning the cremated remains to the person’s surviving family.

A place where the cremation takes place is called a crematorium. These businesses require state licenses, and the person conducting the cremation must also be a licensed funeral director or mortuary service provider.

The family or funeral home can determine if the body can wear one of the decedent’s outfits or if the funeral home will use a simple sheet instead. The funeral home usually places the body in a container that will burn along with the body. This container is typically a cardboard box.

The only part of the human body that doesn’t burn completely away during cremation is the skeleton. When cremation is complete, crematory staff retrieve the bone fragments and process them into a fine powder. They then place these cremated remains into an urn or container of the family’s choice.

Urns that contain human remains may remain at home, or the family may inter them in a cemetery plot within a burial vault box.

Full Service Cremation

There are actually two main types of full service cremation: funeral and memorial. The choice to hold a funeral or memorial service is largely based on a family’s religious views, traditions, and ability to gather in a specific place for a formal ceremony.

Funeral Cremation

Where the family plans to have a traditional wake and funeral, with the body of the deceased present, a funeral home retrieves the body from the place of passing and may embalm the body to preserve it for viewing. The funeral home may also perform some cosmetic restoration to make the deceased look as much as they did in life as possible if the family wishes. The family can choose how they would like the body to be dressed and what type of casket they want the person’s remains to rest within.

Unlike a traditional funeral followed by a graveside service, however, a funeral cremation takes place immediately after the service. The family may later elect to bury the remains in a cemetery plot, with or without additional ceremony.

Funeral cremations can cost a similar amount as traditional funerals followed by burial in a casket. In addition to the basic services of collecting the body, there are costs for embalming, cosmetic preparation, a casket, a funeral program or booklet, and flowers, if desired.

Preparing the body can take several days. If delays are necessary to permit travel, there may be additional charges for storing the body properly until a funeral home can transport it to the place where the funeral will occur. Finally, there may be a fee or expected donation for clergy to conduct the service and for the use of the space where a funeral will occur.

Memorial Cremation

A memorial cremation is just like a funeral cremation, except the body of the deceased is not present. Cremation may take place before a memorial service, and the family may display the urn containing the cremated remains along with photos of the person who has passed.

The family may instead choose to keep the cremated remains at home, scatter them, or bury them in a cemetery plot at a time of their choosing after the memorial service. Memorial cremation is slightly less expensive than funeral cremation because the body does not require preparations.

There will still be costs for the cremation itself, the administrative services of preparing and filing required paperwork, an urn, flowers, clergy, and the space used.

Direct Cremation

Direct cremation is cremation without a ceremony. The cremation provider collects the body and prepares the necessary papers for the surviving family to sign, allowing for the creation of a death certificate and authorizing the cremation. So long as an autopsy is not necessary or is already complete, the funeral home cremates the body immediately after completing the proper paperwork and filing it with local authorities.

They will then return the cremated remains to a surviving family member in a simple container. The family may also choose to receive the remains in an urn suitable for display on a mantle or a bookcase or an urn within an acceptable vault-type box.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Cremation

There are several factors to consider when choosing between full service and direct cremation. For personal, spiritual, and financial reasons, family members may have strong feelings about which is best. Ultimately, the decision depends on whether the deceased specified their wishes, the family’s personal preferences and traditions, and the affordability of the choice.

The Wishes of the Deceased

The wishes and traditions of the deceased person may play a major role in surviving family members’ decision to conduct a funeral, memorial, or direct cremation. There may be specific instructions in the person’s will, or they may have discussed their preferences with a spouse or adult child.

Funerals and memorial services primarily benefit surviving family members, as the person who has passed has no more earthly concerns. But before their passing, they may find comfort in knowing how their family will celebrate their life or mark their passing. They may also need the solace of knowing that prayers will be said and religious practices observed.


One major concern for many people as they plan for what will happen when they die is inflicting a financial burden on their surviving family. Families who are making the decision can choose direct cremation to ensure their loved one is treated with dignity without spending more money than they can afford.

Direct cremation is less costly, but that doesn’t mean it is conducted with any less respect for the person who has died. Licensed, professional funeral providers handle the deceased with care and concern for family sentiments.

Environmental Responsibility

For many people, there is a concern about burying an embalmed body in a metal casket, as this involves putting non-biodegradable materials and chemicals into the ground. Direct cremation eliminates embalming fluids and conserves land. It also enables one cemetery plot to contain the remains of three or even four persons if desired.

Apyre provides New Jersey direct cremation services. If you reside in New Jersey or have a loved one pass away in the state, you can choose the less expensive, more environmentally friendly direct cremation option by calling us. We will collect your loved one quickly, handle all the necessary paperwork electronically, and return your loved one’s cremated remains to you. Our licensed funeral service provider will ensure that you, your family, and your loved one are treated with the utmost respect.