Can you be cremated without a coffin?

Last Updated: 26th August 2022

A question often asked of people who are arranging their own funeral in advance or for their loved ones is ‘Can you be cremated without a coffin?’

There are often more questions raised when arranging a funeral and considering a cremation over a traditional burial and whilst there might always be doubts for any type of funeral arrangement, there is more and more information being made available as what people can expect at any type of funeral and answers to questions such as ‘can you be cremated without a coffin?’.

When asking the question ‘Can you be cremated without a coffin?’, there might be more than one answer given. 

The answer will be dependent upon the crematoria that is being used to cremate a deceased body.

Whilst it is not a legal requirement to be cremated without a coffin and leads to a positive answer when wondering can you be cremated without a coffin it is certainly preferable for any deceased body to be contained within a coffin or a shroud according to crematoria.

The legal requirement in the UK concerning a deceased person is that the deceased body must not be in sight of the public (it must be covered up at all times).

Although it is possible to positively answer can you be cremated without a coffin it is useful to note that cremators are built in such a way that it is very difficult to move a body whilst it is inside it.  Therefore, to ensure the practice of cremation is completed efficiently and effectively, most crematoria prefer having the deceased body in a coffin so that they are secure.

If there is a preference and someone favours the question ‘can you be cremated without a coffin’ the crematoria might request that a board is used to hold the deceased body instead of a coffin because a solid, flat base is required in any event.

People often ask ‘Can you be cremated without a coffin?’ because they feel it makes little financial sense to invest in a coffin that can be quite expensive to have it burnt during cremation. 

It is worth noting that there are many types of coffin that can be purchased for the more traditional burials or for cremation. 

When considering all options including ‘Can you be cremated without a coffin?’ it might be worth considering other types of coffins that are accepted for cremation.  Whilst the traditional wooden coffins (made of oak, beech, birch or pine) are often still popular, there are other materials that coffins are made out of and can include: a knitted / woven wool, wicker, willow, banana leaf, straw, cane or cardboard. 

There are many more materials that coffins can be made out of and they can create a more personal touch to the more conventional wooden coffin that might be more conformal.

As cheaper and more sustainable options of coffins become more popular for the use during cremation, it is worth remembering what is on offer if cost or environmental factors are reasons for you to wonder ‘Can you be cremated without a coffin?’.

It might be surprising to learn that wicker coffins are not a modern idea.  Historically, in ancient times, the overcrowded cemeteries of London often had many wicker coffins being used and this dates back to the late 19th century. 

These days, personalisation of willow coffins can be offered and this might include coloured ribbons, fabric or bands, and even personal possessions weaved into the coffin, provided it is permissible by the burial ground or crematorium.

Once the coffin is closed and the committal has taken place, the deceased body is ready for cremation to begin.  It is at this time that nothing can be removed from the coffin.  The coffin is placed in the cremator and the cremator cannot be opened and the coffin will be burnt, along with the deceased body.

It is important that, when you are arranging your funeral in advance or if you are making funeral arrangements for a deceased loved one, you are comfortable in every choice you make. 

If you prefer having an alternative method of keeping the deceased body hidden from public view, in preparation for cremation, it is worth asking a funeral director who will, in turn, ask the crematorium ‘can you be cremated without a coffin?’ 

Provided the deceased body is placed in a secure container or on something that is entirely combustible, there is no legal requirement in the UK to have anything in particular such as a casket or coffin in order to be cremated. 

If cremation is the way in which you wish you or your loved one is to be laid to rest, it can be less financially burdensome, and the choice of coffin can help with that financial burden.  The choice taken might be down to expense and personal preference.

A casket is not mandatory for cremation and the crematorium might provide you with an alternative option that is more suitable for you.

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