Cremation - Do you need a coffin and other questions answered

Cremation is becoming a more popular funeral option in recent years. In urban cities, more than 65% choose to be cremated and the number is growing. Brian Hutchison, from Hastings District Funeral & Cremation Service, Port Macquarie says about 80% of his business is from cremation today.

Increasing demand can be attributed to limited space at cemeteries, shortage of land, and a challenging economic climate. Cremations are also becoming more acceptable thanks in part to an increase in religious acceptance.

We know many people who still have questions about cremations but didn’t know how to ask. Here we have the answers to some of them.

Everything is reduced to ashes. Do you actually need a coffin or casket?
Depending on how you want the memorial service conducted, a coffin or casket allows for a respectful resting place for the body after embalmment. It also acts as a vessel to carry items of emotional value to be cremated with the deceased, such as a soft toy or final notes of goodbye. 

A coffin or casket is also practical, as you can easily transport the deceased in a hearse. It also allows you to move the deceased around a crematorium, or into the cremator with ease. 

“Cremation is becoming more popular. Around 80% of my business is from cremation services.” -
Brian Hutchison

Is it a legal requirement?
It is a legal requirement to use a coffin or casket, and all crematories require the deceased to be cremated in a combustible, leak-proof, rigid and covered container. This is for occupational health and safety reasons and to allow for the dignified handling of human remains. 

What is the difference between a coffin and a casket?
A casket is a rectangular box with the lid on hinges, held down by locks. A coffin has a traditional shape, wider at the shoulders and tapers towards the feet. The lid comes off completely and is secured with thumbscrews. A coffin is usually cheaper than a casket.

What coffin or casket options are available today?
Gone are the days when coffins or caskets are just wooden boxes. Today they are made from a number of different materials from metal to wood to fiberglass to eco-friendly cardboard or natural materials. You can even personalise and cover a coffin with images to celebrate a life well lived.

What can I expect after a cremation?
After a cremation, the ashes are taken out and placed in a container. There are usually some heavy bones left, and they go into a processor to be ground into smaller pieces. The remains, or in this case, ‘cremains’ are then put into an urn.

Families can purchase a variety of urns from wood to metal, and have the urn of ashes placed in a memorial, or scattered elsewhere. Look out for our next blog post on interesting ways people are spreading their ashes.

Should the memorial happen before or after a service?
This decision is entirely up to the family’s preference. When a family is conflicted regarding the decision to cremate, a compromise may be achieved by having a traditional service first, followed by the cremation.

Is a memorial service required for a cremation?
Hutchison observes that there seems to a swing towards families choosing a direct cremation without a wake or formal funeral. This could be due to practical or financial reasons, or perhaps the family is not able to deal emotionally with recent events. 

While a direct cremation eliminates many costs associated with traditional cremations and pre-funeral events, Hutchison believes it is very important to celebrate a person’s life with family and friends. It plays a big part in the grieving process. If for any reason a direct cremation is required, a memorial service can always be held at a later date.