How does cremation work?

How does cremation work?

Burial in a cemetery isn’t for everyone. Whether for environmental reasons, personal beliefs, or the wish for a special final resting place, cremation is a popular passing preference chosen by more than half of Australians.

But just how does cremation work? Familiarising yourself with the basic process can help you decide if it’s the right choice for you or your loved one. Here we go through the basic steps of the cremation process, answering commonly asked questions along the way.

Before cremation.

Does cremation take place before or after the funeral or memorial service?

With cremation, the choice is entirely yours. You may like to hold a formal funeral service, with the body present in a casket, before the cremation process.

Others opt to hold a memorial after the cremation. This can be either a traditional service with the cremated remains present in an urn instead of the usual coffin, or a more casual memorial held as the ashes are placed or scattered in their final resting place. It all depends on the wishes of the deceased and their family.

How is the identity of the deceased verified?

Before any memorial or funeral service can begin, the first step is providing a death certificate. Other paperwork required for cremation is a statutory declaration plus medical certificates or a coroner’s cremation permit.

How is a body prepared for cremation?

First, any items that may affect the cremation process — such as jewellery or medical devices like pacemakers — are removed, usually by the funeral director. The deceased is placed in a coffin; once this coffin is accepted by the crematorium, it cannot be opened.

The coffin is then placed on an insertion trolley. For identification, a metal nameplate is placed beside the coffin and stays with the remains until the process is completed.

During cremation.

Once preparation is complete, the coffin is placed in the cremator feet first.

What does the cremator consist of?

There are slight variations between crematoria, but generally speaking there are two chambers and a cooling tray. The first chamber is where the cremation itself takes place. Similar to a kiln or furnace, this chamber is made of heat-resistant bricks on the walls and ceiling, and fuelled by natural gas.

How does cremation work?

It’s important to note that at no point are the deceased’s remains actually exposed to the fire; rather, they remain in a coffin the entire time. The cremation occurs due to heat from the bricks rather than exposure to direct flames.

How long does a body take to be cremated?

Cremation involves reducing the body to ashes in under two hours, unlike the slow decay over many years that takes place in traditional burial.

The entire process from beginning to end typically takes up to four hours. The length of the cremation itself depends on a range of factors but the average time for an adult is about 90 minutes at a temperature of 750 to 900 degrees Celsius.

Can I attend the cremation?

You may be able to attend and view the committal of the coffin or casket into the cremator, depending on the crematorium’s arrangements.

Do they cremate multiple bodies at once?

Typically only one body can be cremated at a time as health regulations state that coffins must be cremated separately.

The only exceptions may be if there are two deceased who are closely related, such as a mother and baby, or twin children. However, these cases require approval from authorities.

After cremation.   

What are the next steps of the cremation process?

After the initial phase is completed, the cremated remains are moved to a metal container and cooled.

Next they go through to the second chamber. At this stage, the remains are removed from the coffin and any metal debris is extracted by hand; this is later interred within the crematorium grounds. The remains are then processed into what we call ashes and transferred to a sealed container.

What happens to the ashes?

At this point the crematorium awaits the instructions of the deceased’s family. Typically they are given to the family in an urn.

Are the urns provided?

This depends on the funeral home, but typically a standard urn will be included as part of your arrangements. You may be able to choose a more decorative urn from the funeral home, or provide your own, if you wish.

Where can I lay the ashes to rest?

The decision of where to keep your loved one’s remains is not one to take lightly, but it really comes down to your preferences and theirs. Some bury the urn with a memorial marking, while others place it in a rose garden, a wall niche in a mausoleum, or even a special spot within the family home.

You may like to scatter the ashes in a cherished place filled with happy memories for the deceased. Do remember that you need to get permission from property owners if it’s on private land, or from local councils for parks and beaches.

If you’d like to scatter your loved one’s remains in a cherished place overseas, the first step is to contact that country’s consulate to check out what the legal requirements are. Further steps are outlined in our article on scattering remains abroad.

Next steps.

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong way to be farewelled — it’s a personal choice by the deceased and their loved ones. If you’d like more information about the process of cremation, our checklist can help you decide and plan. Click the image below to get started.

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Lady Anne Funerals is here to support and assist your family through what can be a difficult time, with a ladies touch. 

We are available to discuss a range of services to support your family, including: 

  • Personalised memorial services
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  • Religious services catering to all faith's
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Some of the families we've helped

“I just wanted to send you our sincerest thanks for everything you and your incredible team did for us in making the most perfect day, celebration and farewell of our beautiful Harper.

I have given a lot of thought to your business and the industry and I think it is perhaps the most important business for families to get it right when it comes to planning a funeral which may be sudden or may be a long time in the making. Either way, when one is faced with the unfortunate situation of needing to arrange a funeral, only then do you realise the importance of getting it right.

We experienced first hand the polar opposites the industry offers. It is not just about the cars, the booklets, the music and all the things that make up the day - its about the service, the care and most importantly it’s about the people.

From our very first conversation we could sense your genuine care to our situation and your attention to detail was obvious - this was very different to the previous conversations we had with others we had been referred to. Those other companies wanted to commence meetings with the paperwork side of things upfront which is a very confronting thing to do just days after losing your loved one - and when one of the others that I am referencing couldn’t even refernece our daughters name as our meeting started - we were horrified of how poor the service of care could be.

This is where you and your team shine. After feeling very lost in our search to secure the perfect funeral director to create the perfect day, my wife all of a sudden recalled you standing out the front of your office each morning watering the surrounding gardens to ensure a beautiful front of house. Well, I can assure you, it is not just the front of house that is beautiful - its the entire package that is beautiful.

Your manner, your direction and your expertise is evident from the get go. Nothing is too hard for you or your amazing team. The personal care made us feel like we were the only funeral you were working with at the time, and that’s exactly how it should be.

The finer detail, such as driving past our house so our daughter could go past our house one last time, then leaving the most beautiful flowers on our doorstep, to bumping into us at the Church because you were just doing your own research to make sure the day was seamless. This combined with your recommendations from every aspect as everything was very foreign to us, you were able to guide us to achieve the most beautiful farewell.

The day itself was simply perfect. Not once did we have a concern. The car was shining, your team dressed beautifully, cold water provided for us, directions for our guests, directions for us. Everyone commented on how amazing the day was and how incredibly your team were. Seamless is the only word I can use. It doesn’t stop here.

Your personal care and guidance then allowed us a more intimate farewell the following day (we are so grateful for for this recommendation and possibly would have missed this special day if you had suggested it was the best idea). Again, you and your team made us feel like you had nowhere else to be, and no one else to help. Just us. The setting was beautiful, the celebrant (that you arrange and recommend) is a delightful, your team make this day even more special than the last.

This is something we never want to go through again but there will be so many others, that like us, have no idea where to start to look for the right funeral director for their own special day. All I can say is that I hope that they appoint Lady Anne Funerals. We learnt a lot quickly and it is again a business many do not ever consider needing but without question one of the most important businesses to select the right person and the right team.

I welcome any of your future potential clients to contact me if they wish to discuss our experience with the amazing Lady Anne team. We thank you for giving our beautiful baby the most incredible farewell that was exactly how we imagined it, you just made it happen.”

Lee Dowdall

“We wish to thank you for having helped us put together a beautiful farewell for our mother, one which she would have been delighted with.

It was a difficult day and it would have been worse without your synchronised, seamless and consistent presence as well as attention to detail.

We value your candour as the people you are and the very sensitive manner in which you conducted the service.

Thanking you from the bottom of our hearts,

The Pastore Family
Karen has supported my Mum and me through the most difficult week of our lives as we not only planned a funeral, but interred my Dad to his new home. I will be forever grateful to Karen for her ongoing support, guidance, kindness, empathy and friendship over the last week. Karen has now become part of our extended circle of close family friends.
Daughter of the late Sveta Dordevich
Lady Anne Funerals has the compassion, understanding and empathy that many of the larger funeral homes do not possess. My aunts funeral was dignified and classy everything she deserved. I would highly recommend Lady Anne (and have) as they go above and beyond.
Joanne Marks
I am overwhelmed with the feedback on how beautiful it all was from all who attended. You and the other ladies were wonderful, looked so elegant, and made the day so very special for all who loved Paul.
Barbara Sommerville Enright
Karen and her staff treated us with the utmost respect we could not have been in better hands during this difficult time. My mum had organised her funeral with a prepaid funeral plan which she had purchased from Karen almost ten years ago this also made this upsetting time much easier to deal with and she got all the things that she wished for.
Malcolm Ellis
On behalf of my family, I would like to thank Lady Anne Funerals for a beautiful service yesterday for my aunt Dot. All who attended commented on how lovely the service was & the professionalism of all the staff. Thanks again very much for helping making a sad day one of celebration of Dot’s life.
Judith Neville

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