Cremation and ash-scattering: How families are choosing to conduct their own memorial services

Cremation is changing the funeral industry, not just in terms of the disposition option of cremation, but how we choose to memorialize with the cremated remains.  Where families are choosing cremation, there is an increasing lean away from holding a formal funeral service at a funeral home.

More families are opting to wait to memorialize until after the cremation is conducted, and in some cases, are choosing not to use a funeral home to deliver the funeral or memorial service.

Do families really want to scatter cremated remains?

The 2018 NFDA Consumer Awareness and Preferences Study, reports that of the 61% of Americans who would choose cremation for themselves, 51.1 % would opt to have their remains scattered in a sentimental place.  Over 50% of respondents stating that they would choose an ash-scattering for their final rite of passage is a staggering number.  The implications of this mind-set to funeral homes and cemeteries is far-ranging, but largely signifies the potential for a huge decline in the profit margins on conducting funeral services and interring remains.

Cremation ash-scattering statistics 2018

The recent NFDA Cremation & Burial Report provides us with some up-to-date statistics on what happens with cremated remains. At present, 39% of cremated remains are returned to families, 37.1% of remains are buried at a cemetery, 1.6% of remains are scattered at a cemetery and 8.6% are placed in a columbarium. Furthermore, 19.8% of cremated remains are scattered at non-cemetery locations.

So, indications at present suggest that one in every five families who opt for cremation conduct their own ash-scattering memorial, with the likelihood this figure will steadily increase over the coming years.

Costs involved in a cremation ash-scattering service

Cremation Memorial ServiceThose families who choose to conduct their own ash-scattering service are doing it often at very little cost.  They may take a small group of family and friends to a special sentimental place and just do their ‘own thing’…….scatter the remains and have their own private farewell.

Minimizing the costs for a permanent memorial is one of the main reasons why families are choosing ash-scattering.

There are a whole array of ash-scattering services and companies that will provide services to help a family do a cremation ash-scattering.  Obviously, all this comes with a cost, and can range from very simple unaccompanied sea or land scattering in the region of $150 – $350, to a group boat charter or organized life celebration event, that may be in the price range of $450 – $2,000 (or more).

The division of the funeral industry:  cremation disposition and memorialization

I believe it is fair to say we are witnessing a division of the funeral service industry as we know it.  For decades now, we entrusted the funeral home to take care of everything.  They arranged collection, transport, funeral products, a funeral service and interment at a cemetery or columbarium.

Cremation has opened the path to the funeral industry splitting into 2 schisms – disposition and memorialization.

Cremation disposition:

A cremation takes care of the immediate disposition of the body.  A direct cremation can very affordably manage the need to deal with the disposition of the deceased, and requires limited services from a funeral home or funeral director.  The funeral home will collect the deceased from the place of death, shelter the remains whilst the legal requirements for authorization and permits are obtained, and then the cremation is conducted.  Once the deceased is cremated the remains are directly returned to the family.

This means the family can utilize the services of a funeral home to conduct the disposition, but not necessarily the memorialization of the tribute aspect of a funeral service.

Memorialization & Personalization:

With the division of the traditional death care industry, more families are opting to perform their own memorialization services.  Once the cremated remains are returned to the family, they can organize a tribute that fits around the family.

‘Personalization’ is quite the buzz word in the funeral industry right now, as funeral directors are keen to meet the demand for more personalized tributes, and still feel that there is a value-add they can offer a family in creating a personal memorial tribute.

Cremation Plan As highlighted above, more families are choosing not to inter cremated remains and there is a growing interest in ash-scattering memorials.

If a family choose to conduct an ash-scattering ceremony in a sentimental spot, this can be done without the need for officiation by a funeral director or celebrant.  Although, celebrants can be hired to help organize and conduct a memorial service.

The option to conduct a simple cremation service after a death occurs, then opt to hold a family memorial or ash-scattering ceremony, means death-care can be delivered at a fraction of the cost that we are used to.

The NFDA 2018 report surmised that the average cost for a traditional burial in 2017 was $8,755 (without a cemetery plot).  A direct cremation service can be arranged across the United States for around the cost of $1,000. [This price does vary by state and city but ranges from $595 to $1,795 depending on location].  If a family then conducts their own memorial service, funeral costs can be reduced significantly!  With many families living paycheck-to-paycheck, below the poverty line, and without life insurance today, direct cremation and a simple family farewell ash-scattering offers an affordable funeral alternative.

If you would like to find out the cost of a direct cremation near you, use the state links, and search your city or county.  For more information about conducting your own memorial service, use our section on What to do with Cremated Remains and Memorialization from the Cremation Blog homepage.