Cremation is simply a means of final disposition for a body. Cremation is not a type of funeral
or memorial service. Cremation actually gives a family many options for a service, and it can
allow for special and creative ways of interment.
Although cremation is fairly new and might be unfamiliar to many of us in the Midwest, it is
a process that has been used by civilizations for centuries. In some parts of the United States,
cremation is used for nearly half of all deaths.
As you read this, you might have some questions that are left unanswered. We
encourage you to contact your local MFDA member funeral director for more information.
He or she will be more than happy to assist you in any way possible.
What is cremation?
Cremation is a process in which a body is placed in a special chamber called a retort and intense
heat—ranging from 1400° to 1800° Fahrenheit—to reduce the body to its basic mineral elements
and bone fragments (not ash) called cremated remains. While the larger bone fragments will be
processed to reduce their size, some might still be recognizable as pieces of bone. Cremation
reduces a dead body to its basic elements in a matter of three to four hours, a process that takes
nature many years to do.
After the cremation is completed, the crematory workers use every means possible to
gather all the cremated remains from the retort and place them into a temporary container. The
extreme care used by the workers ensures that as many of the cremated remains as possible are
returned to the family and that there is no mixing of cremated remains from another body.
Does cremation affect whether I can have a funeral service or memorial service?
Cremation has little effect on what type of ceremony you choose: funeral or memorial.
“Funeral” is a term used for a ceremony with the body present, and “memorial” means that the
body is not present during the ceremony.
When cremation is the choice, any of the following options can be selected:
• Visitation or “wake,” with or without the body present.
• Ceremony at the funeral home or church, with or without the body present.
• A formal procession to the crematory or place of interment for the cremated remains.
• Pallbearers may be used in the service.
• The cremated remains may be buried in a cemetery, entombed, scattered, or kept by the family.
• A funeral or memorial service may be held at several locations where the person has special ties.
Survivors have emotional needs to be served. Expressing grief is one of these needs,
and it has been shown that a funeral or memorial service may assist in the resolution of
the grief process.
What is an immediate or direct cremation?
“Immediate” and “direct” cremation are terms that are used when the body is cremated soon
after death with little or no other preparation. In most cases, once the family has identified the
body for the funeral director and the necessary written permission has been obtained, the
cremation can be completed.
Your funeral director will help you in making these arrangements and ensuring that
they are completed in a professional manner.
Are cremations cheaper?
Cremation is just like any service offered by a funeral home: in and of itself it can be
inexpensive. However, cremation usually is part of a complete service, the cost of which
will be determined by the amount and type of services the family selects, whether or not a
casket or other container is used for the body, and the type of urn that is used for the
Your funeral director will openly discuss the costs involved with the service of your
choice. A good funeral director is equally interested in meeting both your emotional and
What about cremation or memorial societies?
In almost any part of the country you can find advertisements for some type of cremation society.
Many societies exist mainly to provide minimum services to their members who pay a membership
fee, and some are actually for-profit companies.
Today, any MFDA member funeral home can help you with cremation. They will personally
care for the body and assist in any type of service or any governmental requirements or
applications. Your funeral director is also available to you at any time for assistance and can
help with any local notices or arrangements you may need.
What about embalming?
Embalming is not required for cremation unless:
• the body is to be shipped by public transportation
• there will be a public viewing
• final disposition will be more than 72 hours after death
• death was due to an infectious disease if so ordered by the Commissioner of Health
Embalming does not hinder the cremation process if it has been performed. Your funeral
director will be able to look at your needs and wishes and tell you whether or not embalming
will be needed.
Do we need to buy a casket?
The State of Minnesota does have a law that requires the use of a container to house the body
during the cremation process. Your funeral director will help with the selection of an
appropriately priced container for this purpose.
If a family selects a service with the body present, some type of casket will be needed. Any
type of casket can be used in cremation, and most funeral homes also offer special caskets for
cremation that can either be rented or purchased at a lower price.
What about an urn?
The crematory will return the cremated remains in a temporary container (cardboard or plastic)
that is suitable for transport and burial. However, many families wish to place the
cremated remains in an urn that may depict the life of the person. If this is your wish, your
funeral director will be able to show you a selection of urns they have available.
What do we do with the cremated remains?
Once the cremation has been completed, the legal requirements for the final disposition of the
body are met, but most families still wish to do something special with the cremated remains.
This is another area where cremation gives several options.
• Burial—The cremated remains may be buried in most cemeteries just as a casketed body is.
• Entombment—The cremated remains may be placed in a mausoleum, family tomb, or columbarium (special room for cremated remains in a funeral home, church or other building).
• Scattering—Some cemeteries have designated areas for scattering, or the cremated remains
may be scattered in a place which was special to the person, depending on state and local
regulations. For example, Minnesota State law does not allow scattering of cremated remains in any waterway.
Whatever your choice, it is necessary to check with local officials on the legalities of
scattering cremated remains. Your funeral director will be able to help you with this.
What about organ donation?
Some people wish to make a gift to others through organ donation. Once the organs are
removed, this will have little or no effect on the services the family has chosen.
This is an important decision that should be shared and discussed as a family prior to death.