Cremation & Traditional Affordable Funeral Services Explained

Jun 17, 2024 | Funeral Services

What are the different types of traditional funeral services?

Traditional funeral service, burial, memorial service, eco-friendly funerals, natural burial, green funeral options, funeral rites, private funeral/burial /cremation, interment, no-service, cremation, inurnment, ashes, single or dual service, cremains, modern or contemporary funeral service… and the list goes on.

People who work within a funeral service company often assume that everyone understands the different terms and concepts. Of course, those who do not work in the sector generally spend little time thinking about funeral processes until the need arises. This blog provides information and simple definitions to help you make informed decisions with confidence.

The term ‘funeral’ is an umbrella term generally used to describe;

  1. what happens to the body of the deceased, and
  2. all the other ‘social’ things that we do at the time.

When it comes to organising a funeral, it is helpful to think about these two things separately.

Let’s start with what happens to the body of the deceased. At this time in Australia, the choice is burial or cremation.

Burial is the placement of the full body into a grave inside a coffin or shroud. A burial can also be referred to as an interment. In all Australian States bodies must be buried in a legally established cemetery, natural burial ground or church yard. (Technically it is possible to be buried on private land, but this requires land of a certain size, and a range of special permissions and approvals that vary from State to State and Territory.

Cremation is the process of burning the physical remains to reduce it to ashes (or cremains as they are sometimes called – cremated-remains). As with burial, the deceased is placed within a coffin (or in some States in a shroud on top of a rigid carrier) to enable for safe handling and positioning within the cremation furnace. The burial of ashes at a later time is referred to as inurnment.

Now let’s consider the social things.

Practically speaking, once the body is either buried or cremated, there is no need to do anything else. However, for most people, the act of coming together to publicly acknowledge the death of a friend or relative in some meaningful way is essential. This coming together is the funeral service (or, in religious terms, funeral rites), and for thousands of years, it has been a defining part of cultures across the world. In most religions, there is the option of holding a traditional funeral service at a church or temple and then moving on to a cemetery or crematorium afterwards. This is sometimes referred to as a dual (or two-point) service. Logically, a service at the cemetery or crematorium only is called a single service.

Most people choose to have the body of the deceased present at the funeral service. This choice is more than just tradition. The presence of the deceased adds a gravity and ‘reality’ to a funeral service that, for many, is essential to the grieving and farewell process. When selecting a funeral service company, it’s crucial to consider their reputation and experience to ensure the best possible service for your loved one.

That said, not everyone’s the same, and not all circumstances are the same. A funeral service can be held without the deceased present, and this is called a memorial service. A memorial service might follow on from a no-service burial or cremation where the disposal of the remains occurs without the family present. In different circumstances, families sometimes choose to have a private burial or cremation with only immediate family present, and then arrange a memorial service afterwards to which a wider circle of friends or relatives are invited.

For every life that ends, there is only one opportunity to arrange a funeral. Once the decision of burial or cremation is made, the truly important thing is to choose the type of funeral service that reflects the character of the person who has died and provides that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a personally meaningful farewell. At Potter’s Field Funerals, we understand the importance of planning an affordable funeral service just the way you want it, intimate and dignified.

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Are cremations more common now in the funeral industry?

Yes, but it took a long time… and the reasons for its prevalence now may not be what you think.

The first crematorium in Australia was built at the West Terrace cemetery in Adelaide in 1901. It was the result of lobbying by a small but active group of citizens. It is likely that some of their motivation was to mimic trends in England where the first crematorium had been built about 20 years before (1879).

In its first year of operation the Adelaide crematorium had exactly one customer. The population then was around 170,000 people, and while accurate records are not available, there would have been about 2000 deaths in that year. So it’s fair to say that the initial uptake of cremation was slow. The traditional funeral service in religious custom was no doubt a strong factor, but there was also opposition to cremation simply because it was seen as a ‘violent’ means of disposition compared to the prevalent idea of ‘laying a person to rest’.

The notion that some people 120 years ago considered cremation to be violent probably seems a bit ‘precious’ nowadays. But in reality, cremation was then, and still is, a light industrial process using a furnace and fuel to reduce a body to bone fragment. The thing is that over time we human beings tend to stop thinking about things, and they become ‘normal’ – the technical term is habituation.

Back to the story of cremation in Adelaide. The original crematorium continued to operate and each year for a few decades there were few more people who opted for ashes to ashes instead of dust to dust. Then around the 1950 the trend changed and the number of cremation began to rise.

You might guess that this was the result of changing social or religious values. Or maybe the influence of scientific thinking on popular culture. While social factors may have had some influence the main cause for the change was much simpler – it was cost.

It was about 1950 when the cost of a burial site and funeral became more than the cost of cremation and funeral. In the years that followed, the number of cremations continued to rise in line with increases in the increasing cost of cemetery burials. This situation continues to this day, and now the difference in cost is gobsmacking!

In Adelaide, a family can organise a budget funeral service (at a crematorium) for around $4,000 to $8,000, depending on their choices. If that same family wanted to buy a grave site in a metropolitan cemetery, the prices start at about $21,000 and go up to $103,000 – just to clear, that’s for the grave only without any funeral services.

Cremation is now well entrenched in our culture and is used in about 70% of metropolitan funerals, but there is a small, but growing, group of people questioning its environmental impact and necessity. The cremation process uses fossil fuels and emits atmospheric pollution. Arguments that cremation is necessary due to land shortage might apply in small densely populated countries, but lack logic in vast countries like Australia.

However, until there are affordable cremation and funeral services available, there is little doubt cremation will continue to be an ‘automatic’ choice for many people. So in the meantime, provided crematoriums are required to use modern furnaces that limit atmospheric pollution, and that the true environmental (carbon) cost of the process is genuinely offset, the decision to choose cremation is a reasonable personal choice – at least for now.

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Are traditional funeral services becoming less common?

The answer to this question depends entirely upon your definition of a funeral.

Custom, common and traditional funeral service practices and offerings influence what most of us consider to be a funeral.

If you think a funeral is a formal service conducted in a church followed by a procession of vehicles to a graveyard for burial then the answer is yes, funerals are becoming less common.

If on the other hand, like most people, you think of a funeral as a gathering of people to acknowledge the death of a friend or family member then the number of modern funerals happening today is just about the same as it has always been – one per person.

Once a person dies, our relationship with them changes to one of memory alone. And at the end of the day what each of us takes away from a funeral is the memory of our final physical moments together. The exact nature and style of any individual funeral is much less important than the act of coming together to say goodbye and to share this important moment with others.

A funeral is most important to the people who knew the deceased, and we tend to think about funerals only as personal or family events. However, as individuals and families we are all part of our wider community, and modern funerals are an important social custom.

William Gladstone became the Prime Minister of England in the 1868’s. He was born into a family of slave owners, but despite this managed to find his moral compass and by most reports was a pretty good prime minister. He is quoted as saying:
“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness, the tender mercy of its people, their respect for the law of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.”

Gladstone understood that the focus and effort and care that people afforded to their family members at the time of death was a reflection of the day-to-day values and functioning of society.

It doesn’t matter if a funeral is small or large, simple or ornate, affordable or extravagant. What matters is that we as individuals and families make informed and considerate choices, and engage in meaningful funeral rituals. Funerals that allow us the opportunity to pause and reflect, mourn and celebrate, and create lasting memories that in time become more and more precious.

Whether you are looking for a traditional or a contemporary funeral service, Potter’s Field Funerals is here to support you during this difficult time. Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to providing the best funeral directorship in Melbourne to guide you through the process with compassion and understanding.

We also offer eco-friendly funerals and green funeral options for those seeking more sustainable choices. As an affordable funeral home, we strive to ensure that our services are accessible to all, offering affordable cremation and funeral services for those in need.

Visit our website or call us at (03) 95684047 to find out more.

92 Atherton Rd,
Oakleigh, Victoria 3166

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