How to Have a Cremation Funeral

You don’t have to forego a traditional funeral service for a loved one or yourself if you choose cremation. Boston Cremation has cremation options that allows you to have a cremation funeral – a blend of both funeral service and traditional cremation.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Rebekah Peoples; a licensed funeral director with Boston Cremation. Today our topic is how to have a cremation funeral. Welcome, Rebekah.

Rebekah Peoples: Hi, thanks, John.

Step 1 to Having a Cremation Funeral

John: Rebekah, what’s the first step in having a cremation funeral?

Rebekah: Well, having a cremation funeral actually gives you a little more flexibility than traditional funerals. Cremation funeral can mean a couple of things. There are people who still do the traditional thing with having visiting hours or having the person in a casket and present for the funeral, and then they are cremated afterwards, but with cremation funerals, we are seeing a definite move toward people being cremated first and then you have a couple of options.

When I said that having the person cremated first and having the funeral after gives you a little more flexibility because once the person’s cremated, you’re not on the same time frame that you would be to try to expedite things if the person’s body was actually still there in a casket uncremated. A couple of things that happen with that is people can utilize the services of the funeral home like besides to do the cremation, to also help arrange for the funeral itself and that could be a funeral that you have at your church.

We are seeing more people having services aside from also at the funeral home which is more traditional but people are starting to move toward having services at their home; a summer home that they might have where in this part of the country where a lot of people do have a summer home or access to one. People are having services — actually if they’re having a luncheon or some meal or some gathering, it may not be a meal, it might just be like, “Hey, we are all going meet down at Joe’s” wherever that is whether that’s a grill or a restaurant or whatever. “We are going to have a little bit of a service, and then we are all just going to talk about his life and celebrate his life and what he meant to us.”

John: Right. Yes, and like you said they’re having their cremation beforehand, it gives you more flexibility to do those types of things that you never would be able to do. If you had a casket with a body, you wouldn’t be going down to Joe’s and having the funeral service there, but when it’s an urn with ashes you can maybe get away with having a little bit of a different type of service like that.

Rebekah: Yes, exactly and we even see sometimes especially in this part of the country through the Winter people will say, “Oh, you know everybody is in other parts of the country. We are going to wait until Spring to have the service when people have better-traveling weather.” That’s something too that you are allowed with the flexibility.

Locations for Cremation Funerals

John: Right. In terms of where the cremation funeral or the service is held, sometimes people will just do it right at your location as well or at a church or at one of these untraditional locations, is that right?

Rebekah: Yes, and one I forgot to mention is we are seeing a move too toward people who may choose cremation but the person is still buried because we still have a lot of [traditional people], especially our generation, where our parents weren’t cremated because cremation wasn’t as popular as it is now. So we have parents who were buried without their body being cremated, they are buried in a casket. But most cemeteries will allow ashes to be buried on top of someone’s grave that has a casket in it, and so we are seeing a move toward not a traditional service at a church, at a funeral home or another place but right at the grave site.

That again is another thing that might dictate time of year. If it’s in the Winter and they don’t want to have a burial when there is snow in the ground, snow in the cemetery and inclimate weather conditions. They’ll have or are going to have the burial in the Spring, and [they’ll] invite everybody then or everybody is coming up for summer picnic that [they] have.

John: When the whole family is together?

Rebekah: Right.

Expediting a Cremation Funeral

John: Yes, interesting. In a situation where the family might need to speed up the process a little bit. Maybe people are coming from out of town but they can only be there on a certain day or something like that or perhaps the person who passed away, they passed away unexpectedly, and so there were no plans ahead of time. What can a family do to gather all of this stuff together and make this funeral service happen in an expedited or quick way?

Rebekah: Yes, there’re a couple of things to take into consideration with that. As we’ve mentioned in a couple of our other podcasts, there is a waiting period in Massachusetts of 48 hours from the time someone dies until they can be cremated. If you want to try to expedite the service, you can do a couple of things. One of them is not really within your control, but it’s certainly something that we can try to accommodate.

Say someone dies on a Tuesday and they want to try to have the service Friday, we can’t promise that it can happen. But what we can do is say, “Look, we will take the person to be able to be cremated as soon as that 48 hours is up if the medical examiner’s office gives their approval,” because in Massachusetts medical examiner’s approval has to be gotten before the person’s cremated. Then we call the crematory, and we say, “Look, as soon as that person gets approved for cremation, can you call and let us know because we want to try to have a service Friday.”

Hopefully, in a perfect world they call back and say, “Yes, the medical examiner’s office representative was here and signed off on the cremation, so you’re all set.”

John: And that could happen maybe as early as a day after the person has passed away? Is that right? But you still can’t have the cremation until 48 hours; that’s the earliest that you could have a cremation happen.

Rebekah: That’s right. We at least know at that point, we might know Tuesday afternoon the cremation can’t take place till Thursday, but we were able to have someone from the medical examiner’s office give their approval, so we know now, “Okay, everything is all set. As soon as the 48 hours are up, the person’s body will be cremated. We will have the ashes back Thursday afternoon. We can do the service Friday.”

John: Okay.

Rebekah: But we don’t know that right away. But the other choice with that, let’s say that the medical examiner’s office doesn’t give their approval, something didn’t look quite good, they don’t give their approval. Or let’s say the person died on Wednesday, they want the service Friday because they have a trip planned or they have like you said relatives that are already here from out of town who have to be here.

John: Who have to get back and go to work or things like that, yes.

Rebekah: Yes, what we can do is they say, “We want to have the service Friday.” “Okay, you can have the service Friday but here’s the little glitch that you just don’t tell everybody who comes to the service. The urn can be present for the service — it’s just empty.”

John: Interesting.

Rebekah: A lot of times people don’t know that. Nobody knows that the person’s cremated body is not in that urn because they haven’t been cremated yet unless you tell them.

John: Right.

Rebekah: When the urn is present for the service, people bring pictures, everything is exactly the same. There’s only one or two people that know that the urn is empty and that happens probably more often than most people know.

John: Really? Interesting. It’s one more option in order to speed things up or have the service happen at a specific time even though there might be a situation where you have to wait a little bit longer.

Rebekah: Yes, exactly.

John: Yes, interesting. Well, that’s great information, Rebekah. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Rebekah: Thank you.

John: And for more information, you could visit the website at or call 781-322-0909.

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