How is a Body Prepared for Cremation? Step-by-step

If you’ve asked the question, “How is a body prepared for cremation?” We have the answer in this detailed, ten-step guide.

Many families choose cremation as a thoughtful and dignified way to lay their loved ones to rest.

Whether driven by personal beliefs, financial reasons, or environmental considerations, cremation offers a meaningful alternative to traditional burial.

If cremation is the path you're considering, you might have questions about how it works and what happens.

How is a body prepared for cremation, exactly? This guide will walk you through each step of the cremation process, from legal requirements to the respectful preparation of the body and the return of cremated remains.

How is a body prepared for cremation?

The cremation process involves intense heat that reduces the body to ashes. Before reaching the cremation chamber where this process takes place, the body undergoes careful and respectful preparation.

This preparation ensures everything is handled safely and according to the family's wishes. Throughout this process, licensed professionals take care of the body, from obtaining legal authorization to cremating the remains and returning them to the family.

Let's explore each step in detail, providing a clearer picture of what to expect when you choose cremation.

Step 1: Legal documentation and permissions

Before any cremation procedures can begin, you’ll need to make sure that all legal requirements are met. This step involves procuring these certificates:

Step 2: Transportation to the funeral home or crematory

After the legal steps, the body is transported to the funeral home or crematory. 

Funeral homes typically have their own dedicated vehicles designed for this purpose. These vehicles are usually called removal vehicles or vans. They’re specifically equipped to ensure the safe transport of the deceased.

They are discreetly designed and climate-controlled to maintain the body's condition during transport.

Upon arrival at the funeral home or crematory, licensed professionals will transfer the body to a preparation area.

Step 3: Cleaning and sanitizing

Once settled in the preparation area, funeral home staff meticulously clean and sanitize the body. The body is washed using disinfecting solutions that are formulated to be mild and non-abrasive on the skin. 

Harsh chemicals are avoided to ensure the process is respectful of the body.

The cleansing process is thorough enough to ensure proper hygiene and sanitation for the cremation process.

Step 4: Removing medical devices

Before dressing the body for cremation, a crucial step involves ensuring the safety of the cremation process and staff.

This involves the meticulous removal of any implanted medical devices. Here's why this step is important:

Step 5: Preservation methods (embalming or refrigeration)

Embalming is a process that injects disinfectants and preservatives into the body to slow down decomposition. While it’s not usually necessary for cremation, embalming might be required under certain circumstances:

Step 6: Selecting a respectful vessel

After the body is prepared for cremation, families have the opportunity to choose a cremation container. Unlike traditional caskets used for burial, cremation containers are designed to burn completely during the cremation process.

These containers come in a variety of styles and materials, allowing families to find an option that reflects their wishes and budget. Here's a closer look at some common choices:

Step 7: Honoring traditions: Last rites and rituals

For many families, cremation allows them to incorporate cultural or religious traditions before the body is cremated.

Cremation service providers and funeral homes are sensitive to these practices and can provide guidance and support in honoring these wishes.

Here are some examples of last rites and rituals observed by various faiths:

Funeral homes can help families understand the specific requirements for their faith or cultural traditions and ensure these wishes are honored with respect and sensitivity during the cremation process.

Step 8: The cremation process

Once preparations are complete, the cremation process itself occurs within a designated cremation chamber, also known as a retort. This is a furnace designed to safely and efficiently cremate the body at extremely high temperatures. Here's a detailed look at what happens during cremation:

Can I be present during the cremation?

For safety reasons, funeral homes typically do not allow families to be present during the cremation process itself.

Some facilities may offer families the opportunity to witness the placement of the cremation container into the retort or hold a brief ceremony beforehand.

Step 9: Processing of ashes

After the cremation cycle is complete, the cremated remains are left to cool within the retort. Once cooled, the remaining fragments are removed and processed. Here's a closer look at what happens:

You have options: Cremation service providers offer a variety of urn options for families to choose from. These urns come in various styles, materials, and sizes to suit individual preferences and cultural traditions.

Families can also opt to keep the cremated remains in a smaller keepsake urn and scatter the remaining ashes in a designated memorial location.

Step 10: Returning the ashes to the family

Following the cremation process and preparation of the cremated remains, the funeral home will coordinate the return of the ashes to the family.

The ashes are typically returned to the family in a temporary container, which may be a simple plastic or cardboard urn.

Some families may choose to have the ashes placed in a permanent urn they have selected beforehand. For example, as part of Meadow’s cremation package, we offer a beautiful handmade wooden urn.

In the US, there are generally no specific federal regulations regarding the transportation or possession of cremated remains.

However, some states may have their own regulations. The funeral home can advise families on any specific state or local requirements they need to be aware of.

Planning a cremation?

Now that we’ve gone through how to prepare a body for cremation, the next steps involve planning, making decisions, and final arrangements for the cremation.

At Meadow, we understand the weight of this moment. We offer a compassionate and meaningful way to celebrate a life well-lived with affordable, all-inclusive cremation services and customized memorial planning services in the Los Angeles area.

Our team of caring memorial planners partner with you in this tender time to create an occasion as remarkable as the life it honors.

With our licensed team, you can expect:

Explore our Personalized Memorial Services