“Some just prefer a no-fuss service”

Tim Purves

Tim Purves believes people are choosing direct cremations are doing so for more than just cost reasons…

 “Obviously, we have seen many changes over the years we have been in business but we do not view direct cremation as a threat. We see it as an opportunity to offer another type of service to our families, and we are also finding that we can actually offer them other services after the cremation for those that choose to celebrate the lives of their loved ones at a later date.

Of course, the most common question families ask us when they first meet us is how much a funeral will cost, but we always take the time to find out what they are looking for first and then give them options.

One of these options is the direct cremation, but we make sure that they fully understand what this ‘no frills’ process involves: the deceased is taken straight to the crematorium and there is no service for the family to attend. Although this is a more economical option I am uncomfortable when people refer to this approach as the ‘Ryanair of funerals’ – we treat the deceased with the same care and consideration as we do with all our funerals, from picking them up to the delivery to the crematorium.

In addition to explaining all the services and costs, we also ask them to sign a form to show that they agree to the process of direct cremation so there can be no misunderstanding.

I think some funeral directors may be a bit uncomfortable about discussing the basic aspects of a direct cremation, but we live in a time where we have to be totally transparent and honest with families about telling them exactly what happens. Our approach is, if people want this option, then we’re not going to dissuade them.

However, if, after hearing about the process, they are not happy with the direct cremation approach, we can talk about doing something different for them.

Direct cremations account for just over 1% of our total funerals and, in general, they are chosen by professional people, such as from the medical profession or academia, who have enjoyed fulfilling lives and would prefer a no-fuss service. The cost has not been an influencing factor in their choice and we’ve only had positive feedback from the families. It has also opened up other opportunities for us as we have often been asked to help with booking a celebratory event after the cremation or organising a service to inter the ashes into a family plot.

My main concern with direct cremations is that Governments will view these as the easiest way to tackle funeral poverty. If we go down this route then we are denying those who might have wanted one the opportunity of a funeral service, and I actually think we could be storing up more issues in the future where people haven’t had the opportunity to grieve properly for their loved one.

I would far rather have a family say to me that they want a funeral but they are struggling with costs, than choose a direct cremation. If they can’t afford it, then let’s see what can we do to reduce costs rather than force them to have the cheapest option, which is no funeral service at all. Like all funeral directors, what we want is for a family to come through our doors and have a conversation so we can find out what they want. It’s all about options and choice.”

Tim Purves is Chairman and fifth generation of the Edinburgh-based family firm of William Purves Funeral Directors.

His company was established in Edinburgh in 1888 and today has 31 branches around the east of Scotland and north-east England encompassing 15 brands and employing more than 100 staff.

Tags: , , , , ,