Cremation FAQs

April 8, 2024

Do you have questions about cremation? We have prepared a comprehensive cremation FAQs guide answering common questions on the cremation process, memorialization options, and costs. 


  • What is a retort?
    • A retort is the proper name for the primary chamber of a cremation furnace where the cremation process takes place. The retort is lined with heat-resistant materials and designed to withstand extremely high temperatures, upwards of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Who operates the retort?
    • The individual responsible for overseeing a cremation facility is a licensed cremation manager who ensures that regulatory compliances are met and the crematory operator or technician meets the proper training requirements. The crematory operator or technician is a trained individual operating a retort in a cremation facility. They are responsible for operating the retort, including placing the deceased into the chamber, monitoring the cremation process, and ensuring that all regulatory and safety standards are followed. 
  • When can cremation take place? 
    • Cremation can not take place until all of the required forms are signed and the death certificate and disposition permit are certified by the county’s Health Department. On average this can take between 5 and 14 days.
  • What authorizations are needed prior to cremation?
    • Written authorization from the designated individual with the right to control disposition and a death certificate are required before cremation can proceed. Additionally, the Application and Permit for the Disposition of Human Remains must be obtained from the local county health department. Typically, the mortuary will assist with obtaining these documents. 
  • How long does the cremation process take?
    • The time to complete a cremation varies depending on several factors, including the size and weight of the body, the container and the type of cremation equipment used. On average, the cremation process is 1.5 to 3 hours. 
  • Can I view the cremation?
    • Some mortuaries or cremation facilities offer the opportunity for families to witness the deceased being placed into the cremation chamber. These facilities provide a dedicated viewing room where loved ones can be present. In some instances, families can remain on the premises while the cremation is taking place but the witness portion will conclude after the deceased is placed into the cremation chamber.   
  • Is the deceased clothed for cremation?
    • You may choose to be clothed or unclothed for cremation. While some people choose to be cremated without clothing, it is more common for the deceased to be dressed in clothing or shrouded in a cloth. 
  • Is embalming required prior to cremation?
    • Embalming is not required for cremation. However, embalming is required if a funeral service will take place with an open casket. 
  • Are people cremated individually?
    • Yes, by law all cremations in California must be performed individually.
  • Is a casket required for cremation?
    • A casket is not required for cremation but an alternative container is required. 
  • Is anything removed from the body before cremation?
    • Any mechanical or radioactive device would need to be removed prior to cremation, such as a pacemaker. 
  • Can we place special items in the casket or cremation container?
    • Yes, you can place special items such as jewelry or keepsakes in the casket or cremation container. It is important to check with the mortuary or cremation center regarding their policies on what can be placed inside the cremation container due to safety or regulatory concerns. 
  • How can my family be sure the remains I am getting are those of my loved one? 
    • Throughout the cremation process, detailed steps are taken to ensure the accurate identification of your loved one’s remains. At the time of death, an identification band is placed around the ankle of the deceased with vital information including name, date of birth, and the date and location of death. Upon arrival at the mortuary or cremation facility, a stainless steel identification disc that is electronically linked to the deceased’s records will stay with them throughout the entire cremation process and placed inside the urn alongside the remains.



  • What is the difference between a funeral and a memorial service?
    • A funeral typically occurs shortly after a person’s death and the body is present, either in an open or closed casket. There may be a burial or cremation following the service. A memorial service can happen at any time following a person’s death, even weeks or months later. The body is not present, as it may have already been buried or cremated. 
  • Do people have funerals or memorial services when they are cremated?
    • It is common to have a funeral or memorial service to celebrate the life of the deceased even if they choose cremation instead of a traditional burial. A service is highly-personalized and tailored to the wishes and preferences of the deceased and their loved ones especially when factoring cultural and religious factors. 
  • Do services happen before or after cremation?
    • Services can take place before or after cremation depending on personal preferences, cultural and religious traditions. Some families choose to hold a funeral before cremation takes place allowing loved ones to have a viewing, gather and pay respects in the traditional manner. Others will choose to have a memorial service or celebration of life following cremation where the ashes may or may not be present. 
  • What are the benefits of having a service?
    • A funeral or memorial service provides an opportunity for family and friends to come together to grieve, share memories and begin the healing process. While the purpose of a funeral or memorial service is to honor the deceased, it often does more for the living by offering continuity and hope. To learn more about the benefits of having a service, click here
  • Where can I scatter ashes?
    • Taking a loved one’s ashes and scattering them in a meaningful place honors the deceased and can even be an elegant end to a memorial service. People are permitted to scatter ashes in California where no local prohibition exists and with written permission of the governing agency or property owner. Common scattering locations include the ocean, by air, national parks, or scattering gardens. When scattering cremated remains on private or public lands, consider that there are local ordinances, state laws and federal laws. 
  • Can ashes be separated amongst family?
    • Yes, ashes can be separated amongst family members. The process of dividing ashes is done in a variety of ways, such as using smaller urns or containers, scattering portions in various locations, or even creating memorial jewelry or keepsakes with a small amount of the ashes. 



  • What are the benefits of having a permanent resting place?
    • Choosing a permanent resting place for your loved one’s cremated remains is an important, long-term decision. Cremation is only one step in the journey of commemorating a life. A permanent final resting place allows you to provide a respectful and lasting location for family and friends to visit and honor a loved one in a personal and meaningful way. 
  • Can cremated ashes be buried in a memorial park?
    • Traditional ground burial is among the many options available to those who prefer cremation. Ground burial offers the ability to bury family members in several diverse areas throughout a memorial park. 
  • What options are available for final placement of cremated remains?
    • There are a variety of unique and affordable options for final placement of cremated remains. Cremated remains can be memorialized above-ground in a columbarium or a niche within a mausoleum. They can also be buried in a gravesite or interred in other memorial sites. Outdoor cremation memorial options include private gardens, family estates, traditional lawn burial, cremation niches, or cremation pedestals and benches.
  • What is a niche?
    • Niches are small compartments that hold urns containing cremated remains. Niches come in a variety of styles for the front cover including granite, marble, bronze, wood or glass. Depending on the location of the niche, it may have an open-front protected by glass where the urn is visible, or a closed-front faced with granite or marble where the inscription is placed on the niche front. A vase may be placed on some closed-front niches for the placement of flowers.
  • Can I be buried with my loved one if I want to be cremated?
    • Yes, cremated remains can be buried with a loved one however, the space they are being buried in will need to either have or have the ability to have more than one interment right
  • Do certain religions prohibit cremation?
    • Some religions have traditions and beliefs that discourage or strongly oppose cremation. Islamic, Eastern Orthodox Catholicism, and Judaism have the strongest stances against cremation. It is important to honor these customs when arranging the final disposition of a loved one. 



  • Is cremation less expensive than a traditional burial?
    • Cremation can offer many more options than a traditional burial. These options can range from being less or more expensive than a traditional burial and can vary depending on a number of factors including choice of urn or casket, type of final resting place, whether there is a viewing or washing of the body before cremation, memorial service fees, and additional services. Some families opt for a funeral or memorial service which include additional costs. Learn more about cremation costs at Coastal Funeral Center
  • Can I plan in advance for cremation services?
    • Planning ahead for the memorialization of someone who has chosen cremation is a responsible and considerate decision that can help alleviate the burden on loved ones during a difficult time. Planning the details ahead of time provides peace of mind knowing you’ve taken care of your family and loved ones.


Our professional Coastal Funeral Center team specializes in planning cremation services in advance or at the time of loss. Every representative is here to listen, understand your needs and guide you through the cremation process with heartfelt attention.

Call Coastal Funeral Center at 310-326-6343 to learn how we can help you honor your loved one or plan for your future. 



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About Coastal Funeral Center

At Coastal Funeral Center, we are committed to being dedicated guardians of family and community, while holding on to the legacy we established as a family-owned funeral home. Originally A.M Gamby Funeral Home, Coastal Funeral Center joined Green Hills Memorial Park in 2018 to better serve the community of the South Bay. During this transition, we expanded our services as an all-inclusive facility and built on the successes of Green Hills Memorial Park. We’re proud of our legacy of personal service and our deep roots in the community. We’ve been part of this community for more than 80 years. We provide customized funeral service options that meet your financial needs and honor your loved one like the beautiful individual they were. To learn more, visit

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