Ashes and Urns
What should we do with the ashes?
Following a cremation, you might be left wondering what to do with the cremated remains (ashes) and the options are vast and diverse.
Should you scatter them? Bury them in the garden? Keep some or all at home? Put them in a garden of remembrance? Or do something really different such as turn them into a sculpture or piece of jewellery, or even incorporate them into a tattoo?
If your loved one made their wishes known we can help you give them the send-off they requested, but if they didn’t, and most don’t, we are here to help you think through all the options available.
It’s important that you feel confident in making the right choice for you, your family and future generations and there are lots of things to consider:
- Don’t rush to decide: Take your time. It may well take some time to feel comfortable about a course of action. You will know when it is right.
- All or nothing: If you are not obliged by any faith, then you don’t have to scatter or bury all of the ashes. You can keep all or some to put in a keepsake or split the ashes so that different members of the family can have some each. It could also be appropriate to combine ashes with another loved one or a beloved pet.
- Permission: It is legal to scatter ashes in the UK if you have the land owner’s permission. You don’t need permission to scatter in the sea or in a river providing certain rules are followed. Football grounds, Formula 1 circuits, historical places, horse-racing venues and cricket grounds sometimes accommodate memorial scatterings; it is always worth asking. Burying cremated ashes is covered by the law – if you choose to bury the ashes somewhere other than your garden and change your mind it can be difficult, if not impossible, to move them: so please consider this option very carefully.
- When ‘last wishes’ are difficult: It is not always possible to fulfil someone’s last wishes. You might want to use a token amount at a favourite place and do something else with the rest. If you want to scatter the ashes, make sure you and future generations will be allowed back again to visit. Consider whether the site will always have the same use and not be turned into something else.
- Scattering in your garden: Consider whether the home will always be in the family’s possession, if not it can make leaving the house potentially harder and access for visiting difficult. There are memorials available such as a bird bath or sun dial that incorporate the ashes, so that they can be in your garden, but easily relocated should you decide to move to a new house in the future. Please ask us for details.
- Joint locations: It is worthwhile thinking whether people will want their ashes together. Some locations may be suitable for one person but not their partner, for example a football ground.
- Record it: Make a note of the ceremony locations and the reason for choosing it, future generations will want to know about it and may wish to visit the spot.
Ashes ceremony: this could be religious or non-religious and led by a celebrant or designed by friends and family. Funeral favours such as wild flower seeds are a nice touch and can be given to attendees to take home and sow or mixed with the cremated remains leaving a trail while on a country walk, so long as the seeds you choose are indigenous to the area to maintain a natural habitat.
Water ceremony: Ashes can be scattered from a boat into the ocean, lake, river or canal.Rose petals or flowers can be beautiful if you are choosing a water ceremony. Scattering cremated remains in popular places can upset ecology, so do remember to check first with the local authority, and please avoid using glitter, fire lanterns or balloons. A dove release is an option that is kinder to the environment. You could make origami boats and put a small amount of ashes into each one, setting them to sail on a pond, lake or river with each person speaking their memories aloud as they do so. There are urns available made from salt and sand that dissolve easily and are great for dispersal of cremated remains in the water.
Scattering the ashes: For a formal setting the crematorium is a popular choice and a memoriam rose bush may be planted with a plaque, or you may wish to consider an entry in the book of remembrance. There are many other places you could consider. If the deceased didn’t express a final resting place, you could go somewhere they loved to be or maybe somewhere symbolic but do remember that beauty spots can often be crowded and also think about how often you may want to return to visit as this may impact your choice. A scatter tube is a perfect choice to scatter the ashes from and are much more suitable than a casket. We have a vast range of beautiful designs to choose from.
Scattering and interment in a Churchyard or Cemetery: This will be carried out in accordance with regulations laid down by individual parishes or local authorities. You could line the hole with feathers, leaves or flower petals or wrap the urn in a special blanket or item of clothing. Why not pass the urn around to everyone present to allow them to place a final blessing on the deceased.
Fireworks: Why not go out with a bang by having cremated remains put into a firework!
At the beach: Choose a secluded place on the beach and scatter the ashes into an outgoing tide, or dig a groove in a shape or symbol. Sprinkle the ashes into the trench and wait until the tide washes the ashes away. Build sandcastles, write messages in the sand and picnic on the beach
Journey of Remembrance: What about scattering a few of the ashes at places that were special to the deceased, as they are revisited. A journey such as this could take you all over the country, or even around the world.
Keeping the ashes at home: This could be on display somewhere like the mantlepiece, or somewhere more private, perhaps in the bedroom. Please look at our range of caskets and urns, or you could choose an unusual container yourself, a special box, bag or jar. We work closely with local artist Annie from Eco-urns who makes bespoke biodegradable urns by hand for burial at sea or in the earth. Annie’s urns are all unique and she has been commissioned to create a suitcase and a teapot with accompanying cups for the family to retain small portions of the ashes to keep at home. The possibilities are endless. If you would like us to transfer the ashes for you we would be more than willing to assist.
Ashes as a keepsake: A small amount of ashes can be transferred into a beautiful item of jewellery or keepsake ornament which can be very comforting. There are many options available. For more information, see our Memories and Keepsakes page.
The list really is unlimited – you can scatter the ashes from a hot air balloon or light aircraft or have them turned into an artificial memorial reef in the sea, which will help restore damaged reefs and create a nurturing marine environment for fish and other forms of sea life! There are artists who can incorporate them into pictures or cast them into a sculpture. Whatever you decide, let us know if we can assist in any way.
Organising an ash scattering ceremony
More and more people are finding new ways of celebrating the life of their loved ones. With a little bit of thought and preparation a scattering ceremony can be a wonderful way to gather friends and family to say all the things that perhaps there wasn’t time to say at the funeral. A private or direct cremation can be followed at a later date by a memorial celebration. Decisions do not have to be made immediately – allow time and space to think and plan an occasion that celebrates the life of a loved one in a way that they really deserve.
When the ceremony happens a little further along the bereavement journey it can bring a sense of release, giving those left behind an opportunity to add their thoughts, wishes and goodbyes.
There are many things to consider and we are here to guide you as much as you need us to and we’re always prepared to answer your questions if we can.
Ceremony content: When arranging a memorial celebration, choose suitable music, poetry and readings that honour the occasion. Include a time for contemplation that allows people to pray in their own individual ways and reminisce about the person. There can be a place for a eulogy, focussing on the achievements of the deceased – their loves, pleasures, the meaning of their life – and you may wish to also incorporate symbolic actions, such as lighting candles or planting seeds, and perhaps some closing thoughts and words of goodbye works well as a time for distributing favours. For more information, please see our guide on how to write a eulogy.
Engaging the support of a minister of religion or funeral celebrant can help to facilitate your ideas and we can assist with the design and printing of an order of service if desired.
Location: If no last wishes were expressed by the deceased then consider where would be most appropriate: somewhere important in their life, somewhere they loved to be or maybe somewhere symbolic? Do consider whether you will be revisiting the site and how often as this may impact your choice. It might be sensible to carry out a reconnaissance visit.
Permission: It is the landowner’s decision to allow you to scatter on their land, some say no.
Locality: Hilltops and headlands are generally very windy; some beauty spots are crowded and allow little privacy, you will need to think about accessibility of the site, especially for older or less mobile guests.
Privacy: Choose somewhere that is special but also discreet. That way, you won’t be disturbed, and your ceremony won’t impact anyone using the site.
Timing: Anniversaries such as birthdays can be a good choice. Spring and summer are less windy, and sunset can give more privacy and atmosphere, particularly if it is a popular spot.
Recording: You should record the event and keep this with the family records as future generations may wish to know or visit. You may wish to consider engaging a photographer for the occasion to record precious memories, particularly if friends and family are gathering from afar.
Splitting the ashes: There is no law against splitting the ashes, if you want to choose more than one location or divide them amongst friends and family it is up to you. It can allow different family members a chance to commemorate in the way that they wish.
Keepsakes: You might want to hold on to some of the ashes for a keepsake or memorial jewellery which can provide comfort, particularly if the scattering locations chosen is some distance from where you live. For more information, see our Memories and Keepsakes page.
Scattering the ashes: There may be more ashes than you realise, and they can cover quite a large area. You may find a scatter tube more dignified to use than the container that the ashes have been given to you in. There is a beautiful range available to suit most tastes.
If you choose to cast the ashes into the wind from a hill top, note the wind direction and keep the urn low. It may be better to choose somewhere out of the wind or go at a calmer time of the year. In any event, keep the scatter tube below waist height and make sure guests are up-wind. Don’t ‘up-end’ the urn, as it can be quite undignified should you then need to spread the ashes.
Sometimes the smaller pieces of ash need washing from the urn so take some water with you to rinse the urn. Often the urn will contain a piece of paper with the name of the deceased on it, please be sure to find this and take it home with you, along with the urn to dispose of responsibly.