Is It Disrespectful to Open an Urn?

Question: Is it disrespectful to open an urn?

Answer: There are several legitimate reasons to respectfully open the urn. These include opening the temporary urn to transfer the ashes into a permanent urn, scattering the ashes, dividing among family members, or using a small amount of remains into a keepsake such as a cremation necklace.

We always want to show the utmost respect for the dead in how their remains are handled. This goes for traditional burial, cremation, scattering the ashes, and the use of cremation urns.

Today, we're going to discuss respectful ways to open an urn. There are indeed times when it would be disrespectful to do so; we'll talk about that too.

Is It Disrespectful to Open an Urn?

The answer to this depends on two things:

  1. The wishes of the decedent (and the family)
  2. Why the urn is being opened

Let's talk about disrespectful handling of ashes first, then we'll cover respectful reasons to open the urn.

Disrespectful Reasons to Open an Urn

  • Wanting to look at or handle the remains out of idle curiosity
  • Doing something with the ashes that the decedent did not want
  • Opening the urn despite the family's wishes for it to remain sealed
  • Handling the remains in a way that violates the decedent's religious beliefs

As a general rule, it is disrespectful to open an urn contrary to the decedent's wishes or beliefs, or for your own curiosity or benefit.

Respectful Reasons to Open an Urn

  • Disposing of the remains in a way that the decedent (and/or family) chooses
  • Transferring the ashes from the temporary urn to a permanent urn
  • Dividing the remains among family members
  • Scattering the ashes
  • Putting a portion of the remains in a keepsake, like cremation jewelry
  • Combining the ashes of two spouses in a companion urn

You can be confident that you are treating your loved one with proper respect if you are opening the urn to follow their instructions (for scattering, etc) or to honor their memory.

Read more: What to do with ashes after cremation

What Happens If You Open an Urn?

Here's what happens when you open the plastic or cardboard urn that you'll receive from the funeral home or crematorium.

Inside, you'll find the remains sealed in a plastic bag. You'll be able to see the ashes through the bag. For many permanent urns, you can simply remove this plastic bag and place the entire thing into the new permanent urn. With other urns, you'll need to pour the remains inside. Here's how.

Can I Open the Permanent Urn?

Yes, you can open the permanent urn - for the same respectful reasons listed above.

Additionally, sometimes it is necessary to open the urn for other reasons. Perhaps the urn developed a crack or flaw, or you noticed a typo in the personalization. Maybe your living situation has changed, and you're concerned about a breakable urn (like glass or ceramic) and need to transfer the remains into a more durable wood or marble urn.

Should You Open an Urn?

There are plenty of legitimate, respectful reasons to open an urn. We've listed many of them above.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Are you honoring your loved one's memory?

Honor your loved one's memory in a special way with our beautiful cremation urns and memorials.