Urn Alternatives: 36 Creative Ideas for Ashes

Did you know there are thousands of urn alternatives? Whether you're looking for an "alternative urn" (something non-traditional to use as a cremation urn) or are interested in doing something totally unique with the ashes, we've got some of the most creative ideas for ashes below.

Rethinking Ideas for Ashes

One of four things will typically happen with ashes after cremation. They'll be:

  1. Buried
  2. Scattered
  3. Interred in a columbarium niche
  4. Kept at home in a cremation urn

Burial at a cemetery is the traditional route. Scattering can be a little alternative, but it's fairly common so I'm not sure how "creative" that seems to you.

Internment in a columbarium niche is just another type of cemetery burial; it's like a columbarium for ashes. And of course many people choose to get a lovely cremation urn to keep at home.

But what if you want something.... different?

Traditional Urns Can Be Boring

It's true. Traditional urns can be kinda boring.

A metal vase? Boring.

stunning handblown glass art urn? Well, stunning and artistic, and not really very boring at all when you look at it. Buuuuuuuuuut.... ultimately it's pretty much the same idea as the vase urn. Boring.

Wood urns? I'm so bored. Ceramic urns? Still bored! Marble urn vaults? Super borrrrrring.

Ok. I get it.

You want something different.

Let's look at some urn alternatives that aren't so typical.

First, though, we have a brand new product we just can't wait to show you. It's an Urns Northwest Original, the Floating Shelf Urn.

Urn Alternative: The Floating Shelf Urn from Urns Northwest

This is a true alternative - yes, it's an urn, but it doesn't look like one. Like, at all. It's a shelf, and it's perfect for placing memorial tributes like photographs, keepsakes, candles, and more.

See it here.

All right, with that initial "bonus" idea out of the way, let's get to our list of unusual and unique urn alternatives.

Urn Alternatives: Non-Traditional Urns for Ashes

1. Everyday items you can use as an urn

See here for a list of normal household items you can use as the cremation container for your loved one's ashes. You might not even have to spend a dime!

2. Wall-mounted plaque urn

Memorial Plaque Urns - Urn Alternatives

It's a lovely decor piece, custom engraved with your loved one's inscription. So sweet. But oh, wait! It's actually an urn! Yes, behind the plaque front is a hollow space (accessed from the top part of the frame) and it will hold your beloved's ashes. And it's totally customizable. Many designs available here.

3. Tackle box for your fisherman

Get a big tackle box, toss the plastic bag of ashes into the lower section, and fill the top with his favorite lures and accessories. You can even make a little cubby for special notes and other small stuff.

4. Toolbox for your carpenter/mechanic/handyman

Same thing - fill a tool box with the ashes and other special tokens, keepsakes, and mementos. Oh, and, like, tools, too.

5. Bourbon barrel for your whiskey connoisseur

So that they can truly age well... forever! Put the ashes of your whiskey enthusiast in one of these personalized oak aging barrels. You'll need at least a 3 liter barrel (approximately 180 cubic inches). Personally, I'd recommend going with the 5 liter (300 cubic inches) to be on the safe side.

6. Clock urn for your punctual other half

These urns feature a working clock and are designed to look like a... uh... clock.

7. Wine bottle for... well, you know why

Use a wine bottle to hold their remains. You'll need about four bottles for the average adult. It's what they would want, really.

8. Cuddly teddy bear urn

This shop makes cremation urn/teddy bear combos. It's a large plush bear with a vessel inside to hold the cremated ashes. Sentimental, yes, but cute and cuddly and really a rather awesome idea.

9. Sailboat urn

This is the perfect urn alternative for a sailing enthusiast. It's a thing of beauty.

10. Something quirky from Out of the Box Urns

This shop finds oddball antiques and oddities that will work as alternative cremation urns. When I looked, I found a zen sand garden (!!!) (think about it), a bunch of decorative ducks, a hollow glass gun, a tennis ball, and lots more. Check them out here.

(Did you think about the zen garden urn idea?)

11. Art deco candle urn

If you love to keep your house looking beautiful, you won't want to miss out on these art deco ceramic urns which double as memorial candles.

12. Picture frame urn

Place your loved one's photograph in the frame, and their ashes behind it. Simple but effective. See them here.

13. Send off at sea in a water burial urn for your ocean lover

These eco-friendly water scattering urns are designed to hold the ashes, be placed into the water, float briefly, then sink to slowly biodegrade and scatter your loved one's ashes into the sea.

14. Poker chip stacks for your card shark

These little mini-urns hold a tiny portion of ashes. They're made from a stack of real poker chips, which a glued together then hollowed out. A truly original idea for ashes.

15. Geometric wood crafted urns

An urn that certainly doesn't look like a traditional urn. Each piece is handcrafted into a unique polygon, perfect for your rustic-yet-modern art deco sensibilities.

16. Cookie jar

For some people, putting their ashes in a cookie jar just makes sense.

17. An urn that looks like a book

These urns are incredible! Made from wood and laser etched with inlays in different types of wood to make them look like real books, this is a good one for the avid reader or someone who loved the Bible.

18. Use an old watering can for a gardener

Find or use an antique watering can to honor the green thumb in your life. You can even set it up in the garden as a decorative accent.

Urn Alternatives: Unique Ideas for Ashes

Now, you might not be able to use up all of the cremated remains with these ideas. But there are some really unique ideas for ashes below!!

I'm not going to link to all of the ideas; these ideas are fairly offbeat so the companies and websites go in and out of business or are only available in certain areas. You can just do a web search if you want to find out more.

1. Grow a tree from the ashes (see here)

2. Mix into paint and make a portrait

3. Mix into tattoo ink and get a tattoo

4. Scatter from a plane or helicopter

5. Shoot into space

6. Shoot as fireworks

7. Put into bullets

8. Make into a reef

9. Set free in the ocean in a turtle scattering urn

10. Wear with keepsake urn jewelry (shop our selection here)

11. Turn their ashes into diamonds

12. Filmed skydive scattering

13. Put into an hourglass

14. Hollow out a favorite book and put the ashes inside

15. Mix into glass art or jewelry

16. Mix into stepping stones for the garden (see here)

17. Travel the world with them

18. Scatter from a hot air balloon

Even More Creative Ideas for Ashes

  • For someone who loved rock climbing, mix their ashes into the chalk bag and let them "climb with you" for years to come. Also works for gymnasts and baseball pitchers
  • Put into a favorite whiskey/bourbon/rum/etc bottle
  • If your loved one was into antiques, scour antique shops for old-fashioned containers
  • Did they absolutely go bonkers with Christmas decorating? Take the container and wrap it up like a Christmas present
  • Use their favorite food or snack item: Cookie, popcorn, tea, or coffee tins work great
  • If they loved to restore old cars, put the remains inside a tire or interior console
  • Mix into a zen garden
  • Commission an artist, sculptor, or woodworker to craft a unique shape that represents them or their interests
  • Scatter all over the world or in special places all over town. Just note that you're supposed to ask when scattering ashes on other people's property or public land.

Wall Mounted Memorial Plaque UrnsUrn Alternatives

Be sure to check out our collection of Memorial Plaque Urns! We have many personalized designs, including motorcycles, dragonflies, sailboats, hearts, hummingbirds, bicycles, and much more.

The urns come in standard adult and companion urn (for two people) sizes, as well as smaller options for dividing the ashes or for pets.