What Can Be Used As An Urn for Ashes?

What can be used as an urn for ashes?

In brief, you can use just about any container you want for a cremation urn to hold the ashes. There are no legal requirements or regulations about what can be used as an urn.

However, when choosing a cremation container, you still want to consider what is 1) practical and 2) respectful.

So let's take a look at some of the best options, as well as some important considerations for the various choices.

What To Use As A Cremation Urn For Ashes

You can use any of these things to hold the cremated remains, aka "ashes":

  • The temporary urn in which the remains will come
  • A cremation urn you buy from the funeral home (or from us)
  • An urn you commission from a local artist
  • Something you make or find yourself
  • Nothing - simply scatter the ashes

Keep reading to learn a little more about each of these options.

Temporary Urn

This is the simplest, least expensive, and most straightforward option. The funeral home or crematorium will return the cremated remains to you in a plastic or cardboard box called a "temporary urn."

They call it that so that you are subtly encouraged to purchase a "permanent urn." However, you don't have to do so. You can leave the ashes in the original container as long as you like.

Designer Cremation Urns

Every funeral home will have a selection of specially designed cremation urns that you can purchase. You don't have to buy an urn from the funeral home, however; you'll often save quite a bit by ordering a similar item from us.

These designer cremation urns are vessels made specifically to hold cremated ashes. They're attractive and dignified, sized to hold just the right amount of remains, and can often be personalized.

Shop our collection of beautiful cremation urns here.

Commissioned Art Urn

For something that is well-crafted and designed to be a cremation urn, consider commissioning an artist to create a special memorial.

This can be anything from ceramic to wood to glass. There are artists who make busts and boats, and companies that can create just about anything using a 3D printer (those can be very expensive), and woodworkers and pottery artists and everything in between.

Something You Create

You can make your own cremation urn. It's not too difficult to make a simple wooden box. Or, if you have a special skill in ceramics, paper mache, or some other medium, you can make your own cremation vessel that way.

You can also create an urn from "found" items, or things you wouldn't otherwise think of as an urn. Large glass jars (the type that hold rice or cereal in your kitchen), ammunition or dry boxes, or even a decorated cardboard box. The ideas are endless.


Many families choose to scatter the ashes. For this, you can use the original temporary urn or purchase a scattering urn that is designed to make the scattering easy.

Honoring Your Loved One With The Urn

Which of these options is the most respectful? How can you best honor your loved one with the choice of a cremation urn?

There's no one simple answer that will fit every situation. Each person has different preferences. Every family has different values.

It ultimately comes down to your answer to these questions:

  • What did your loved one want? If they chose an urn or some other option before they died, by all means go with that. Problem solved.
  • What is most fitting to honor your loved one? Read further for more thoughts on this.
  • What do you feel best about? Sometimes, a particular urn just feels right and makes sense with your loved one's personality. If a specific design or theme jumps out at you, consider that option.
  • What does the family agree on? If some family members want to scatter the ashes, while others want to plant the remains to grow a tree and still others want to get an expensive designer urn, you'll want to reach some sort of compromise. Sometimes it's best to divide the ashes; other times, talking through things helps everyone come on board and reach an agreement.

Here are some further thoughts on what might be respectful for people with different personalities and values.

"I'll Be Gone - Do Whatever You Want!"

Some will say, "I'm gone, so I don't care what you do with my remains - stick me in a cardboard box and bury me in the backyard!"

That may be a little tongue-in-cheek, but you know the type. For someone like that who values simplicity and practicality, you may choose to use the temporary urn or - for your own sake, because you want to show respect for the dead - get a simple and affordable biodegradable burial urn like this one.

A Beautiful Urn for a Beautiful Soul

For others, it just feels right to get a beautiful, well-crafted cremation urn that is as lovely as the memories you have of them.

You'll be displaying the urn in your home, so you want something that looks great and matches their personality.

For this person, the best way to honor them might be to get a rustic wood inlay art urn with a theme that matches their favorite pastime (hunting, fishing, the beach, gardening, etc), or a lovely and luminous hand-blown glass art urn.

Artists & Creatives

Perhaps your loved one was the creative type, and your family is chock-full of artists. You could make your own urn, from wood or ceramic or paper mache, or something entirely original. This honors their memory in a very personal way.

Quirky & Unusual Cremation Urns

Or maybe they had a quirky sense of humor. It's ok to use something off the beaten path - like a popcorn tin or coffee can, or even a tackle box for the avid fisherman, etc. If you're thinking more along those lines, here is a list of everyday items you can use as a cremation urn.

What If I'm Not Sure?

Well, we sell cremation urns, so take our advice with a grain of salt. But our opinion is that, if you're not sure what route is the best, you would be well-served with a simple yet dignified memorial. Something that isn't ostentatious or out of your budget, but that is still attractive and honors your loved one in a respectful way.

To that end, we have many attractive cremation urns at reasonable prices that will securely hold your loved one's ashes while providing a sense of honor and dignity. Browse our collection of cremation urns here.