What Is a Scattering Urn? How Do You Use Scattering Urns?

Let's learn about scattering urns and how to use them. We'll also answer any other questions you may have about the use of urns and the process of scattering.

What is a scattering urn?

A scattering urn is a container designed with two functions: first, to securely hold cremated remains until you are ready to scatter; and second, to make it easy to pour out the ashes when the time is right.

How do you use a scattering urn?

To use the scattering urn, remove the lid (or open the container in the intended way) and pour out the ashes.

Are there different types of scattering urns?

Yes. We classify scattering urns under three different types:

  1. Scattering urns for pouring
  2. Water scattering urns
  3. Ground burial urns

(Tap any type above to browse our selection of urns in that category.)

Scattering Urns for Pouring

These are the ones you are probably looking for. These are the urns designed specifically to make it easy for you to pour out the remains. Available here.

Some scattering urns for pouring are biodegradable, others are not. The biodegradable ones help you minimize the ecological impact of your funeral; you can bury the urn at the site of scattering, hold onto it as a keepsake, or recycle it. The other, non-biodegradable urns (wood and metal) can be used as a keepsake after the scattering is complete.

Water Scattering Urns

These are "scattering" urns that are ideal for a burial or scattering out at sea. They fully secure the remains, so you don't have to worry about wind or anything like that.

Simply place the urn into the water. It will float for a few minutes, then gradually sink. Within a few hours (or a couple of days at the most) the urn will decompose and begin "scattering" your loved one's remains throughout the ocean. Available here.

Ground Burial Urns

In one sense, these aren't really scattering urns at all. But if your intention is to return your loved one's ashes to the earth in a natural, eco-friendly way, and if you also understand that nature will take its course and slowly "scatter" the buried remains over time, then this might be the option for you.

These urns are designed to be buried and biodegrade naturally. Some - like our Memorial Tree Urns - will incorporate your loved one's remains into the growth of a memorial tree. As the branches spread and the leaves and blossoms fall, there's a sense in which your loved one's remains will be scattered in a wonderfully natural way. Available here.

Other ground burial urns will aid in returning your loved one's ashes to the earth. Rain and plant growth will slowly disseminate their remains throughout the nearby environment.

Can any urn be used for scattering?

Yes. Just about any urn can be used to scatter the ashes. Just open it up and pour out the remains.

However, not all urns make it easy to scatter. For example, image hauling one of these wall plaque urns out on a hike, then shaking it to pour out the ashes... It's really not ideal.

Unique memorials like that excepted, most urns are easy to open and with some thought and care you can easily use them to scatter the ashes.

Still, many families prefer to choose a scattering urn because it just makes it a little easier. Sometimes, that's all you need.

Which urns are easiest to use for scattering ashes?

Without a doubt our scattering urns for pouring are the easiest to use when you scatter ashes.

Vase-shaped, top-opening metal urns are also a good choice. (That's why we list several of them in our "urns for pouring" section.) These are ideal because they don't break if dropped and are very easy to use for scattering via pouring.

Vase-shaped ceramic and glass urns can also be used in the same way. Simply remove the lid and pour out. However, since many scatterings take place out in nature, on a mountain, by a lake, etc., there is always the chance that the urn could be dropped and broken. This is a chance most families aren't willing to take.

So most people tend to go for biodegradable scattering urns, or metal or wood urns.

Where can you scatter ashes?

There are many places you can scatter ashes. The main considerations are that you can scatter on:

  1. Your own private property
  2. The private property of others with permission
  3. Public land with permission
  4. Out at sea at least 3 nautical miles

Popular locations to scatter ashes include:

  • Mountains and cliffs
  • The ocean
  • Rivers and lakes
  • Personally significant locations
  • Your own property

Of course you must follow all applicable local laws. As noted, you must have permission to scatter on land that you do not own.

What do you do and say when scattering ashes?

It's completely up to you what you choose to do and say when scattering. Our advice is to keep it simple, but also do something that lends an air of significance and formality to the occasion.

Some things you can do and say when scattering ashes:

  • Have a moment of silence
  • Say a prayer
  • Share a favorite quote
  • Give a brief eulogy
  • Have a time where anyone who wants can say something
  • Take turns pouring out a small amount of ashes
  • Throw flower petals along with the ashes
  • Plant a tree at the scattering site
  • Set up some other memorial: a bench, a cairn, etc

What do I do with the urn after scattering?

Once the scattering is done, what do you do with the empty urn? We wrote an entire article on this question, which you can read here.

Here's a quick summary. With any type of urn, you can save it as a keepsake memorial, toss it, or donate it to a local church or funeral home. If you used on of our biodegradable scattering urns, you can bury the urn at the scattering site, recycle it, or find a way to "upcycle" or reuse it.

Ready to browse our scattering urns?

Shop our collection of scattering urns here.