Where do we put the ashes from cremation?
Most commonly, families put the ashes into a cremation urn. This urn is then kept at home, buried in a cemetery, stored in a columbarium niche, or displayed in other meaningful and creative ways.
Let's take a look at these options, plus some additional ideas of where to put the cremation ashes including scattering, dividing among family members, memorial jewelry, artistic tributes, and more.
Where To Put Ashes From Cremation
When your loved one is cremated, the ideal option is to follow their wishes. If they included what to do with their remains in the will or expressed it verbally to spouse or children, then your job is simple: Just do what they wanted.
But if they didn't leave specific instructions, or if they said several different things over the years, or if the family is simply unsure about the best approach, here are some of the most common things to do with ashes (plus a few creative options as well).
You could put the ashes...
- In a cremation urn
- On the wall
- Buried in the ground
- In bullets or fireworks
- Scattered on land or sea
- In the attic
- Close to your heart
- Divided among family members
- Into all sorts of creative memorials
In a Cremation Urn
Putting the ashes into a cremation urn is probably the most popular option. No matter where the remains ultimately rest, most families choose a beautiful cremation urn to hold the ashes.
Here are eight things you should know about cremation urns, and you may also want to read our super-simple 5-Minute Guide to Cremation Urns before you begin shopping around.
When you're ready to look for the perfect urn, you can start with our all-time most popular urns.
And lastly, if cost is a concern - and when isn't it?! - here's a quick tip to help you save (give or take) a hundred bucks when buying an urn.
On the Wall
We created a special line of unique memorial plaques that allow you to keep the remains close by - and even display them - in a discreet way so that no one needs to know that the ashes are there.
Our Pacific Crest Memorial Plaque Urns look and function like a typical (but beautiful) memorial wall decor accent. But between the framed front and back panels of the plaque, there is plenty of space for the entire amount of ashes (even for a full-sized adult). It's a simple yet creative place to put the cremation remains.
Personalized with your loved one's name and dates, our wall display memorial plaque urns come in a variety of designs that are fully customizable. Browse the collection here.
Buried in the Ground
Read: 13 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Cemetery
This is another one of the most popular options regarding what to do with ashes. Most people will either bury, keep, or scatter the remains.
Ground burial is a great option for when you want that feeling of tradition, resolution, and peaceful finality - letting your loved one be "at rest." You get the burial service, the headstone, the permanent resting place which you can visit and leave flowers. It's a good choice.
There are several ways you can go about burial of cremated remains:
- In the so-called "temporary urn" that comes with it
- In a nicely upgraded cremation urn
- With the urn placed inside a burial vault (many cemeteries require this)
- In a stone/marble urn that serves as the burial vault
Learn more about the requirements and use of burial vaults here.
Shot in Fireworks or Bullets
Yes, this is a real option! There are several small companies that will do this for you. You would contact them and place an order, send the ashes (or a portion of the ashes) to them, and they will fill fireworks or ammunition with the cremated remains.
You - and your family - can then have a special ceremony or "life celebration" event where you shoot the bullets or fireworks.
We've seen several of these companies come and go, so we don't have a specific one to recommend. You would do best by simply conducting a web search for "cremated ashes" and "fireworks" or "bullets".
Scattered on Land or Sea
Ash scattering on land or at sea is one of the more popular options for final disposition. You can scatter ashes on your own private property, or on someone else's with their permission. You can also scatter at sea if you go out three nautical miles.
One attractive aspect of this option is that you can still have the remains in an urn in your home for a while - six months, two years, or decades. Whenever your family decides that the proper time has come, you can then get together and scatter.
If you choose this option, we have several excellent urns designed for scattering the ashes.
- Ash scattering symbolism & significance
- What do you do with the urn after scattering?
- Methods for Scattering Ashes (and how to do each one)
In the Attic
This is more common than most people like to admit, but the reality is we often don't really know what to do with the ashes of a loved one. Emotionally, it can be difficult to deal with head on, so just like we sometimes "stuff" our feelings, we "stuff" the remains somewhere until we're ready to deal with it.
For others, it's not some deep psychological issue but rather a matter of practicality. Maybe your family never saw the need to make a big deal out of things, so buying an expensive urn or niche just isn't an option. Your loved one lives on in your heart; their remains are just leftover carbon and it's the way you honor them in your memory that counts.
Wherever you land with these or similar perspectives, it's perfectly fine to place the remains out of the way for a season.
It could be the attic, or it could also be up in a closet, above the fridge, in their old room along with all their old stuff, or any other cupboard, closet, or shelf. (It's even, sadly, not unusual for the remains to be left at the crematorium or funeral home. But that's another story.)
After all, our photos and keepsakes are special, and those sit in up in the attic too. It's just another approach to the decision of what to do with the ashes after cremation.
If done out of respect for the decedent, as a means of honoring their level-headed practicality or frugality, or as a temporary solution while you work through the grieving process or save up for that beautiful cremation urn art piece, sometimes, putting the ashes in the attic is the thing to do.
Close to Your Heart in Memorial Jewelry
Cremation jewelry is one meaningful contemporary trend that you'll hear about more and more. This is jewelry, such as a necklace, bracelet, or even a ring, with a small compartment to hold a pinch of ashes.
Browse our memorial jewelry here.
Divided Among Several Family Members and/or Locations
As our society gets more familiar with the idea of cremation and the resulting remains or "ashes," families consider dividing up the remains to honor their loved one in different ways.
Not only are there many options available when dividing the ashes (see above!), there many reasons why families choose to do so.
- The decedent stated that they would like their remains divided in their will or last wishes
- Each family member would like to have the remains, or a portion of the remains
- The ashes will be buried or scattered, but a spouse, parent, or child would like to keep a small portion as a keepsake
- Family members do not agree on what to do with the ashes
- One or more family members would like to create a special tribute, such as a painting that incorporates the ashes into the paint, or a tattoo, etc.
- The family decides to each have a matching locket or ring that holds as small portion of the remains
Read more: Dividing Ashes: How & Why This Is Done
In All Sorts of Creative Applications
You can get even more creative (and perhaps crazy) with some of these ideas:
- Tattoo ink
- Vinyl records
- Mixed into paint
- Attached to a burial reef
- Put into a special container (wine bottle, fishing tackle box, etc)
- More: 36 Creative Ideas for Ashes
Have You Decided Where the Ashes Will Go?
Ultimately, despite everyone's fascination with the more sensational things to do with the ashes, most families choose to put their loved one's remains into a cremation urn.
From there, it will be up to you whether you'd like to display the urn at home, scatter the ashes, divide among family, bury the urn, or place it in a cremation niche. In almost every one of those applications, you'll still want a good-quality urn that provides a sense of honor and dignity to your loved one's remains.
To start you on your search, here are our ten most popular urns.
Feel free to contact us with any questions!