There are numerous benefits to choosing cremation, and for many families, the choice is easy to make. Cremation already outpaces traditional burial due to its lower costs and lessened environmental impact. It’s also preferred by families who plan to travel, move away, or want the flexibility of keeping their loved one with them at all times.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Options for Burying a Loved One’s Cremated Remains
- Options for Burying a Pet’s Cremated Remains
- Popular Alternatives to Burying Cremation Ashes
If your loved one is planning on cremation as their method of final disposition or they’ve already been cremated, you might be wondering what options you have for keeping, scattering, or burying their ashes. Your options are plentiful, making it possible to choose the most meaningful method for you.
Options for Burying a Loved One’s Cremated Remains
If you’re wondering what to do with cremation ashes, you might be surprised to learn that you have quite a few options. Those who prefer the idea of a traditional burial can bury their loved one’s ashes. Many cemeteries provide this alternative to placing an urn in a columbarium.
1. In-ground burial at a cemetery
An in-ground burial occurs when you choose a cemetery plot for the urn. The cemetery staff opens a grave and the urn is laid to rest there. The plot is re-filled with dirt, and a headstone is laid to mark the spot of your loved one’s final resting place.
Note: If you choose to bury your loved one’s ashes in a cemetery, you may be required to purchase an urn vault. The vault’s purpose is to ensure the earth does not sink in on the urn once the dirt is filled back into the burial plot. Urn vaults will add to the total cost of burial.
A columbarium is an indoor or outdoor area with niches where you can place your loved one’s urn. You purchase a niche, much in the same way you purchase a burial plot. The niche belongs to your family in perpetuity, and you may return to the spot to pay respects to your loved one.
There are two main types of columbarium niches including see-through niches and closed sealed niches. Sealed niches are typically outdoors and protect the urn from elements like rain, wind, and snow. They may have a granite, marble, bronze, or metal face. See-through niches are typically inside a columbarium and provide the most opportunity for personalization.
3. Urn garden
An urn garden is a designated area in a cemetery where urns or cremains are kept. There can be above-ground urn mausoleums, special markers, dedicated benches, sculptures, monuments, fountains, and other statues that hold cremains or are dedicated in honor of someone who was cremated.
4. Private property
Depending on your state and local regulations, there’s a chance that you could bury your loved one's urn on your private property. You’ll need to check with your state offices to determine what regulations are in place including how deep to bury, requirements for burial, and any restrictions for burial.
Depending on the same regulations, you might also be able to bury your loved one’s ashes on someone else’s private property as long as you obtain permission. An example of this would be burying the urn on a ranch where your loved one used to ride horses.
5. Green burial
Green burials are popular for both cremation burials and traditional burials alike. A green burial occurs when you bury your loved one’s ashes in a biodegradable container. The container will biodegrade and the ashes will be returned to the earth.
There are several options for green cremation burial including a simple burial, a burial with flower seeds, and a burial with a tree pod. The tree pod option provides you with a living memorial that you can visit year after year as the tree grows into maturity.
6. Sea burial
Burial at sea is slightly different than scattering at sea. When you bury your loved one’s ashes at sea, you place all of the ashes into a biodegradable ash container designed for sea burial. Then you commit their ashes to the ocean while out at sea. You can also lay a wreath or flower petals at the same time.
Options for Burying a Pet’s Cremated Remains
If you’re wondering what to do with pet ashes, we’re happy to say that you have many of the same options as you do with human ashes. They can be buried in-ground or above ground, in addition to being given an eco burial or other means of final disposition.
7. In-ground burial at a pet cemetery
Though not widely available, pet cemeteries are becoming more popular. Thanks to the growing trend of honoring pets as members of the family, pet cemeteries are being created in more locations. You can now find these cemeteries in several major cities across the United States, and more are projected to be created as the years go by.
Similar to a human cemetery, pet cemeteries provide dedicated land for the traditional burial of pets in addition to the in-ground burial of pet cremains. You might be required to purchase an urn vault to keep the ground from sinking, but you can bury your pet’s ashes in the urn.
Pet cemeteries encourage the purchase of a headstone to mark your pet’s grave. Headstones also help you easily locate the grave when you return, and provide you with something to decorate and visit for years to come. While you can purchase a traditional headstone, you can also opt for something unique like a large rock with a plaque, a stone bench, or other monument depending on what the pet cemetery allows.
8. Placement in a columbarium
Pet cemeteries also have columbarium niches so you can place your pet’s urn in an above-ground unit that is sealed and protected from the elements. Just as you would with a burial plot, you purchase the niche for your pet’s remains. The niche then belongs to you and houses your pet’s ashes indefinitely.
9. Private property burial
Depending on your local and state regulations, you could request the burial of your pet’s ashes on private property. As long as regulations allow it and you have the express permission of the property owner, then burial on private property is an option.
You might choose this option if you own land and you want to keep your pet’s cremains close. You might also request burial somewhere on a large piece of acreage where your dog used to play with its friends or a ranch where your horse was boarded.
10. Green burial
A green burial takes place when you decide to place your pet’s ashes in a biodegradable container and bury the container. You might bury it in your backyard, the wilderness, or another natural area. There is traditionally no formal headstone to mark the burial site. Some people choose a large rock to mark the site or save GPS coordinates so they can return and visit later on.
11. Sea burial
Sea burials aren’t as popular as the previous options for burying a pet’s ashes. However, if some of your best memories with your pet are when you both were sailing, fishing, or exploring the open waters, then you might consider laying their ashes to rest at sea.
Popular Alternatives to Burying Cremation Ashes
You don’t have to bury your loved one’s or pet’s ashes. There are plenty of other options to choose from if burying doesn’t sound like a fitting way to say goodbye. Here are several of the most popular alternatives to burial.
12. Keeping them in an urn
Many people opt to keep their loved one’s cremains in an urn for ashes. Depending on your preference, you can purchase novelty urns, traditional urns, micro urns, handcrafted urns, and urns crafted from every type of material available from gold and silver to blown glass and porcelain.
13. Sharing cremains
If multiple family members would appreciate keeping a portion of your loved one’s or pet’s ashes, then you can share cremains. The funeral home can split them up for you, or you can do this yourself at home with a filling kit.
To share cremains, you simply purchase small urns that hold a minimal portion of ashes, and then you distribute the ashes among them.
14. Scattering on land
There are many places to scatter ashes so you can honor your loved one. Consider choosing a favorite vacation spot or a destination they always wanted to go to.
15. Scattering at sea
Scattering at sea is also popular and is often accompanied by a scattering ceremony and the laying of a biodegradable wreath or flower petals.
16. Scattering by air
If your loved one was an avid skydiver or pilot, you might consider scattering their ashes by air.
17. Cremation keepsakes
There are also a wide variety of cremation keepsakes that incorporate your loved one’s ashes into a physical item. These items, like suncatchers, fountains, memorial stones, and blown glass sculptures, are created by mixing a portion of ashes into the medium when it’s crafted.
18. Cremation jewelry
If you want to keep your loved one close no matter where you are, consider choosing a piece of cremation jewelry. Some jewelry pieces contain a pendant with a hollowed-out space to hold some of your loved one’s ashes. Other jewelry options incorporate the ashes directly into the piece being crafted.
Honoring Your Loved One’s Remains
You have many options when it comes to honoring your loved one. Whether you decide to bury their ashes, keep them in an urn, scatter them at sea, or incorporate them into a piece of jewelry, the most important thing is that you’re upholding their memory and legacy.