Scattering a loved one’s ashes is a highly personal thing. Not only is this an opportunity to say your final goodbyes, but it also allows you to honor their memory with their final resting place.
Yet, it’s not as simple as choosing a specific spot to scatter your loved one’s ashes and hosting a memorial there. There are many local and state laws governing how and where ashes can be scattered, so you’ll want to do some prior research.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Can You Scatter Ashes Anywhere?
- Popular Places to Scatter Ashes
- How to Choose Where to Scatter Ashes
- Other Considerations for Scattering Ashes
Though you might think one place is a great fit (like the families who scatter ashes at Disney World), you’ll need to ensure it’s legal and safe to do so. In addition, you want a location that’s meaningful to you and the deceased. In this guide, we’ll share some of the most meaningful places you can scatter a loved one’s ashes.
Tip: If you're planning to scatter a loved one's ashes, decide whether you want to put some of the remains aside, first. You might decide to display an urn at home. You may even want to turn your loved one's ashes into a real diamond with Eterneva or cremation stones with Parting Stone.
Can You Scatter Ashes Anywhere?
There are a lot of misunderstandings about where you can scatter ashes. Because ashes tend to be harmless and extremely difficult to see, it’s easy to assume that they can be scattered anywhere you wish. However, local and federal laws are strict regarding how and where they can be legally scattered.
In short, you can’t scatter ashes everywhere. In most cases, you need to obtain legal permission before scattering the ashes of a loved one. While this is something many places are open to, you’ll still want to be mindful of the rules so that you don’t face a fine or ticket. Here are some places where you can scatter ashes legally:
- Private property you own: You can always scatter ashes on property that you own. However, if you sell this land, you might need to disclose the presence of human remains to future buyers.
- Private property you don't own: If you choose to scatter ashes on private property, you will need permission from the owner. Private property could be a local park, college campus, sports arena, and so on.
- Public land: Public land is owned by the city, county, or state. This is open for use by anyone, but you will still need to contact the managing body of the land to obtain permission.
- Undeveloped land: In most cases, you’re free to scatter ashes across undeveloped, unowned land, such as a forest.
When in doubt, contact your local government to check for any laws regarding scattering ashes. Most places are open to this process, but you don’t want to get in trouble during this meaningful time.
Popular Places to Scatter Ashes
With that in mind, where are the most popular places to scatter ashes? Here are some of the best places to scatter a loved one’s ashes. Before you begin, make sure to check with local laws and property owners, as you don’t want to overstep your boundaries. That said, all of these options below are gorgeous, meaningful, and special.
1. The beach
As you might expect, the beach is likely the most common place people go to scatter their loved one’s ashes. This is a common vacation spot, so it’s home to many happy memories. Most importantly, however, beaches symbolize freedom, passion, and eternal love.
Most beaches qualify as public property, making them a legal place to scatter ashes. They also are spread out, ensuring families can have a private moment to themselves during this process. Some choose to host a large memorial to scatter the ashes, while others keep it an intimate, private occasion.
While scattering ashes at the beach is by far the most common option, it’s far from an overdone cliche.
2. At sea
Similar to the beach, many choose to release their family member’s ashes at sea. This is usually done from a boat or ship, and this is one of the easiest options.
Because the ocean is free from most local laws, this is a safe, legal place to release the ashes. There are even specific runs designed to slowly scatter ashes throughout the sea for a short period of time, allowing for a memorial or ceremony.
Like the beach, the sea carries a lot of symbolic meaning. It’s vast and endless, perfect for an adventurous spirit who loved to wander. This allows for the family to take quiet, reflective moments amongst the waves.
3. Local or National Park
For nature lovers, nothing could be a greater tribute than laying the ashes to rest at a local or national park. While it’s important to remember that each park has its own rules, they regularly grant permission to families to scatter cremated remains within these grounds.
Whether your loved one was drawn to the mountains or the plains, there’s a stretch of nature to honor their memory. While ashes typically can’t be buried in these lands, scattering the ashes to the wind is a great source of peace. These parks are always beautiful, but scattering ashes in a National Park or state park adds even more significance.
4. Private property
If your family owns land that holds a special place in your loved one’s heart, private property could be a great place for scattering ashes. This could be a family home, family campsite, garden, farm, etc.
While you should check with local laws, you’re typically permitted to release ashes on private property with the owner’s permission. This is a highly personal option, and it’s a common choice for its ease and simplicity. Whether your loved one had a favorite garden in their backyard or they loved their parent’s home in the wilderness, this honors their life even in death.
For the individual who always wanted to go out with a bang, release your loved one into the sky with fireworks. There are specific firework companies that will create custom fireworks to make a special tribute in the sky.
Again, you might need special permission, depending on the type of firework release. This truly is a way to go out in style, no matter the time of year.
6. Outer space
An option that’s out of this world is to have the remains blasted into outer space. This might not be a traditional choice, but it sure is a gorgeous tribute to someone who spent their life gazing at the stars.
There are specific companies that will release ashes into space, and a lot of people have already taken advantage of this option to spend eternity in space. While space burial (or space cremation) is less common, it’s certainly increasing in popularity as more people look beyond this world for their final resting place.
7. Wildflowers in a meadow
A lot of families find comfort in returning their loved ones to nature. It’s possible to mix ashes with seeds for your favorite wildflowers and plant these into the ground. Over time, they’ll grow into a gorgeous symbol of life and growth.
Better yet, families can choose the colored flower that has meaning to them. For example, white flowers are a sign of innocence, and red is for eternal love. This is a touching, lasting tribute.
8. Sky scattering
Other than launching the ashes into space, the family can also scatter the ashes from above. This can be done from a helicopter, plane, hot air balloon, or even a drone.
Not only does this provide a unique perspective as the ashes scatter to earth, but it allows the ashes to naturally carry themselves a great distance. For those that venture to great heights to scatter their loved one’s ashes, it’s an inspiring reminder of how exciting life can be.
9. Vacation destination
If your loved one had a favorite vacation destination, this is a great place for scattering his or her ashes. This is a symbol of their legacy, and it’s perfect for exploring those shared memories of the deceased amongst loved ones.
As a family or alone, travel with the ashes to your loved one’s favorite vacation spot. Hold a small memorial or simply release the ashes while reflecting on their memory.
10. Somewhere they wanted to go
On the flip side, honor your loved one’s memory and wishes by scattering their ashes somewhere they always wanted to go. Life is fleeting. We don’t always have the chance to accomplish everything on our bucket lists. By visiting these places on our loved one’s behalf, we’re reminded of just what legacy means.
If your loved one always wanted to visit Italy, take a trip yourself when the opportunity presents itself. It’s possible to secure the cremated remains for travel, so don’t be afraid to go the distance to make their wish come true even after death.
How to Choose Where to Scatter Ashes
There is no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” choice when deciding where to scatter your loved one’s ashes. As long as you’re aware of the legal rules about this process in your area, you’re free to choose something that has meaning to you.
When making your decision, consider these things below:
- Local laws: First, review any local laws to ensure you won’t run into issues when you go to scatter the ashes. Seeing the ashes and scattering laws explained is the best way to ensure you don’t cross any accidental boundaries.
- Ceremony: Do you plan to have a memorial service or scattering ceremony? If so, you’ll need a space that can accommodate this.
- Budget: While it’s true that a cremation costs significantly less than a burial, you’ll still need to consider your budget. Most scattering ceremonies are free or low-cost, but you might need to budget for travel, local fees, and other costs. There are luckily many inexpensive things to do with ashes to suit any budget.
- Multiple locations: If you’re struggling to choose a single location, you could always divide the ashes for multiple scattering ceremonies. This is common amongst larger families. Funerals and ash scattering ceremonies are mostly for the living. Feel free to trust your gut when choosing the place to scatter the ashes.
- Personal wishes: Lastly, are there any final wishes your loved one would like honored? Consider what they enjoyed, their favorite places, and how they’d like to be remembered.
Like a funeral, scattering your loved one’s ashes is an opportunity to say goodbye and honor their memory. Like a burial, the remains return to earth and symbolize the circle of life. This can bring a lot of peace and comfort in a time of grief, no matter the location you choose.
Other Considerations for Scattering Ashes
Scattering a loved one’s ashes is a meaningful process. While it’s relatively simple and inexpensive, you should still consider a few things before you begin. You’ll need all of the following to make sure this memorial runs smoothly.
First and foremost, you typically need permission to scatter ashes in your chosen location. If you don’t have permission, you run the risk of facing a fine, ticket, or having your loved one’s ashes removed. While it’s not usually illegal to scatter ashes (depending on the type of property), it’s always best to ask permission before you begin planning a ceremony.
Scattering urn or tube
Another important step is to make sure you have a scattering tube. When you receive cremated remains from your crematorium or funeral home, they typically give them to you in a small bag or box. While this is a great temporary option, many families choose to invest in a scattering urn or tube.
Scattering tubes and urns are designed to hold ashes temporarily, sometimes even making it easier to scatter the ashes. You can get an eco-friendly scattering tube designed to dissolve over time or in the water. Because they are well suited for travel, they’re a secure option.
Though optional, many people choose to hold a small ceremony to honor their loved one. They might hold this by themselves, with friends and family, or with a large group. It’s entirely up to you.
However, this is something to think about when deciding how you’d like to scatter your loved one’s ashes. Consider if you’d like to say a few words, read prayers or literature, or do any special religious rituals.
Plan in advance
Last but not least, do your best to thoroughly plan the ceremony. Because you scatter ashes outside, there are many factors to take into consideration. These are things that might not matter for a traditional funeral, but they play a large role in scattering ceremonies. Here are some things to keep in mind when planning a scattering ceremony:
- Weather: First and foremost, always consider the weather and the season when planning a scattering ceremony. You want to avoid intense wind, rain, snow, or other harsh weather conditions.
- Distance: Depending on where you plan to scatter the ashes, family and friends might need to walk, hike, or take a boat a far distance. Be mindful of accessibility concerns and athletic skill levels.
- Transportation: Lastly, depending on where you choose to hold the ceremony, you might also need to arrange transportation. This is transportation for your loved ones, yourself, and the cremains. If you need to fly with the ashes, make sure you’re using a TSA-approved urn.
This is an important day. You want to make sure everything runs smoothly, and thorough planning is key to making that possible. By considering all of the above, you create a meaningful sendoff for your loved one’s ashes.
Honor Your Loved One
Losing a loved one is always hard. The decisions you make after their death regarding their cremated remains can help honor their legacy and ease the pain of their passing.
We don’t always ask our loved ones what places matter to them most during their time on earth. Asking these questions is not only a great chance to learn more about them, but it simplifies this process for the family later.
Luckily, there’s no such thing as a wrong choice. When you’re searching for the place to scatter your loved one’s ashes, consider what this process means to you. As long as you’re honoring their legacy, they’re at peace.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, you have more than just the memorial service to think about. Handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.