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to Buy a Funeral or Cremation Urn
By Mary Hickey
Buying an urn is something
most people hope they never have to do. Unfortunately, at some point in
our lives we will probably have to purchase an urn or a casket for a loved
one. Here are a few things you will want to know.
First, what happens
if you go to a funeral home or cremation society and decide not to purchase
an urn from the selection that is offered? In that case, you will receive
your loved one in is a very unattractive plastic or cardboard box. It is
estimated that 50%-70% of the time people leave a funeral home with this
minimum option. It makes no difference if you spend $500 or $1,800 on
the cremation, the boxes look the same. Many people are shocked when they
go to pick up the ashes of a loved one and get a plastic or cardboard
The ideal combination
for selecting an urn is one that can be personalized or in some way is
reflective of the person’s life inside, as well as being practical
for what you plan to do with the ashes of the deceased. Keep in mind that the size of urn needed is approximately 1 cubic inch for each 1 pound of weight of the deceased.
What you need to think
about is: what do you plan to do with the remains? Here are a few of your
1. Bury the ashes.
2. Scatter the ashes.
3. Leave them in your home until you make a decision or until you die
and someone else will have to decide what to do with them.
4. Put them in a niche in a mausoleum.
5. Divide the ashes up among family members.
6. Travel with the urn to a memorial service and then do one of the above.
If you plan on burying the ashes you will want to check with the cemetery
and see if they have a requirement. There are a few “Green Cemeteries”
in the country that only allow biodegradable urns. Many cemeteries will
have guidelines for you to follow.
Scattering ashes can
be a delicate art. There are plenty of stories of people placing the ashes
off of boats only to have the wind blow the ashes back into the person’s
face. This can also happen in aircraft. While the urn will not do much
to prevent that, you may want to consider a biodegradable bag if you plan
to place the ashes in a lake, stream or ocean. This way you will not have
a problem with wind or waves and the same time you won’t be harming
the ecosystem. When selecting an urn for scattering, you may want to consider
a memory chest or an urn that can hold photos and other mementos. Again,
if you use a biodegradable bag, you can keep the urn to hold keepsakes.
There are some urns on the market that are designed to be used in water.
You can do an internet search or ask your funeral director for assistance.
If you are scattering on someone else’s property you will want to
get permission if you would like to do it the legal way. You may also
need a permit. Personally, I’ve spoken to many people that do their
own thing with remains and it’s basically don’t ask and don’t
If you plan to take
the remains home, you will obviously want to choose a safe place out of
reach of young children or pets. You may also consider the weight of the
urn. Some bronze urns can be very heavy, and if you need to dust around
the urn or move it consider the weight. Another thing to consider, what
would you like done with the ashes after you are gone? You may want to
mention this in your will or put a note on the bottom of the urn.
If you have chosen
a mausoleum, you will want to place a call to get their guidelines. Many
mausoleums will not accept wooden urns or anything besides plastic, ceramic
or metal. You will also want to play close attention to size. Each niche
has a specific size and you will want to make sure the urn you select
fits inside the urn. You may also consider having the urn engraved or
somehow personalized. If a natural disaster were to occur it is more likely
that the remains will be identified if the urn is personalized.
Should you plan to
share the ashes with loved ones, you will want to choose smaller urns or boxes for the remains. The ashes should be placed in a small zip lock
bag and then into the smaller urn. Usually you will have one larger urn
and a few smaller urns depending on how many people have expressed interest
in receiving part of the ashes. Options like pieces of blown glass and
even diamond rings are available that have the ashes put into the piece.
If you plan to travel on a
commercial airplane with an urn, you will want to make sure the urn is
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) compliant for travel.
Urns should not be made of metal due to the Transportation Security Administration's
new procedure on the transport of crematory containers as carry-on baggage
on airplanes. Passengers may still carry-on crematory containers, but
they must pass through an X-ray machine. If an urn is made of metal or
is metal-lined, it will show up as opaque on X-ray machines, preventing
the security screener from being able to see what is inside - an obvious
security risk. Please review this site for more detailed information TSA: Transporting the Deceased. There are fabric urns which are specifically designed for travel. You can also review this overview of transportation guidelines.
Also consider who
will see the urn. Will the design look dignified and respectable at a
life celebration or memorial service? You may want to consider materials
that are soft to the touch and colors that are soothing and up-to-date.
Finally, think about
price. How much would you like to spend? You may want to ask theFuneral
Director if they have a variety of catalogs that you could look through
and you will want to check on the internet where you will find urns in
many materials, designs and prices.
In summary, while
it is never an easy decision choosing the right urn, by following these
guidelines hopefully the process will be a bit easier.