Memorialization and Cremation Tribute Ideas

This section contains information, and guides, on how to memorialize a loved one following a cremation.  If you are tasked with the job of arranging a cremation memorial service, it can sometimes seem a daunting task and a great responsibility.  Here we cover everything you need to know about memorializing a loved one.  We cover:

  • Understanding what a memorial service entails and represents
  • How a memorial service differs to a funeral service
  • Planning of a personalized cremation memorial service
  • Creating memorial tributes with words, memorabilia, and artifacts
  • Setting up an online memorial page or website
  • The role of technology and memorial services
  • Deciding on the final disposition of the cremated remains
  • How direct cremation and a family memorial service can save thousands on funeral costs

Cremation Memorial Service

Memorialization Explained

A change in how we memorialize with cremation

Cremation offers much greater flexibility in how we can memorialize a loved one that has passed.  As there is no body present at a memorial service, there are many more options of how you can conduct a memorial service.  It does not need to be at a funeral home, and you do not need to hold the service immediately after the death has occurred.

This is leading to a change in how we view the whole funeral process.  The role of a funeral director is changing too.  The funeral home need to handle the disposition – the cremation – aspect of a funeral, but a family can then opt to host their own memorial service once they have the cremated remains returned.  The need to use the services of a funeral home for a memorial service is not necessarily required.  Families are choosing to use a place of worship, community centers, event venues, their own home or even outdoors.  Sometimes a family feels that they can do a better job of memorializing their lost loved one.  They can make it very personal and original.

So, what does a memorial service entail and represent?

A memorial service is a ceremony to remember a loved one that has died. It is considered a form of closure following a loss, and a chance to ‘pay last respects’ and say a final goodbye.  It represents a remembrance of a life lived and an opportunity to pay tribute to the memory of the person who has passed.

With the shift towards cremation as a death-care option, memorial services are now typically held after a cremation, and referred to as a Cremation Memorial.

A memorial service can take many different forms.  It can be very similar to a funeral service format, or it can be uniquely personalized, and held at a significant place that was meaningful to the departed.

How does a memorial service differ to a funeral service?

A funeral service is held with the body present in a casket.  A memorial service is held without the body present.  If a cremation has been performed, a memorial service can be held with the cremation urn present, but many memorial services are conducted with no remains at the ceremony.

Memorial services are sometimes more uplifting and less somber.  This can often be because they are not necessarily held immediately after the death, so family have had more time to come to terms with their grief, and feel a memorial service held later gives them more opportunity to make it a celebratory event to honor their lost loved one.

How to plan a personalized cremation memorial service

Cremation optionsIf you have been asked to organize a memorial service, it can be helpful to plan out how you anticipate a service should run.  As there will be no body present, a memorial service can be very flexible and at any venue.  If the cremation urn will be present, this can form a ‘center point’, similar to a casket at a funeral service.

You will need to decide on the location the service is to be held, who to invite, what format you wish the service to take, and what memorial tributes are required.  Such as a memory book, photos, prayer cards, music etc.  It can help a memorial service to run smoothly if there is some organization, and deciding who is going to manage the service and who is going to speak and deliver a eulogy or final words.

How to create memorial tributes with words, memorabilia, and artefacts

If you are arranging a memorial service, you may oversee organizing the memorial tributes for the ceremony.  This can be arranging flowers, photos, memory cards, candles, music, video and even food.  Memorial tributes were often managed by the funeral home for an additional fee, but if you are organizing a service without using a funeral home, you can either purchase tribute products or make your own.  Fortunately, with so many resources online these days, there are many companies that make and sell memorial tributes, and lots of ideas for how to make your own memorial products.

In MemoryHow to create a personalized cremation tribute

‘Personalization’ is something we embrace in everyday life today.  It is something that has become important to all of us.  And personalization of a memorial service can often be achieved so much better when the family are arranging and conducting it.  No more of those slip-ups when a funeral director mispronounces a name, or omits a key detail about the deceased.

You can make a cremation memorial personal in many ways, but generally stories about the deceased, photos from their life, memorabilia that attendees will associate with the deceased, and music that the deceased loved are all good tributes.

What is a Life Celebration tribute?

A life celebration is a type of memorial service that is more focused on celebrating the life of the deceased.  So, it is more uplifting and joyful, instead of a sad somber service.  Some families choose to employ the services of a funeral celebrant to lead the service.  A celebrant has been trained in how to memorialize a service with focus on the celebration of a life ‘well-lived’.

Funeral homes also offer customized life celebration services, or you can prepare your own life celebration tribute for a loved one.

How to set up an online memorial page or website

As many of us live our life’s and connect online these days, setting up an online memorial page or website, can be a great way to have a lasting tribute to a lost loved one, and enable friends and family far and wide to participate in creating a memorial tribute.

Arrange a cremation onlineSome funeral homes now offer online memorial pages to their client families.  These are sometimes free, but often if you pay a nominal fee for the online memorial page, it guarantees it will be hosted indefinitely.

Similarly, there are several companies that specialize in offering online memorial tributes and offer different packages depending on how long you wish it to be hosted and how much information and photos you wish to add.

Facebook offer a Memorial page option.  This can also allow a wider circle of friends from all over to engage, share and contribute to an online memorial.  Facebook will automatically convert the Facebook profile of someone that has deceased into a memorial page, with the words ‘remembering’ next to their name on the profile.

The role of technology in delivering a memorial service

Technology has changed the world as we know it, and this is also true of funerals.  Today funerals can be live-streamed to enable those not able to be present to watch the funeral in ‘real-time’.  With technology like FaceTime and Skype, it is possible to do this even if you are holding your own memorial service.

The use of photo-editing and video-editing software or PowerPoint presentations can all be useful tools to help you put together something that brings media into a memorial service.  A video or slideshow can prove a lasting tribute for family to keep as a tribute, share, and revisit as time goes by or on the anniversary of a death.

Do we need to hold a memorial service?

No, you do not need to hold a memorial service if it is not considered necessary, or perhaps a very elderly relative passed without many family or friends still alive to attend.  Deciding to hold a memorial service is just a personal choice.

Some people decide to just go ahead and scatter the cremated remains without any service or ceremony.  Conducting an ash-scattering can be regarded as a memorial act, even if no formal service, or specific tributes are arranged for the scattering.

What to do with the cremated remains after a cremation memorial service: The final disposition

Deciding what to do with cremated remains still poses a question for some families.  Often families end up keeping an urn at home as they are undecided what to do.  Cremation has removed the immediate need to buy a burial plot and inter the remains, although some families opt to purchase a cremation niche and have the cremated remains interred.

Cremation Memorial IdeasScattering the ashes is becoming a more popular option.  The cremated remains can be scattered in a bespoke Memorial Garden, or in nature somewhere.  For more information on how to scatter ashes, read our ash-scattering guide.  Do bear in mind that it is wise not to rush to scatter the ashes to quickly after the passing, as you may change your mind later.  Another thing to consider is keeping a small amount of the ashes in a keepsake urn, and scattering the rest.

Cremated remains can also be made into a number of memorial artifacts, including memorial diamonds, blown-glass, birdbaths, reef balls, paintings, vinyl records, shotgun shells or tattoos.

How direct cremation and a family memorial service can save thousands on funeral costs

Direct cremation is the simple, no-fuss, no service cremation option that is very affordable.  The funeral home handles everything to cremate the deceased, but then returns the cremated remains to the family.  A direct cremation can be arranged for under $1,000 in many areas. [The cost for a direct cremation varies by provider, state and city, but can be as low as $595 and as high as $3,000].  Visit our main DFS Memorials site to check the local prices near you.

Following a direct cremation, if family and friends arrange a memorial service themselves, this can reduce the overall costs for a funeral.  With a simple direct cremation and a family-led memorial service, a dignified funeral can easily be achieved for under $2,000.  In fact, it can be less if direct cremation is being offered at a low-cost in your area.

Family-led memorial services are becoming a new ‘norm’.  It is almost a return to family values of decades ago before the modern era of the funeral establishment.  And why should we pay thousands of dollars to a funeral business, when we can host a family and friends gathering at a fraction of the cost of a traditional funeral service?

Although holding a memorial service is not necessary after a cremation, it does provide opportunity for closure and a sense of being able to say a final goodbye to a lost loved one.  The unique thing about a memorial service is that there is no time-critical timeline about holding it.  You can hold a memorial service shortly after the death and cremation, or you can wait months, or even a year.

Cremation Memorial Service Ideas

Cremation offers versatility in memorialization.  If a family member has been cremated, and you are planning a cremation memorial service, this guide can help you discover everything you need to know about how to creatively memorialize a loved one.

beach memorial servicesIf a family member preplanned a cremation, he or she may have planned some ideas about what kind of memorial service they wanted.  However, very often it is left to surviving family members to decide on, and plan, a memorial service.  It can seem a daunting task to be responsible for arranging a memorial service, but the information below should help you honor a lost loved one and create a befitting tribute.

When should you hold a cremation memorial service?

The flexibility of holding a memorial service, as the deceased’s body is not present, means it can be held at any time after the death.  A cremation memorial can be held immediately after the cremation, or a period of time can elapse.  Sometimes families find it be easier to plan for, and have time to grieve, before holding a memorial service.

Being able to take time, and coordinate gathering together those you wish to invite, can lead to a more meaningful service.

Where can you hold a cremation memorial service?

A memorial service can be held wherever you choose, or feel was significant to the deceased.  It can be at a place of worship, or a graveside service.  Alternatively, you can be imaginative and host a service somewhere more unconventional.  Some families conduct a memorial service as part of an ash-scattering, and therefore opt to have the memorial service outdoors.

What elements make up a memorial service?

Cremation optionsI would dare to say there is no set format to how a memorial service should be conducted.  However, it is considered customary to deliver a eulogy, pay tribute to the life of the deceased, and conduct some form of final disposition of the remains.

There are many other elements that can form part of a memorial service, including photo boards, slideshows, video, and music.  These days families are also choosing to hold memorial services that are Life Celebration events that can involve dove, lantern or butterfly releases as a final tribute and metaphorical symbol.  Guests can all be asked to wear something, or a color, that was special to the deceased.

Tips on how to prepare a tribute for a memorial

Planning is the cornerstone of any successful event, and a memorial service is no different.  Sometimes, this is why a family prefers to employ a funeral director or life celebrant to help plan and host a memorial service, as these professionals have skills and experience.  However, some families choose to prepare and hold a service themselves.  This just requires some preparation.

Cremation Memorial Service

The cremation urn:

  • Will the urn be present at the memorial service? And if so, do you need to set up an urn arrangement or altar?
  • If a scattering is to be conducted as part of the memorial service, think about the techniques for scattering cremated remains safely.

Eulogy:

  • Decide who is going to be responsible for delivering the eulogy or final words at the service.
  • Ensure that he or she has had time to prepare, and that the context of their eulogy meets the audience and the tone of the memorial service.

Location:

  • Think about a suitable location.
  • Is it somewhere sentimental to the deceased?
  • Is it easily accessible for all guests?

Tributes:

  • Do you want to have flowers or other memorial tributes? Or donations to a cause close to the deceased’s heart?
  • Will a presentation be made by slideshow or video? Do you want music playing? And is there a suitable power point?
  • If you want to have a memory book for everyone to sign, is there somewhere suitable to locate it?

A cremation memorial service can be as short, or as long, as you wish for it to be, and as appropriate.  Memorializing after cremation does present so many more options than holding a traditional funeral service.  We are becoming more embracing of the unconventional and contemporary in our funeral rituals, so being creative and personalizing a memorial service, can make it so much more meaningful for all those who attend to say their final goodbyes.

Cremation may be the only option if you wish to be laid to rest in NYC

A number of recent news stories have exposed the issue now facing many New Yorkers when making funeral arrangements – the lack of burial space!  With such a built-up area around New York City, and with over 60, 000+ deaths a year, the allotted space in cemeteries is just running out.  It’s turning out that a cemetery real estate plot can now work out just as desired-after, and just as expensive, as Manhattan real estate!  According to the NY Times ‘City Cemeteries Face Gridlock’ article, a mausoleum space can cost as much as $3 million, with burial space in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx costing more than $1,000 per square foot!

DFS Memorials offer an affordable direct cremation price of $475

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New Yorkers can still be interred in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, but burial space is so limited, that officials are predicting that cremation will become the preferred option for those who want a final resting place in the city.  Most of the cemeteries in New York City are now focusing on how they can add above-ground mausoleums to offer extended space for burials and even increase the space for cremation niches.

Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn still has some space left, but it is expected this will run out within the next 10 years.  Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn and Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx both report a similar problem, although they believe some creative utilization of space, may enable them to continue offering burial plots for at least another 20 years.  Canarsie Cemetery now plans to build an extensive ‘city’ of mausoleums in an attempt to add 10,000 new burial spaces to the cemetery.

New York City cemeteries have had to become as inventive as possible in creating additional interment space, narrowing pathways and creating smaller family or joint plots.  The Division of Cemeteries that governs cemeteries allows them to reclaim plots that have remained unused for 75 years if they have had no contact from the family who purchased the plot.  Cemeteries can even buy back sold plots that families no longer want.  Maybe not surprising then that the Division has been approached by families wanting to disinter their parents to sell the plots.  When a plot at Woodlawn can be valued at anything between $6,995 and $1.6 million, this is becoming the lucrative real estate of the 21st century for many cash-poor New Yorkers.

When a cremation can be performed within New York City for as little $475, including the crematory fee, it simply makes cremation the most affordable option.  For those New Yorkers that still want NYC to be their final resting place, then a small cremation niche may be a solution, or maybe an ash scattering.  Those New Yorkers who absolutely want to be buried, may have to turn to the suburbs, upstate New York or even New Jersey, where more burial space is available and at an affordable cost.

As the little burial space there is continues to run out, the prices for cemetery plots in New York is likely to increase.  If you are a New Yorker that holds an unused cemetery deed, this could turn out to have been a lucrative investment.  However, if you want to be buried in your city, but do not yet own a gravesite, you may find your options limited.

How to Give a Eulogy

eulogy_checklistMore families are opting to deliver their own memorial services, especially as the trend for direct cremation increases.  It can be a much more personal memorialization when the family and friends of the deceased prepare and deliver a eulogy at a funeral or memorial service.

The idea of a somber traditional funeral is slowly being replaced by something more celebratory, personalized and upbeat.  Today a Life Celebration is becoming a popular way of holding a funeral event.  This type of funeral ritual focuses more on celebrating the life of the deceased.

A eulogy should generally reflect on the life and personality of the person being memorialized.  Being given the task of writing and delivering a eulogy can be a daunting responsibility.  Choosing the right words, delivering it with the right amount of emotion, and being able to effectively reflect the personality of the person being eulogized are key to delivering a eulogy tribute.

What to do…

  • Position the eulogy by introducing yourself and your relationship with the deceased.
  • Try to keep the eulogy to a manageable time allowance (no more than 5 mins)
  • Include personal stories and anecdotes to re-live the memory of the person being eulogized.
  • Feel free to include a poem, song or artifact that memorializes the person.
  • When preparing a eulogy – you should consider how it fits into the whole service.  Is this to be a single eulogy? Are you combining stories from other family members or friends? Or will there be several eulogies from different people.

And what NOT to do!

  • Do not dwell on any negative aspects of the deceased or re-live ‘bad’ memories
  • Be honest without disclosing family secrets – do not use it as an opportunity to ‘get even’!
  • Whilst being honest, it would be diplomatic to avoid religious or political opinions.

How long should a eulogy be?

This can depend on the type of service and whether there is to be one or multiple eulogies delivered.  The general guideline seems to be between 3 and 5 minutes.  But this is all about personalization!

Can a person prepare their own eulogy?

Yes! There is no reason why a person cannot prepare their own eulogy.  In fact many people would prefer to be in control of how they are memorialized on their passing.   It has even been suggested that preparing your own eulogy can be a powerful tool for self-reflection.  It can be a great way to evaluate if you are ‘on track’ in terms of where your life is going and whether you are accomplishing the goals you aspire to.

MyOwnEulogy.com is a website that offers this unique service.  It enables you to create your own unique digital eulogy and then upload it to the site. You are in complete control as you can select the executors who will be notified of your passing and whether your digital content should be made public and remain private.

Check it out at MyOwnEulogy

My Own Eulogy

If you are tasked with preparing a eulogy you will find many resources online that can provide tips and inspirational quotes, poems and songs.  Preparation is probably key for constructing a tribute that is both dignified, reflective, emotional and yet celebratory.

Funeral Customs and Rituals from around the world

We are understand the ‘rites of passage’ as marking cultural traditions that are attached with certain points in our lives.   “Last rites” is generally considered the final passage of our life, however, the customs in how a funeral and our final passage from this world are performed vary by faith and culture.

This great infographic sums up some of the main differences in funeral customs from different cultures.

Funeral Ceremonies and Cultural Diversity

Selling cemetery plots in a declining burial marketplace

selling-cemetery-plotSome days it seems that everyone is trying to sell a cemetery plot that is no longer required.  As Communications Director for US Funerals Online I deal with inquiries on a daily basis from families, and one common question today is “how can I sell my cemetery plot?”  Unfortunately I think some individuals see the legacy of a family cemetery plot as the potential to a quick buck, but the reality is that more families are selling than those that are looking to buy!

Selling a cemetery plot is not always a straight-forward process.  Not only do we have a declining burial rate as cremation gains popularity, but finding an appropriate marketplace to sell a product that people do not really want to think about buying, can be problematic too!

So how do you sell an unwanted cemetery plot?

You have various avenues you can try.  Firstly there are online cemetery registry websites that allow you to list your cemetery property for sale.  Do be careful to check the terms for using an online registry.  Most online brokers will want a commission for helping you to sell your plot, but this can vary from a fixed fee to a percentage of the sale price.  Also check if there is a length of time you can list your property for, as cemetery property does not generally sell quickly!

You can also explore options in your locale.  Is there a cemetery real estate agent who can help you re-sell your property?  In some cases the cemetery may buy back your plot but the likelihood is that they will only offer you the original purchase price, or maybe even less.

A useful strategy may be to notify local funeral homes in your area that you have a cemetery plot for sale, the cost of the plot and the commission you would be willing to pay them if they sold the plot for you.   Do bear in mind that even cemeteries are struggling to sell plots now and offering huge discounts and enhanced commissions.  Local clergy and estate lawyers may also be worth notifying of your intent to sell a plot.

Don’t expect a quick sale!

Prepare yourself…selling that family plot that has been in the family for decades is not going to get you rich quick!  Transferring cemetery deeds can sometimes be a complicated affair.  If your family has a plot in an established cemetery, and if you happen to live in a city where burial space is becoming sparser, then you may be in luck.  But you do need to accept that your plot may take months, if not years, to sell and may not fetch thousands of dollars.

Cremation & Memorialization: Conducting your own memorial service

cremation-memorialOne of the most significant changes happening in the funeral industry today is the fragmentation of professional services.  For many years we have entrusted the funeral home to handle all aspects of the death ritual, from collecting and preparing the deceased to delivering a eulogy.  This may have all seemed very relevant in times when the funeral director most likely knew the deceased in person or through his community.  However, this is not so much the case now where funeral directors can be handling the services for a deceased person that they have never met!

This raises the issue of how effectively a funeral home can assist a family memorialize a person that they have no prior knowledge of, and is but one driver in why more families today are opting to conduct their own cremation memorial services.

Funeral directors can cremate: Families can memorialize!

Industry critics talk about how the industry is separating into the disposition and memorialization elements.  The disposition element continues to be served very well by funeral professionals, and cremation is offering a simple and low cost disposition option.  A basic cremation without any services (known in the trade as a direct cremation or immediate cremation) can be conducted in most cities for between $795 and $1,195.  This handles the complete disposition process simply, efficiently and at a manageable cost.

Once the cremated remains are returned to the family they can than arrange to conduct a cremation memorial service.  This can be arranged at a time and place that is entirely suitable for the family.  Memorial services can be held at home, in a place of worship or a community venue.  In fact, you can even hold a memorial service at a golf club!  They can be held with the cremated remains present, or without.  A memorial service can be held to scatter cremated remains, or to distribute keepsake cremation urns between family members.

Not only can the family arrange to conduct their own memorial service which can be uniquely personalized, but they can do it at a fraction of the cost a traditional funeral service at a funeral home would have cost.

memorial_board_makingLife celebrations: Tributes that are uniquely personal

No one can best memorialize a lost loved one than the family who hold those shared memories of the deceased.  Funerals are becoming less somber events and more about creating an uplifting celebration of a life lived.  The number of celebrants is increasing as families use the services of a professional to deliver secular celebration services.  However, where they feel capable the family can prepare and deliver their own tribute service.  A benefit of being able to arrange a timely cremation and postpone the funeral service is that it gives the family a chance to immediately grieve without being forced to make decisions about a funeral service.  The service can be arranged at a later date when the family feels ready to address the memorial aspect of remembering their lost loved one.

Save money by creating your own memorial tributes

If you wish to conduct your own memorial services and keep costs down, then there are various options available for how you can make your own memorial tributes.  You can download templates for memorial cards, set up free online memorial pages, and create your own memory boards, candles and wreaths.  All it takes is a little bit of time, imagination and desire to completely make your tribute personal.

What can I do with the cremated Remains?

cremated-remainsToday as more families choose cremation as a final disposition option, so more folks consider what they can do with the cremation ashes once they are returned. Typically about 3 to 7 pounds of cremated remains are generated once a person is cremated. Once fully processed by the crematory these cremated remains resemble a gray-like ash compound.

These days more funeral homes are reporting that families are not even collecting their loved ones’ remains, and in fact many funeral homes now include a clause stipulating that they have the right to respectfully scatter any uncollected remains after a period of 90 days has passed.

So what do you do with cremated remains once you have collected them from the funeral home?

Burying cremated remains

cremation nicheMany people choose to bury the cremation urn.  You can purchase a small cemetery plot (usually similar to an infant size), or purchase a cremation niche in a columbarium.  Indeed more cemeteries are adding both columbaria and scattering gardens.

Alternatively, you may choose to inter a cremation urn into an existing grave plot with a loved one already passed.  Cemeteries will charge you an opening and closing fee to do this, but it can be a great way to ensure loved ones are respectfully laid to final rest and provide a common memorial site for future family to visit.

Keeping cremated remains at home on the mantelpiece

This is not for everyone.  In fact, most folks tend to say that they don’t really know what to do with the urn when they bring it home!  An Aunt of mine used the remains of her late husband in his urn as a doorstop for many years.  Now there are so many different cremation urns, even quirky personalized urns, that the choice can be overwhelming!  Keepsake urns (a set of 1 or more small urns into which the cremated remains can be distributed) also mean that family can share out remains between siblings or family members.  However, it seems that more often than not, a cremation urn kept at home may end up in the back of a cupboard!

Scattering cremated remains

Ash scattering is fast becoming a low cost means by which to ‘dispose’ of someone’s mortal remains that can also offer the opportunity to lay someone to rest in a ‘space’ they loved. Cremated remains are basically organic matter and so pose no threat at all to the environment.  In fact, you could actually argue that scattering cremated remains is a symbolic gesture of reuniting one’s mortal matter with the Universe, and could be interpreted as such by the biblical reference of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

As scattering cremation ashes is gaining popularity, we find we are asked more and more frequently as to what laws govern ash scattering.  There is very little legislation and policing of the scattering of ashes, so long as one conducts it with dignity and common-sense.  If scattering on private land you must have the permission of the landowner.  There are some public areas where you do need to gain permission or sometimes even a permit.  However, in the main, you are at liberty to dispose of a loved one’s remains by scattering them to the winds.

There is an array of ash scattering companies today, and you can choose from an aerial scattering over the natural beauty of mountain ranges, scattering at sea off the coastlines and or having a portion of remain blasted into space to be scattered.  The great thing is that there is something to suit every budget and imagination!

Creating cremated remains artifacts

Memory-GlassBeing largely organic matter cremation ashes can be mixed into a variety of compounds to be constructed into memorial artifacts.  The carbon from a person can be used to create a cremation diamond at the cost of around $3,000.  A cheaper option is to use some cremated remains to make hand-blown glass ornaments and jewelry, and prices for this start at around $30.00.  Cremains can be mixed with cement and used to construct birdbaths and garden ornaments, or even made into a memorial reef fixture.

Transporting cremated remains

Mailing cremated remains

You can legally transport cremated remains, either in person, or by United States Postal Service.  The cremated remains must be securely packed and marked as “human cremated remains”.  USPS offers Label 139, so that the package can be clearly identified and tracked, and it has to be shipped by Priority Mail Express Service.  Courier companies such as FedEx or UPS will not ship cremated remains.

Flying with cremated remains

If you opt to fly with cremated remains, you must ensure that you meet the TSA guidelines for traveling with cremated remains.  The remains MUST be in an x-ray friendly container such as cardboard, plastic or wood, and you should carry the supporting documentation such as cremation permit and death certificate.

Other things you can do with cremation ashes

It does not stop at burying, scattering and creating a cremation artifact.  Today there are all sorts of weird and wonderful things you can choose to do with cremated remains including fireworks, vinyl records, gun cartridges and tattoos!  To read more about quirky ash scattering ideas, visit this Ash Scattering Guide.

What to do with the cremation ashes after your cremation service?

TIME Magazine’s ‘Cremation: The New American Way of Death‘ highlights a very real issue that is a growing concern as more Americans choose cremation as a preferred disposition choice.  What do you do with the ashes?

The cremation rate is now at 42% and it is predicted that by 2017, one in every two Americans will be cremated.  A cremation service offers a simple and much more affordable funeral alternative.  A basic direct cremation service can be conducted in some cities in America for as little as $399*.  For those Americans choosing a cremation service  instead of burial, the decision about what to do with the cremated remains is now proving a growing dilemma.

There are basically 4 main options of what to do with your loved ones’ ashes –

  • Inter the ashes in a niche, columbarium or existing grave site.
  • Store the cremated remains in a cremation urn at home
  • Scatter the ashes in a ‘special’ place
  • Have something personalized done – cremation diamonds, cremation ammunition, or send the ashes to space or to the bottom of the ocean

cremation-urnCremation may be cheaper – but interring cremated remains is not cheap

Interring the ashes is not necessarily a cost friendly option.  It is widely accepted that many Americans are choosing cremation because it is so much cheaper than a traditional burial.  A cremation can cost a quarter of the cost of a traditional funeral.  By opting for cremation you eliminate the need for the expensive cemetery elements – such as a casket, grave liner, cemetery plot and headstone.   The cost to inter cremated remains can still seem expensive though, when it can run to a few hundred dollars, for that budget cremation service  that only cost a few hundred dollars itself!

The funeral industry reports that they have a growing issue with families NOT collecting cremated remains [especially after that quick and low cost direct cremation], and some funeral homes are storing hundreds of unclaimed cremated remains.

Cemeteries are also now dealing with the issue of families scattering remains over an existing grave, rather than pay the large cost to open the grave and inter the remains.

Keeping mortal remains on the mantle can seems gruesome for some!

There have been plenty of spoof movie scenes featuring some catastrophe happening with that ceramic cremation urn over the fireplace holding grandma’s remains.  Meet the Fockers always sticks in my mind – and quite clearly highlights how, culturally, we still find the idea of having the mortal remains of a dearly departed ‘invade’ our living space somewhat macabre.

I have heard stories from families where cremation urns have ended up as door-stops, or been stored away in the back of a cupboard for generations.  Cremation can detach us from the fixed notion of a ‘final resting place’ in the way that a traditional burial ritual did.

It seems that scattering ashes is becoming more popular alongside the trend towards cremation.

 Permits, prohibitions and ‘ash scattering’ police

The legalities of scattering cremated remains are a somewhat complex and as of yet relatively ‘un-policed’ matter.  Interestingly the TIME feature mentions ‘wildcat scattering’ – an activity where relatives scatter the remains of a loved one at a site of their choosing, without gaining any consent.  Apparently Disneyland has an issue with this.

I am quite sure we will see more ‘wildcat scattering’ as more folks choose cremation and decide to opt for a special final resting place for their cremated remains.

Personalized cremation artifacts

Memory-GlassIf money is no object, and you want something quirky and unusual, there are a whole host of possibilities today of what you can do with cremated remains.   With a spare $4,000 you can be turned into a memorial reef at the bottom of the ocean, or with around $3,000 you can be made into a cremation diamond.  If you want something less expensive, you can maybe opt for being made into a birdbath, glass goblets or tattoo!   This article on ash scattering explores quite a few possibilities.

There future of final resting places is certainly changing alongside the trend towards cremation.  In some ways it heralds a complete reinvention of what the notion of a cemetery is in the future.

* Direct cremation prices vary but a basic direct cremation can cost under $500 in areas such as Nevada, Florida and Washington.

Cremation options: choosing a cremation ceremony

This infographic from Skylawn Memorial Park gives a great and simple overview of the various cremation ceremony and cremation memorial options you can choose from.