A complete guide to scattering cremated remains

Suppose you opted for a cremation service for a family member and are considering an ash-scattering memorial. In that case, this ash-scattering guide will walk you through the safe way to scatter cremation ashes, the different options available to you, the laws on scattering cremated remains, and what scattering service options are offered by service providers.

How to scatter ashes safely

Firstly, lets consider how important it is to safely scatter cremated remains.  Cremation ashes are sterile, organic matter so it is safe to disperse the cremation ash into the environment.  However, there are some important points you need to consider if you are planning on scattering a loved one’s cremation ashes.

If you plan to personally scatter by dispersing the ashes into the air, ocean, waterway, or ground, here are some tips to ensure you can scatter the remains safely and respectfully.

Bear in mind the texture of cremated remains & how this affects the dispersal

Cremains are the crushed bone fragments that remain after cremation.  The cremation ashes are not always uniform in texture.  The cremation ash can contain ashes that are as light as dust or powder and will easily disperse, but there can be more coarse pieces that will not as easily disperse.

Sometimes, cremated remains may ‘clump’ together inside a cremation container, especially if the ashes have been sitting in an urn for some time.  It may be advisable to check the consistency of the ashes.  You can gently shake the urn or use a tool (like a wooden spoon) to carefully check, stir, and separate the cremated remains if they seem ‘lumpy.’

Consider wind direction before the dispersal of ashes

If you plan to empty cremains from a container or urn, bear in mind the wind direction.  The light, powder-like cremains can easily blow back on you as you empty the container.  Scattering cremated remains and wind direction

Remember the Big Lebowski moment where the ‘Dude’ played by Jeff Bridges, ends up covered in Donnie’s ashes as they scatter them from a coffee tin on the Pacific coast?

This is definitely NOT how an ash-scattering should go. 

Aside from the fact that there is an ick factor in being covered with cremated remains, it is also not safe to have cremated remains blow into your eyes.  It is possible small particles (as they are bone fragments) could be sharp and irritate the eyes.

So, rule #1…. Check the wind direction before you empty the cremation urn!

If a group is gathered to disperse the ashes, ensure everyone is together grouped perpendicular to the wind.

Expect some of the cremains to fall as lumps, or a ‘clot,’ of cremated ash

As mentioned above, it is common for some particles to bind together in the cremation container, which means that not all the ash will disperse as powder.  Do not be surprised if some larger particles and lumps of ash fall to the ground as you attempt to disperse.  Consider using the tips given above to gently release cremated remains that seem stuck together.

Ash scattering flower tributeOnly use organic material for any scattering memorial tribute

The cremains are organic, so they are safe for the environment.  If you want to do something to accompany the scattering to pay tribute, bear in mind, it should also be organic in nature.

For example, some people like to scatter flower petals as they release the ashes or even small handwritten goodbye notes on paper or tissue.  Anything that poses no harm to the environment and will naturally decompose is safe and acceptable.

Be respectful of other people’s feelings about ash-scattering

Different folks have differing feelings about scattering ashes.  Not everyone is comfortable with it.  Although the Catholic Church has now accepted cremation, they still mandate against ash-scattering and that cremated remains should be interred in ‘sacred ground.’

So, be discreet in a public area, and/or choose a time to scatter when not many people are around.  If on a beach or in a public park, find some distance from the beaten path!

Be mindful of your choice of location for scattering ashes

Be mindful of where you choose to scatter.  The laws pertaining to scattering ashes are somewhat vague at present, apart from places that mandate against it or require permits, such as sports grounds, national parks, historic landmarks, etc.

Also, consider the implication of where you opt to scatter in terms of accessibility and long-term access to the site.  Some families have no intention of returning to an ash-scattering site, but future generations, at some point, may wish to feel ‘connected’ to a lost family member…….will the location still be there and accessible in years to come?

So, these points should help you plan a safe ash-scattering in which family and friends can participate and make a befitting tribute to your lost loved one.

Check out your State Funeral Planning Guide on US Funerals Online for local ash scattering guidance in your state.  Each state guide has a section covering any local laws or popular ash scattering sites.

Scattering cremated ashes at a beachWhere can I scatter ashes?

This is a BIG question!  There are actually relatively few places that have mandated to prohibit scattering cremated remains. So, apart from some Sports Grounds, Historic Landmarks, and Public Parks, you have a lot of choices.  Because of several wildcat* scatterings in recent years, a number of places that were popular for this type of wildcat scattering have now prohibited it.

These are places like football or baseball grounds, race tracks, and big public parks like Central Park in NYC.

Most National Parks will permit the scattering of ashes so long as the points raised above about safe scattering are observed.  There are a few parks that require the family to fill in a permit before scattering the cremains.

Any private land merely requires the permission of the landowner, and many clubs or outdoor business locations, have seen the benefit of embracing the demand for ash-scattering.  For example, many golf courses will facilitate the scattering of ashes on a favorite hole.

Scattering at the ocean side or out at sea is a common practice in those states that are coastal.  This can take 2 forms: dispersing the ashes on the beach or from rocks or taking a boat out to sea.

Scattering ashes on the beach or ground

Creating a trench for cremation ashes:

Trenching is the term used to describe digging a shallow trench to put the cremated remains in.  The ashes can be emptied directly into the trench, or a biodegradable urn can be buried in the trench.  This is the nearest compromise to a traditional burial.  This can be done at a bespoke green cemetery or in a natural green place.

At a beach, this is generally done at low tide, allowing the ashes to wash into the ocean as the tide comes in.

Points to consider:

  • Ensure you take the correct tools to dig a suitable trench, bearing in mind the ground you need to open.
  • Generally, about a foot is deep enough to bury a biodegradable urn or disperse the ashes into.
  • If you wish to place a memorial marker, ensure it is suitable to the location. Rocks, pebbles, wood, or flowers would be acceptable in most natural landscapes.

Raking the cremated remains into soil or sand:

Raking of ashes is just that!  Raking the scattered ashes into loose soil or sand.  This exposes the ashes to the elements, so they break down much quicker and absorb into the ground.  Organic cremated remains can be raked into topsoil in flower gardens or other natural locales.

Points to consider:

  • Use an appropriate tool to rake the cremains into the ground.
  • Like trenching, be sure to consider how the location may change over time.

Scattering cremains in water – Ocean, Lake, River, or waterway

Scattering cremated remains in a body of water is probably one of the most popular ways that people choose to scatter cremated remains.  And there are so many water options….from scattering ash in the ocean, at a beach, a roaring river, or a peaceful lake.

If you choose to scatter on a beach or from the edge of a lake, it is quite simple to host your own ash-scattering memorial.  If a family wishes to go out to sea to scatter or onto a lake, then a boat will be required.  Both of these can be done fairly inexpensively, especially if you have your own boat.

ash scatteringThere are also a number of charter services that offer sea scatterings.  A scattering of ashes at sea can be either accompanied or unaccompanied.

Some charter companies offer unaccompanied sea scattering services at an affordable price, as they can take out several remains in one charter to perform sea scatterings.

A chartered accompanied sea scattering can cost anything upwards of $450, depending on the size of the boat and the length of the charter.  Unaccompanied scattering services can start at around $100 – $150 as an incremental add-on to a cremation package.  Generally, the charter will provide the family with the GPS coordinates of the scattering and a sea scattering certificate.

Scattering cremation remains by airplane

Scattering ashes by air is an option for those more land-locked.  It is not as common as sea scattering as it does require the specialized services of an airplane and pilot and can work out expensive.  An air scattering can be accompanied or unaccompanied, but as most services are offered by small planes, it does not suit a large group.

One of the most difficult things with air scattering is ensuring that the cremains do not blow back into the cabin.  Most air scattering companies that specialize do have the equipment to enable the safe dispersing of the ashes without the risk of the cremains blowing into the airplane.

Air ash scattering by planePoints to consider:

  • Bear in mind that ashes scattered in the air will spread and disperse over a wide area.
  • If you have a large family or group who wishes to participate, then this option may not be a good fit. If you are set on an air scattering, you could consider an unaccompanied scattering, where the plane has a video camera attached to record the event.

Laws about scattering cremated remains

As of yet, the scattering of cremains is not especially legislated.  Technically, the EPA mandates that a burial (or scattering) at sea should be conducted three nautical miles from the coast.

Cemeteries that offer memorial scattering gardens have their own regulations that families must abide by.  If you are considering a public venue, you need to contact the venue and inquire about their regulations.

As cremation and ash-scattering memorials grow in popularity, many places have seen the opportunity arise to embrace the notion of offering memorial services for scattering.  For example, golf courses have become popular scattering venues for former members and a great way to memorialize, fertilize, and encourage the family to keep returning to the club!

Some sporting venues have consented to allow the scattering of ashes.  As with golf clubs, it has been viewed as a beneficial way to encourage families to have a lasting connection with the venue.

But there are also several public places that have started to mandate against cremains being scattered within their boundaries.  And then you have the places that are mandating regulations and charging to facilitate the scattering service.

Scattering cremated remains by balloonDifferent types of scattering options

Finally, we must mention there are a few other different scattering options.

Balloon Scattering – This can take 2 forms.  Using a hot air balloon to take the cremated remains into the air and then scatter them from the hot air balloon.  Or using Eternal Ascent, which offers a service to fill a biodegradable balloon with helium and ashes and release the balloon into the atmosphere.  At 30,000 feet, the balloon will freeze and shatter, releasing the ash at a great height.  The point to consider is that there is little control over where the balloon will eventually release the ashes.

Shotgun shell firing

You can have the cremated remains added to shotgun shells which can then be fired into the air, and the remains scattered.

Memorial Spaceflight

Celestis is a company that offers a service to blast a capsule with a few grams of cremated remains into space.

Hopefully, this guide has answered some of your questions about how to scatter cremated remains and gives you some ideas for how to arrange a befitting ash-scattering tribute for a loved one.  If you have any questions about scattering cremains, please contact us, and we will do our best to assist.

For further reading on ash scattering and holding your own memorial tribute service – check out our post on Cremation & Ash Scattering: How Families are Conducting their own Memorial Services.

*Wildcat ash scattering: This term was coined in recent years to describe how families are choosing to do their own scattering of remains, which the funeral industry frowns upon as it takes away the process of memorialization from the industry.

“In the past decade, more than 40 companies have been created to help people scatter ashes legally on land and sea by getting permissions and permits. But most families opt for wildcat scatterings, surreptitiously spreading ashes in favorite parks, stadiums, fishing spots, or wherever else feels meaningful.

Scientists agree that there is no health or environmental hazard from the spread of human ashes. . . . Despite this, theme parks, sports facilities, and other public facilities often discourage the scattering of ashes or decline requests, though some stadiums, typically overseas, designate certain areas where it is permitted.”

– Extract from WSJ Feb 3, 2010, Jeffrey Zaslow in Love, Honor, Cherish, and Scatter.

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 over 55% and it is predicted that by 2040 the cremation rate will reach a staggering 87%.  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 $495*.  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 gravesite.
  • 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 a 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 costs 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 paying the large cost to open the grave and inter the remains.

Keeping mortal remains on the mantle can seem 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.

Scattering Cremated Remains

Visit our Complete Guide to Scattering Cremated Remains to learn more about the complexities and guidelines on how to scatter safely, what different ash scattering options to consider, and how to ensure you comply with any regulations or local ordinances.

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

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 families 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 the 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 a 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 do I do with the ashes after a direct cremation?

With more families turning to direct cremation as a simple and affordable cremation solution, we are finding that this question is arising more frequently.  “What shall we do with the cremation ashes?”.  How do you conduct a cremation memorialization?

In many cases, the family opted for a direct cremation as they had already decided against interment, and simply wanted to take care of the immediate disposition of their loved one in an inexpensive, ‘no-fuss’ manner.

Opting for a direct cremation does enable the family to take care of the immediate need, and requests, to arrange a funeral.  But once the temporary urn is made available for collection, some folks just aren’t sure what the next steps are.

Having a direct cremation does not mean that you cannot memorialize in your own way, and in your own time!  What can you do to memorialize after a direct cremation?

Ash Scattering Memorial

ash scattering Ash scattering is proving a popular choice for families who feel an interment is unnecessary.  Either the deceased specified an ash scattering or families feel that this is a more befitting final rite.

You can choose to scatter all, or just some, of the cremated remains, and there are many options on where and how.  The options include scattering at sea or over water, scattering in a designated memorial garden, scattering from a plane, or scattering just about anywhere that you feel is appropriate.  Families often ask about the legalities and permits required for scattering, and it has thus far been something of an unregulated act.

Certain state and public parks may require a permit, but in the main, there are no regulations, just a need to have regard for other people and the environment.  Cremated remains are organic and sterile, so pose no threat to the environment, but it is important to be mindful of other people and how they feel about this as a final rite.

If scattering at sea EPA regulations do stipulate that a scattering should occur at least 3 nautical miles from the shoreline.  That being said, it is not uncommon for families to choose to do a beach scattering in the surf on a quiet spot of the coastline.

It is important to think and prepare for an ash scattering.  It is final, and there are right and wrong ways of scattering remains.  The wind direction plays a major part.  We all remember that Big Lebowski blow-back moment!  Ensure you, and your assembled party are all standing downwind.  Visit our Complete Guide to Scattering Cremated Remains for more detailed guidance.

Hold a Memorial Service

You can conduct your own memorial service.  This means you can hold your own service-led and directed by the family.  Or you can enlist a person to conduct it for you – a celebrant, minister, or friend of the family.  There are again many options in terms of where to conduct a memorial service.  You can hold it anywhere that you feel is appropriate, from at home, to a community center, church, outdoors, or golf club!

Inter cremation remains

Of course, you can still choose to inter cremated remains, and more cemeteries are adding columbariums to their cemetery estate to accommodate the demand for cremation niches.  The cost to inter a cremation urn is generally cheaper than a body and casket, but there are some quite expensive niches out there as well!

Cemeteries will sometimes facilitate the opening and closing of an existing cemetery plot to add a cremation urn.  The fees for this differ by cemetery.

Create a cremation artifact memorial

Cremation has inspired a new generation of imagination in what we can do with cremation ashes creatively.   The possibilities are almost endless but listed below are some suggestions of artifacts that are made with cremation ashes:

  • Memorial reef
  • Diamond
  • Blown glass
  • Birdbath
  • Vinyl Record
  • Bullets
  • Tattoo

Share cremated remains and create family keepsakes

If you are unsure just what you want to do with the cremation ashes, you can always opt for sharing between family members with keepsake urns. These are generally a set of small urns and come in various designs and a selection of quantity.

Cremation Urns

If you are in need of a simple, low-cost direct cremation, DFS Memorials has a network of affordable cremation providers nationwide.  Select your state and city to find your nearest provider.

Cremation and ash-scattering: How families are choosing to conduct their own memorial services

Cremation is changing the funeral industry, not just in terms of the disposition option of cremation, but how we choose to memorialize the cremated remains.  There is an increasing lean away from holding a formal funeral service at a funeral home where families are choosing cremation.

More families are opting to wait to memorialize until after the cremation is conducted, and in some cases, are choosing not to use a funeral home to deliver the funeral or memorial service.

Do families really want to scatter cremated remains?

The 2018 NFDA Consumer Awareness and Preferences Study, reports that of the 61% of Americans who would choose cremation for themselves, 51.1 % would opt to have their remains scattered in a sentimental place.  Over 50% of respondents stating that they would choose an ash-scattering for their final rite of passage is a staggering number.  The implications of this mind-set to funeral homes and cemeteries is far-ranging, but largely signifies the potential for a huge decline in the profit margins on conducting funeral services and interring remains.

Cremation ash-scattering statistics 2018

The recent NFDA Cremation & Burial Report provides us with some up-to-date statistics on what happens with cremated remains. At present, 39% of cremated remains are returned to families, 37.1% of remains are buried at a cemetery, 1.6% of remains are scattered at a cemetery and 8.6% are placed in a columbarium. Furthermore, 19.8% of cremated remains are scattered at non-cemetery locations.

So, indications at present suggest that one in every five families who opt for cremation conduct their own ash-scattering memorial, with the likelihood this figure will steadily increase over the coming years.

Costs involved in a cremation ash-scattering service

Cremation Memorial ServiceThose families who choose to conduct their own ash-scattering service are doing it often at very little cost.  They may take a small group of family and friends to a special sentimental place and just do their ‘own thing’…….scatter the remains and have their own private farewell.

Minimizing the costs for a permanent memorial is one of the main reasons why families are choosing ash-scattering.

There are a whole array of ash-scattering services and companies that will provide services to help a family do a cremation ash-scattering.  Obviously, all this comes with a cost, and can range from very simple unaccompanied sea or land scattering in the region of $150 – $350, to a group boat charter or organized life celebration event, that may be in the price range of $450 – $2,000 (or more).

The division of the funeral industry:  cremation disposition and memorialization

I believe it is fair to say we are witnessing a division of the funeral service industry as we know it.  For decades now, we entrusted the funeral home to take care of everything.  They arranged collection, transport, funeral products, a funeral service and interment at a cemetery or columbarium.

Cremation has opened the path to the funeral industry splitting into 2 schisms – disposition and memorialization.

Cremation disposition:

A cremation takes care of the immediate disposition of the body.  A direct cremation can very affordably manage the need to deal with the disposition of the deceased, and requires limited services from a funeral home or funeral director.  The funeral home will collect the deceased from the place of death, shelter the remains whilst the legal requirements for authorization and permits are obtained, and then the cremation is conducted.  Once the deceased is cremated the remains are directly returned to the family.

This means the family can utilize the services of a funeral home to conduct the disposition, but not necessarily the memorialization of the tribute aspect of a funeral service.

Memorialization & Personalization:

With the division of the traditional death care industry, more families are opting to perform their own memorialization services.  Once the cremated remains are returned to the family, they can organize a tribute that fits around the family.

‘Personalization’ is quite the buzz word in the funeral industry right now, as funeral directors are keen to meet the demand for more personalized tributes, and still feel that there is a value-add they can offer a family in creating a personal memorial tribute.

Cremation Plan As highlighted above, more families are choosing not to inter cremated remains and there is a growing interest in ash-scattering memorials.

If a family choose to conduct an ash-scattering ceremony in a sentimental spot, this can be done without the need for officiation by a funeral director or celebrant.  Although, celebrants can be hired to help organize and conduct a memorial service.

The option to conduct a simple cremation service after a death occurs, then opt to hold a family memorial or ash-scattering ceremony, means death-care can be delivered at a fraction of the cost that we are used to.

The NFDA 2018 report surmised that the average cost for a traditional burial in 2017 was $8,755 (without a cemetery plot).  A direct cremation service can be arranged across the United States for around the cost of $1,000. [This price does vary by state and city but ranges from $595 to $1,795 depending on location].  If a family then conducts their own memorial service, funeral costs can be reduced significantly!  With many families living paycheck-to-paycheck, below the poverty line, and without life insurance today, direct cremation and a simple family farewell ash-scattering offers an affordable funeral alternative.

If you would like to find out the cost of a direct cremation near you, use the state links, and search your city or county.  For more information about conducting your own memorial service, use our section on What to do with Cremated Remains and Memorialization from the Cremation Blog homepage.

5 Reasons that Families are now choosing Cremation

Cremation has overtaken burial as the American ‘preferred’ option for death-care.  In 2018, it is forecast that 53% of Americans will opt for cremation over burial.  The cremation rate is increasing year-on-year exponentially, and forecast to reach almost 80% over the next 17 years.

Why is cremation becoming the preferred choice for families?

Funeral & Cremation Trends 2018#1 The cost of cremation vs. burial

Choosing cremation instead of burial is likely to reduce a funeral bill by half, if not two-thirds.  Whereas a typical burial funeral will cost a family between $8,000 – $15,000, a cremation funeral cost in the region of $3,000 – $8,000.  This all depends upon the funeral products and services selected.  However, without question, cremation is cheaper.  There is no requirement for a casket, burial vault or cemetery plot, and embalming of the deceased.  All of which add thousands of dollars to a funeral bill.

#2 Interest in more environmentally-friendly alternatives

Some families see cremation as a friendlier alternative to a traditional burial, where embalming fluids, concrete and steel are deposited into the earth.  Gas & omissions are still an environmental concern, but less so, especially with the newer cremation machines that cremate faster and use less gas.  In some cases, families are seeking out greener alternatives, such as burying ashes in a tree pod.

#3 Families are more dispersed

People have moved around so much more today and families are often dispersed across states, or even countries.  This can make it so much more difficult to coordinate a funeral burial service and bring people together at short notice.  Families are not so tied to the notion of a family burial plot if relatives have moved away, and the notion of it being a memorial site to visit is not of the same significance if families live far away.

Cremation Memorial Services#4 The ‘unconventional’ and personalization are key aspects of funeral tributes & memorialization

Cremation is gaining acceptance, and even popularity, as we all become more accepting of the unconventional.  We are moving into a new era where traditional values are not held in as high esteem.  New ‘norms’ are being embraced…. and being, or doing, the unconventional is popularized.

We have seen examples of this emerging within funeral services, as families opt for non-traditional services, and lean towards services as life celebration events.

Today, we seek personalization in our everyday lives, so why not take this ‘to the grave’…..so to speak!  Cremation offers much more versatility in what kind of memorial services can be held, ……when, where and how.

Even the options of personalizing artifacts with cremated remains is becoming a new industry, with a whole plethora of creative ways to design cremation tributes and scatter ashes.

#5 We need more flexibility in arranging funeral services

Cremation offers much more flexibility in arranging a funeral.  Firstly, it can enable an immediate disposition of the deceased without the immediate need to arrange a funeral service.  One of the hardest things when unexpectedly faced with arranging a funeral service, is the need to make so many decisions quickly.  Often families can find this so overwhelming, and later regret that they didn’t have more time to think through the choices they made.

Choosing a cremation can help remove that immediate need to make decisions about holding a funeral service and what to do to memorialize the remains.  A cremation memorial service is where the cremation is conducted first, and then a memorial service held afterwards.  Of course, with a cremation, there is no ‘rush’ to hold the funeral (or memorial) service immediately.  This can allow time for families to reflect on exactly what kind of memorial service to conduct.  With time to prepare and grieve, families can then find that a memorial service held later is much more meaningful and up-lifting.  It can provide time for families to plan to get together, especially if family are dispersed.

Considering these key reasons why families choose cremation can help us to understand why the cremation rate is increasing.  Cremation offers an affordable, flexible, environmentally-friendly and personalized option to approach death-care.

Cremated remains held until funeral costs paid in full

The funeral industry is experiencing significant change at present as the shift towards cremation destabilizes a business that has been ‘traditional’ for some decades.  Families are leading this change as they demand lower cost funeral services.  Price and cost are now driving purchasing decisions, largely because families are struggling financially, and paying out thousands of dollars for a funeral is just NOT an option anymore!

unclaimed-cremated-remainsIn September 2012 we published a post about how local county social security departments had a rising issue with families failing to collect cremated remains.  The financial hardship that many families are suffering has resulted in an increase in state, or public, funerals.  County Social Services are dealing with more unclaimed bodies of indigents or low income families.

This story from Illinois highlights how the issue of paying for cremation services continues to plague funeral directors.  In this case the funeral director decided to withhold returning the cremated remains to the family until all payments were made in full.  He is effectively ‘ransoming’ the ashes!  Was he wrong to do this?  If you purchase any other consumer item and fail to make the required payments, the item would be re-possessed.  Today if you purchase funeral products you must pay in full when you purchase these items.  Walmart will not dispatch your $995 casket unless you have paid in full.

As we turn to cremation as a nation, the issue of what to do with cremated remains will continue to present challenges.  I often hear individuals claim that they just wish for family to scatter their mortal remains.   But often families either end up with remains sat in the back of a closet undecided about what to do with their loved ones ashes.

Funeral homes are also reporting a growing issue with unclaimed cremated remains, and the problem this presents for them in storing a growing number of cremation urns.  Some funeral homes have combated this by adding a clause to their cremation contract to allow for them to dispose of the cremated remains if they are not claimed within 60 days.

Low cost cremation services adds to this dilemma.  When a family has managed to arrange an inexpensive disposition for just a few hundred dollars, they are less likely to want to incur further funeral costs on elaborate cremation urns.

Inexpensive cremation options generally need to be paid for IN FULL before the direct cremation is conducted.  A budget direct cremation will usually include a temporary cremation urn/container.  This can be a small plastic urn or a cardboard container.

If you are concerned about funeral costs, then a simple direct cremation is the most affordable option.  A direct cremation can be performed in most areas of the United States for between $495 and $1,395 (depending on where you live).


Memorializing after the direct cremation

Understanding Direct Cremation Part 4 – Save on your memorialization costs

A direct cremation offers a family the opportunity to ‘simply’ employ the services of a funeral director and/or crematory to conduct the disposition of the deceased.  As mentioned in my earlier posts on Understanding Direct Cremation, it can help the family to arrange a direct cremation at a low cost, and then the family can arrange their own memorial service.

cremation-memorialOnce the direct cremation has been performed and the family have the ashes returned, a memorial service or life celebration service can be held.  This can be held anywhere and does not need to be in a funeral home.  Indeed it can be more befitting and uplifting to hold a memorial service somewhere that is special to the family or the deceased.  It can be held in a place of worship, a community center, a golf course clubhouse or outdoors in a garden or park.  The possibilities are endless!

Some in the funeral industry will have us believe that the ritual of memorialization is integral to how we grieve.  I believe that how everyone handles loss and grieving differs, and that a family are far better equipped to know and commemorate their loved one that has passed.

Some families need a funeral director, a minister or a Celebrant to help them conduct an appropriate and befitting tribute.  However, there is no ‘rule’ that says that this is right for every family.  If you feel you wish to conduct your own personalized memorial service, there are many resources and ideas online to help you.family-led-memorial-service

These days you can quite easily make your own memorial products such as memory tables or boards, memorial candles or balloons, memorial DVD tributes or a dedicated online memorial webpage.  If you are considering scattering some (or all) of your loved ones ashes, there are many creative ways to do so.

Part 6: Death away from home – a direct cremation & shipping cremated remains

[Sara Marsden] Google+

What you need to know to transport cremated remains

shipping-cremated-remainsAs cremation becomes more popular, there is a rising need for people to consider transporting cremated remains.  This can be the case either when someone has died in a different state or country, a cremation has been performed at the place of death, but the ashes need to be returned to the family.  Or in some cases people are opting to distribute the cremated remains between surviving family who may be located across the U.S.

Whatever the circumstances, when a family wish to transport cremated remains,  the questions can often arise as to how best and inexpensively can this be done.  We have outlined below the key information you need to know if you wish to ship cremated remains.

If you are shipping cremated remains through a service you will need to ensure that the correct documentation accompanies the shipment.  A copy of the death certificate and cremation certificate will be required, along with other authorization forms.

Shipping Cremated Remains by U.S. Postal Service

USPS introduced label 139 to improve their service in identifying cremated remains in transit.  Cremated remains can ONLY be shipped using Priority Mail Express and Registered Mail.  This means that the receiver has to sign to acknowledge receipt of the shipment and helps to give families peace of mind.  USPS clearly states that a shipment of cremated ashes should be marked on the exterior of the packaging.  Label 139 was introduced to ensure it was easier for families and postal workers to identify these valuable shipments that need sensitive handling.

The extract from the USPS Bulletin 52, governing shipment of cremated remains, states:

452.2 Cremated Remains

Human ashes are permitted to be mailed provided they are packaged as required in 463b. The identity of the contents should be marked on the address side. Mailpieces must be sent registered mail with return receipt service.

453 Packaging and Marking

The following conditions apply:

….b. Powders. Dry materials that could cause damage, discomfort, destruction, or soiling upon escape (i.e., leakage) must be packed in siftproof containers or other containers that are sealed in durable siftproof outer containers.”

Shipping Cremated Remains with a Courier Service.

Unfortunately, DHL, FedEx and UPS do NOT transport cremated remains at all, so you cannot courier cremated remains to another destination in the U.S. or overseas.

international-shipping-cremated-remainsTransporting Cremated Remains by Air

You also have the option to transport ashes by an airline carrier.  Most airlines offer a freight or cargo service, so this is one option to consider.  You do need to check with the specific airline as regulations that govern the shipping of human remains differs between airlines.  Some airlines require 7 days notice, and of course, you will require certain documentation.  The shipment will need to be marked as “cremated remains”.

Many airlines do allow you to take cremated remains as carry-on luggage.  Again you need to carefully check the guidance with the airline you are traveling with.  The TSA guidelines specify that “passengers transport remains in temporary or permanent ‘security friendly’ containers constructed of light-weight materials such as plastic or wood. Temporary containers can also offer a security friendly means to travel by air with a crematory container.”  If a cremated remains container cannot pass through an x-ray machine with the contents visible, it will not pass the TSA security check.  The official TSA statement is:

“To maintain the highest level of security, TSA determined that documentation from a funeral home about the contents of a crematory container was no longer sufficient to allow the container through a security checkpoint and onto a plane. Since February of this year, all crematory containers must pass through an X-ray machine. If a container is made of a material that prevents screeners from clearly seeing what is inside, the container will not be allowed through the checkpoint. Out of respect for the deceased, screeners will not open a container, even if requested by the passenger.”

Shipping Cremated Remains Internationally

If you need to ship cremated remains internationally, you do just need to check with the embassy in the destination country.  Some countries have specific guidelines about receiving cremated remains and additional import documentation may need to be completed.  Also, some countries have different rules about receiving cremated remains, and a funeral director may be required to take receipt of the ashes before handing them over to a family member.

You should ensure that sufficient time is allowed for legal processes and documentation.  You probably need 2 weeks notice to arrange an international transportation of cremated remains.  A list of U.S. embassies around the world is available here.

What do you need to do to ship cremated remains safely and securely?

The message is clear – if you intend to ship a cremation urn within the U.S, do make sure that you very carefully package the container.  Put contact details inside with the urn, and mark the outside of the package clearly stating ‘containing cremated human remains’.  Use label 139 – made available from USPS.  Ensure you DO ship the cremated remains using Priority Mail Express or Registered Mail, and DO ensure you make the postal clerk aware that this is what the package contains.

Hopefully, this information has answered any questions you had about how to transport your loved ones ashes.  If you have any further questions, feel free to ask us the question.

Ship cremated remains from the United States to anywhere in: the UK, Europe, Mexico, Central America, South America, Middle East and Indian sub-continent.

[Sara Marsden] Google+




‘Holy Smoke’ – Final resting place on the Shooting Range

As cremation becomes more and more popular, new and quirky options for what to do with cremated remains emerge.  We are increasingly turning to innovative alternatives options for ash scattering, rather than interring or storing cremated remains.

If you are wondering what to do with your loved ones cremated remains – Here is one for all those gun-lovers out there.  Those guys and gals who lived for hunting and always preferred being outdoors….now you can have your cremated remains put into shotgun shells or pistol cartridges.  Then you can quite literally go up in ‘holy smoke’!  yeehaw…

I am sure this will appeal to many out there who are still cowboys at heart, however, it is not a budget option for what to do with cremated remains.

Prices start at $850 for a set of ammunition which depends on whether you are a rifle, shotgun or pistol shooter.   Still it could be great fun to gather family and friends together at the shooting range for a spectacular send-off!