What to do with ashes after a cremation
A cremation gives you a choice in where your loved one’s final resting place will be. There are a lot of options for where their resting place could be, so if you’re feeling a little lost, we hope our list of things to do with ashes will help you and your family make the decision.
There is a wide range of personal, creative and unique things you can do with the cremation ashes. Some of these include:
The most popular option in the UK is to scatter ashes, often in a place that was special to your loved one and family, perhaps at a local park or a beauty spot that they loved.
When choosing the location to scatter your loved one’s ashes, you may find that busy areas do not allow you the privacy to say goodbye to your loved one in the way you might have liked. If you would prefer some privacy, then you should pick a particularly quiet spot, or perhaps a time of day when it is likely to be less busy.
Simplicity can also organise for your loved one’s ashes to be respectfully scattered in the Gardens of Remberance at the crematorium the cremation took place should you wish. You can choose for the resting place to be marked with a memorial stone (please note this will be chargeable), which you can visit at any time. Some cemeteries also allow ashes to be scattered on or buried in another family member’s grave.
The law in the UK states that ashes can be scattered in most places, with the consent of the landowner. So, of course, you may do this on your own land, although you should consider how long the garden or land will be in the family’s possession for visiting purposes. You can also scatter ashes at sea or in a river with no issues – provided they are inside a biodegradable urn, or are scattered straight into the water. Some areas of the UK have environmental restrictions in place, so if you're scattering ashes on public land, check with the local authority first.
See our ideas for places to scatter ashes.
You may have arranged a direct cremation for a loved one so that you could organise your own memorial service or celebration of life for them with the ashes present afterwards. A direct cremation allows you and your family to have your own commemoration service, at a time and place away from the crematorium.
The scattering of ashes at a memorial service or a celebration of life is a popular choice. If you plan to scatter the ashes as part of the ceremony, you could carefully consider your chosen location of the service as not all locations will allow this.
Interment of ashes
Another option is to have your loved one’s ashes interred. The interment of ashes is a procedure of placing the ashes in a permanent location. Ashes can be interred in locations such as a cemetery, a natural burial ground, on private land or a columbarium.
The interment of ashes is a good option for families with a particular religious faith (such as Catholics), families that already have other members of the family buried at a specific location or those that want the permanence and sense of tradition that a burial can provide.
Learn more about the interment of ashes.
Many families are looking for more adventurous things to do with ashes, to reflect the personality of their loved one.
There are many unique things you can do with your loved one’s ashes as well as creative ways you can keep them close to you. We’ve listed 9 unique things to do with ashes below to give you some inspiration:
1. Turn cremation ashes into jewellery
You only need a tiny amount of your loved one’s cremations ashes to make a beautiful piece of unique jewellery. Some companies will even combine the ashes of two or more loved ones to form one piece of jewellery. You’ll be able to choose from rings, earrings, bracelets, charms and pendants, even cufflinks if you are not a fan of wearing traditional jewellery. It may also be a nice idea to have the piece of jewellery engraved with a personal, sentimental message.
2. Get a tattoo with ashes in the ink
It’s common for people to get a tattoo in memory of a loved one after they die, but it is now possible to have tattoo ink made with a small amount of your loved one’s ashes, so you will have a small part of your loved one with you for the rest of your life.
Gods of Ink in Gloucester is one of just a few studios to offer cremation tattoos (or ashes tattoos) in the UK.
3. Turn ashes into a tree
A Bios Urn is made using 100% biodegradable materials that will allow you to plant your loved one’s ashes along with seeds to grow a tree. Specially made with two separate capsules, the urn is designed to contain your loved one’s cremation ashes in one capsule and the the seed or seedling of your choice in the second.
There are also companies that operate memorial woodlands where they will plant and maintain a tree for you. Similar to a green burial, this will create a special meeting place for friends and family to visit to pay their respects amongst nature.
Please be aware, on their own, cremation ashes can be harmful when placed around plants.
4. Create a vinyl record
Research we conducted in early 2019 revealed that one in four young people want their ashes compressed into a vinyl record when they are gone.
AndVinyly will press your loved one’s cremation ashes into a vinyl record, which holds a recording of your choosing for you and your family to enjoy. This can be a great idea if your loved one was a music lover.
5. Turn ashes into art
Similar to memorial jewellery, you can have your loved one’s ashes made into a piece of unique memorial art. Memorial art is available in many different forms, but one of the most popular is glass art.
With Love & Light create glass art from their studio in Lancashire, using a small amount of cremation ashes. Artists are also incorporating cremation ashes into painted artwork, including portraits of the person or landscape scenes that are memorable to them.
6. Scatter them from a spitfire
If your loved one had a passion for planes or aviation, scattering their ashes from a Spitfire could be the ideal way to pay tribute to their life.
Fly a Spitfire offers a service, subject to obtaining CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) permission, which honours your loved one in an unforgettable way. Depending on location, they can fly over funerals and scatter a loved one’s ashes from a Spitfire aircraft.
7. Take them around the world
Did your loved one have a passion for travelling or were they, unfortunately, unable to tick it off their bucket list? If so, you could take the ashes on an around the world trip or to a specific city or country they wanted to visit. You could even scatter part of their ashes in each place you visit.
Most airlines will allow a passenger to travel with cremation ashes although guidelines on taking ashes abroad can vary depending on your destination. We would advise you check with your chosen airline’s guidelines and any guidelines specific to your intended destination before you fly.
8. Keep them close to you in a memorial or keepsake bear
Also called 'remembrance bears', a keepsake bear lets you place a small amount of cremation ashes in a beautiful, cuddly toy. A memorial bear will normally have an opening at the back in which you can place a token amount of ashes (in a small sealed plastic bag). Some companies will even design a unique bear for you.
This way, you really can hold your loved one close to you.
9. Let them go with a bang
UK based company, Heavenly Stars Fireworks is a specialist company that can help you stage a stunning memorial firework display or create fireworks for you to hold your own display, using a small amount of your loved one’s cremation ashes.
You should not feel obliged into doing something with the ashes. For some people, the scattering of ashes feels very final. You may instead wish to keep your loved one’s ashes at home in an urn, where they can be close to you.
You could, of course, choose to divide the ashes, perhaps scattering or doing something unique with a small amount of the ashes, and keeping the remainder of the ashes at home with you.
Whatever you choose to do with your loved one’s ashes, you should take the time to think about your decision and to choose something special to you and your family.