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How to Choose An Urn

Cremation is one of the popular choices for the internment of a body. This is because it provides the grieving families an option to hold onto their loved one’s remains indefinitely or until they have made another decision on the final resting place. When the option of cremation is being considered, many have questions on what they need to know before they buy an urn, or if they should even get one. This post will outline everything you need to know about buying an urn.

Ceramic urn

What is an urn?

A cremation urn is a container that holds someone’s cremated remains which have been turned into ashes. If the family or the deceased (before they passed away), wanted their remains to be kept above the ground, a cremation urn is used. It can still be used if they are to be interred below ground in a cemetery or in a wall niche.

There are many different styles of cremation urns, they include:

  • Typical adult-size cremation urn;

  • Sharing or keepsake urns – small urns to divide ashes among family members;

  • XL or Companion urns – this can either be an extra-large urn for a larger adult, or a companion urn designed to hold the ashes of two people (e.g. husband and wife). There can be two internal compartments to keep the ashes separate; and

  • Scattering Tubes – they are designed for scattering remains at a place of significance.

Along with the types of cremation urns, there are also a variety of personalisation options to choose from. They include:

  • Direct engraving – engraving words or designs of your choice directly onto the urn.

  • Brass urn plates – where you can include a small message engraved into a small brass plate affixed onto the urn.

  • Urn pendants – where you can include a small message engraved onto an urn pendant draped around the urn.

Cremation urn
An urn can be as simple or elaborate as you like.

What you need to know before you buy

1 – The Final Resting Place

The first step you need to take before you buy an urn is to decide where you want its resting place to be. There are many different options when it comes to storing or disposing of cremated ashes. Depending on the resting place, there may be a specific type of urn that you need to buy.

  • Keeping the urn at the family home - any cremation urn is suitable.

  • Scattering the ashes in a place of significance – it is recommended that you use scattering tubes.

  • Holding a sea burial – it is recommended that you use a water burial urn as they are specifically designed to biodegrade in water.

  • Storing the urn in a wall niche at a cemetery – it is recommended that you use a rectangular shaped cremation urn either made from wood or marble.

  • Burying the ashes in a cemetery – while you can use any cremation urn, you may also be required to purchase an urn vault. This urn vault is a strong outer box that will protect the urn from any weight of the earth and prevent any collapse from earth.

  • Burying the urn in a natural burial ground – it is a legal requirement to use an eco-friendly biodegradable urn.

  • Transforming the ashes into jewellery – you can purchase a necklace or another piece of jewellery specifically designed to hold the ashes of a loved one.

2 – Where and when to buy cremation urns

When it comes to when you should purchase a cremation urn, you can plan ahead or wait until after the death of a family member. Buying an urn in advance can speed up the cremation process and ensure ashes are returned to the family as soon as possible. If you do not provide an urn at the time of cremation, the crematorium will provide you with an alternative container to house the ashes temporarily.

When it comes to where you should purchase a cremation urn, the easiest way is through your funeral director, but it may not necessarily be the cheapest. If your funeral director does not have an urn which appeals to you you can source one from another funeral director, even if you are not organising the burial arrangements with them. You can also purchase urns directly online or through funeral retailers across the country.

How much does a cremation urn cost?

Cremation urns range in price from $50 to more than $600, depending on the style, material, and construction. When picking out your urn you can choose from the following options:

Ceramic Urns ($120- 500)

Ceramic urns can be constructed in many sizes, shapes, designs and textures. Choose this if you want to specifically design an urn to reflect your loved one’s personality and interests.

Brass Urns ($85- 250)

Brass urns are usually a simple metallic colour embedded with engravings, colours, or textures to resemble other materials. They are good if you want to personalise the urn with an engraving of a name, date, or a short message.

Silver Urns ($85- 250)

This is an urn constructed with a brass core and a silver finish. It is a good choice if you want a simple urn for your loved one.

Wood Urns ($50- 400)

Wooden urns are typically designed to be used for interments in wall niches. They can be personalised with engravings or affixed with other materials. This is a good choice if you want a more natural and unique urn for your loved one. Since they can have distinctive patterns, you can make it as unique as you like.

Biodegradable Urns (from $80- 350)

If you are holding a sea burial or opt for a natural burial you will most likely want to use a biodegradable urn. They are environmentally friendly and decompose naturally without releasing bacteria or toxins into the environment.

Glass Urns (from $110- 600)

Glass urns are typically crafted by artisans using the traditional hand-blowing technique. They are a unique and artistic option. While they may appear to be more delicate than other materials they are solid enough to hold cremated ashes for display on a wall or shelf.

Marble Urns ($80- 370)

A marble urn is a durable urn that can be personalised with laser engraving directly onto the marble. This can offer a natural yet smooth and elegant look and is appropriate for display on a mantlepiece or elsewhere inside the home.

Cremation urns range in price from $50 to more than $600, depending on the style, material, and construction.

Can you put ashes in an urn yourself?

Once the ashes are returned to you from the crematorium, it is up to you what you want to do with them. There is no obligation to scatter the ashes in a public location, and if you would prefer to keep them on display in a prominent place inside your home, you can do so. The ashes don’t have to stay together either. Families can choose to split the ashes and each family member can decide how they want to store or dispose of them.

If you choose to scatter the ashes, you may need to seek permission first from the landowner or local council. For instance, if you are looking to scatter the ashes on private property you may need to obtain permission from the owner. If you are looking to scatter the ashes somewhere in public like the beach or over the ocean, most times you will need to seek permission from the local council. If you do not get approval and you are caught disposing of ashes by authorities you are at risk of being fined or taken to court. While there is probably a minimal risk of being caught-red-handed it simply isn't worth the uncomfortable situation and potential legal complications.

How long do cremated ashes last?

How long cremated ashes last depends on a variety of factors - particularly the final resting place and the type of urn where the ashes are being held. If you decide to scatter the ashes or bury them in the ground without an urn, it won’t take long for the ashes to settle and become a part of their surroundings. On the other hand, if you bury them inside a biodegradable urn, it can take anywhere from one to 20 years for the vessel to biodegrade. If ashes are kept in an urn with a strong seal, they should last a lifetime.

Looking for a personal, affordable and eco-friendly farewell for your loved ones? Find out more with Safewill Cremations.

We offer cremation services in NSW's major cities and towns i.e Sydney, Coffs Harbour, Newcastle

Last updated 20th December 2021
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Lauren Barrientos
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