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If you're planning a funeral, you’ll need to decide whether the service ends with a burial or cremation. And if you've chosen cremation, your next decision will be what to do with the ashes. Here are some traditional and more unusual ideas you could choose from.

Collecting ashes from the funeral directors

After the service, the cremation takes place within 24 hours. The ashes are then placed in a marked container and returned to you. If you want to, you can talk to your funeral director about changing this temporary container to a permanent urn. Your funeral director can collect the ashes on your behalf too.

What to do with ashes

You might decide to keep the ashes to remember the person who has died, or you might choose to scatter them in a meaningful place.

  • Scatter the ashes in a special place
  • Bury the ashes in an urn
  • Keep the ashes at home in an urn
  • Turn the ashes into a permanent memorial, such as a piece of jewellery

Traditional places to scatter ashes

Here are a few special ideas for scattering ashes, as well as some important considerations to keep in mind.

The crematorium garden

Most crematoriums have gardens of remembrance where ashes can be scattered or buried. Burying ashes is sometimes called "interment of ashes". If the ashes are interred, they'll often be placed in a sealed compartment in the garden wall and marked with a plaque.

You should ask permission to scatter ashes at a crematorium. Usually, it will be arranged in advance with your funeral director. If you'd prefer not to be present, the crematorium staff can scatter the ashes for you.

A family garden

The garden of the family home is a popular choice for scattering ashes. It can be especially good if you want to say goodbye in a quiet and private way. You might want to invite family and a few close friends to join you and prepare a few words in tribute to the person.

Can you bury ashes in your garden?

Yes, but only if you own the land or have permission from the landowner. You must also prepare a burial register – a document that details who is buried and where.

Also, you'll need an exhumation licence from the government if you ever want to remove the ashes or bury them elsewhere.

 a bunch of flowers laid on a coffin at a simple funeral service.
"We scattered his ashes in Cromer on the East Coast."


More popular locations for scattering ashes

If you want to scatter the ashes elsewhere, think about how you would like to commemorate the occasion. You might have an outdoor location in mind that was important to the person who has died.

Maybe it's an area they loved to walk in, a secluded place with a spectacular view, or a location where they enjoyed happy holidays. It might even be the stadium of their favourite sports team.

Can you scatter ashes on a family grave? Possibly, but you'll need the permission of the cemetery. Some don't allow it so you’ll need to check first.

Alternative things to do with ashes

If you're looking for a less traditional option, you could consider one of these choices.

Scatter the ashes in the sea

If you want to arrange a special and peaceful send-off, you can scatter ashes in the sea. This can be especially fitting if the person who died had a personal connection to the ocean.

If you want to keep things simple you could just cast the ashes directly into the water. However, this could be difficult if there's a strong sea breeze.

Alternatively, you could choose a special water-soluble urn. This will float for a few minutes before slowly sinking into the sea. From there, it will naturally degrade and scatter the ashes underwater.

An even easier option is to dig a shallow hole on the shoreline and pour in the ashes. Cover them with sand, and as the tide comes in the ashes will be swept out to sea.

Let cremation ashes "grow into a tree"

If you'd rather bury the ashes, you might choose to use a biodegradable urn. Made from coconut shells, these special urns can be filled with ashes, peat and your choice of seeds.

Once planted, the seeds will begin to grow. Over the years a beautiful tree will grow as a lasting tribute to the person who has died.

Scatter the ashes abroad

Maybe there's a special place overseas where you'd like to scatter the ashes. It could be a favourite holiday destination or maybe their native country. Before you make your decision, make sure you check the rules of the country you're travelling to, as they may be different to the UK. If you're travelling by plane, you should also check the rules of the airline you plan to travel with to make sure you transport the ashes in the right way.

Learn more about scattering ashes abroad.

Have the ashes incorporated into a fireworks display

Want to pay a unique tribute? Some companies can incorporate ashes into fireworks so you can say goodbye in a sparkling display. You could even choose to launch the ashes into space.

Do you need permission to scatter ashes?

There's nothing in UK law that specifically restricts scattering ashes. However, there are a few things to be aware of.

If you want to scatter the ashes on privately owned land, you should always ask permission from the landowner. And you should be careful to respect rules and regulations, whether the land is public or private.

For instance, some public parks and nature reserves ask people not to scatter ashes. However, they may offer other ways to memorialise a loved one. This might be a tree that's planted in their honour or a bench where you can sit and remember them.

Some football clubs will allow people to scatter a supporter's ashes on their grounds, but you must check with the stadium first.

Finally, remember to be considerate. Try to choose a quiet place that's sheltered from the wind so you won't upset people passing by.

If you want to take the ashes overseas, read our guide to scattering ashes abroad.

What to say when scattering ashes?

Before you scatter the ashes, you might like to say a few words to remember the person who has died. It doesn't have to be anything too complicated or formal. Perhaps you could recite a favourite poem or simply say goodbye in your own words.

Take your time to make a decision

Whatever you decide, spreading someone's ashes is a special way to say goodbye in your own time. Plus, the place you choose can become a special spot to remember them forever, whether it's a quiet piece of grassland or the night sky itself.

So remember that you don't need to do it immediately. After you’ve collected the ashes, you can take your time to chat with family about what you want to do, before you make a decision. This means you’ve got time to plan something special, if that’s what you’d like.

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Photo by Des Green on iStock.