In this article:

After a cremation has taken place, you’ll need to decide what to do with your loved one’s ashes. Burying cremated remains is a popular choice, but it’s common to have lots of questions about how and where to bury ashes or what to bury ashes in. Read on to find out everything you need to know.  

Can you bury ashes in a graveyard in the UK? 

Yes. It is possible to bury ashes in most cemeteries across the country. In fact, many cemeteries and burial grounds now offer plots specifically for the interment of ashes. What does interment of ashes mean? It’s simply the act of burying the cremated remains in the ground or committing them to the earth.  

The grave plots available for interment of ashes will be smaller and shallower than traditional full graves so less land is needed. And grave digging and exclusive rights of burial charges can be reduced. Just as you can purchase a double grave for full burial it’s also possible in some cases to purchase a double grave for cremated remains, with space for a double urn.  

Can ashes be buried in a cemetery that’s already full? 

There are numerous cemeteries up and down the country, particularly those in smaller parishes or older churchyards, that are now considered full for burial. This means they no longer have space for new full graves. But many of these can continue to offer burial of cremated remains due to the requirement for less space.  

This means that even if a particular graveyard is full it’s worth asking your funeral director about the possibility of burying cremated remains.  

How much does it cost to bury cremated ashes in the UK? 

Prices for burial of ashes can vary across the UK, as fees will be set by the local council or company running the burial ground or cemetery. Although generally it will be cheaper than full burial, ranging from a few hundred to a couple of thousands of pounds once burial rights and interment are taken into account.  

There may be more cost-effective options in some areas though. Often it’s possible to purchase a grave plot and include cremated remains within that plot. Or you could buy a plot that can accommodate 2, 4 or 6 caskets of cremated remains. And remember, if you wish to add a memorial to the plot this will be on top of the given cost. 

It’s also worth noting that as with full burial costs, in some places you may be charged more for a plot if you come from outside the parish or local area. 

You can find information on options and fees charged by most cemeteries and burial grounds online, via their local council or private owners.   

How long after cremation can ashes be buried? 

It may be that at the time of cremation you have already decided where you would like your loved one’s ashes to be buried. But if not, there’s no rush. Unlike traditional burial, there’s no time limit on when interment of ashes should take place. This means you can take your time and really choose the spot you feel is right. Cremation ashes can also be placed into someone else’s coffin at the time of burial if this is something that a surviving partner might want to consider.  

Another option that may appeal is to inter the ashes in a columbarium. This is a building or structure with lots of compartments or niches into which an urn with cremated remains can be placed. Columbariums can be found at crematoriums, churches or gardens of remembrance and offer leases for a number of years. 

Can you bury ashes in an existing grave in the UK? 

Yes, in many cemeteries it’s possible to open an existing grave and bury ashes alongside family members who died previously.  

You will need to be able to prove that you are the owner of the grave or next of kin with exclusive burial rights. 

You’ll usually find that the cemetery will charge a fee for digging the grave to enable burial of the urn or scattering of the ashes into the earth. It’s not usually allowed to simply scatter ashes on top of an existing grave in a cemetery or burial ground.  

Can you bury ashes in your garden? 

In the UK you are legally allowed to bury ashes in your garden or on any private land as long as you have permission from the landowner. Bear in mind, though, that if you later wish to sell your house and move away you will have no rights to return to the grave site.  

Can ashes be interred at a natural burial site? 

Many natural burial sites now offer interment of cremated remains. It used to be the case that ashes were considered toxic to plant life. But this can be overcome by mixing them with a special blend of soil to maintain the correct acidity levels.  

It’s worth noting that where burial of ashes is offered, green burial sites will usually stipulate that the urn is made from completely biodegradable materials. 

All woodland, natural and green burial sites are different, so it’s important you contact the one you are considering and ask about their terms and conditions.  

Can you bury ashes in 2 places? 

While not common, it is possible to split the ashes. It might be that you want to divide a small amount of ashes into keepsake urns for family members to keep at home. Or perhaps you wish to bury the majority of the ashes in a local cemetery that you are able to visit regularly, but scatter some in your loved one’s favourite place. 

In the UK, in particular, there are few strict rules about the handling of ashes.  

How to bury ashes 

Discuss with your funeral director or contact the cemetery directly 

Depending on where you wish to bury the ashes you can either contact the cemetery or burial ground yourself. Or ask your funeral director to arrange everything for you. Different cemeteries will have different rules and fees so it’s important you find out all the information you need up front. 

Will you have a service at the graveside? 

It’s common to have a brief service or ceremony, known as a committal, as the ashes are lowered into the grave. This may be religious or non-religious depending on your preference. 

Will you include a memorial on the grave? 

You may wish to include a memorial or inscribed plaque on the grave. This will tend to be smaller than a traditional headstone due to space. Each cemetery or burial ground will have its own rules about what is and isn’t allowed. They or your funeral director will be able to let you know what’s possible. In green burial sites it’s common to plant a tree in memory of someone

What to bury ashes in: will you choose an urn? 

There are many different types of urn to choose from. You will need to check whether the cemetery or burial ground you choose has any special requirements. These might include the material used to make the urn or its size for example.  

You will also need to choose whether you, or other members of your family, would like to keep some of the ashes in a keepsake urn.

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.