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Woman in black dress holding black urn and white lily

FAQ: Your Guide to Scattering Ashes

By Cremation, Explore Options

When you choose cremation, there are more questions to answer than you might think. A key question is, “What should happen to the ashes after cremation is complete?” There are so many options to choose from. They range from urn burial, placement in a columbarium, keeping at home, scattering, and other more unusual choices, like launching into space. But for today, let’s discuss scattering and several frequently asked questions about the practice.

Man and woman holding a silver urn between them

Is scattering ashes legal?

The short answer is yes, scattering ashes is legal. However, you’ll want to pay attention to where you are scattering. Scattering in certain locations (like private property) may result in fines or minor criminal charges. There are no federal laws relating to scattering ashes on land, but some states do have specific guidelines. If you are interested in scattering, talk it over with a trusted funeral director. They can give you guidance on your state’s specific laws (if any) about the practice.

Is scattering ashes safe for the environment?

It all depends on where and how you choose to scatter. Scattering at sea, launching into space, or placement in a columbarium are amongst the least environmentally impactful options for cremated remains. However, if you choose to scatter on land, scatter the remains over a large distance and not all in one place. In their natural form, ashes may include chemicals and pollutants that could affect soil composition, impacting plant growth and the larger ecosystem. However, by scattering over a distance, you minimize this possibility.

Red rose sitting on sandy rock at beach

Where can I scatter ashes?

Now that we know scattering is legal, let’s talk about where you can scatter a loved one’s ashes. The biggest no-no is scattering ashes on private land that does not belong to you. In other words, don’t trespass on private property just because you like the view. This applies to private land, but also to places like stadiums, amusement parks, and the like.

Generally speaking, the best practice is to select a location and then determine what the rules and regulations are for that place. A few examples:

  • Ask permission from the land owner before scattering on private property
  • Get a permit or check regulations before scattering at a U.S National Park
  • Talk to the cemetery administrator before scattering in a cemetery or urn garden
  • Contact the authority in charge of a beach before scattering there

Many locations are available to you, as long as you request permission and complete any necessary paperwork. For example, you could scatter at your loved one’s favorite golf course or from an airplane, but there will be a little extra effort to do so.

Woman in black dress holding black urn and white lily

Can you scatter ashes at sea?

While the federal government does not have laws regarding scattering on land (that’s left up to the states), they do have laws regarding burial at sea. There are typically two ways you can scatter ashes at sea: through the U.S. Navy or through a civilian charter company (or cruise line). To learn more about the requirements for scattering at sea, go to What You Need to Know About Burial at Sea.

“How” do I scatter ashes?

Always be aware of the wind direction. You will want to disperse the ashes with the wind, not against the wind. This way, the breeze carries the ashes away from you, and they don’t blow back into your face.

You can either scatter the ashes by hand (bring something to clean your hands with), or more commonly, you can hold the ashes at waist height and scatter them by gently “tossing” them out of the urn. Alternatively, you can purchase a scattering tube, which makes it much easier to scatter the ashes.

Wooden Christian cross necklace laying on book

How do the major religions feel about scattering ashes?

In the United States, the major religions are based in Christianity, according to Pew Research. For today’s purposes, we will look at the cremation viewpoints of Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons. Additionally, we will briefly touch on Jewish funeral customs around cremation.

  • Catholic Church: Cremation is accepted by the Catholic Church, but scattering is not. The entire cremated body must be kept together and either buried or placed in a columbarium.
  • Protestant Church: There are many denominations within the Protestant faith, but generally speaking, cremation and scattering the ashes are acceptable practices. Some denominations may place a stronger emphasis on burial.
  • Latter Day Saints: Cremation is not prohibited, but full-body burial is strongly preferred and encouraged.
  • Judaism: Reform Judaism allows cremation as long as the cremated remains are buried as one unit in an urn or burial container. Orthodox Judaism remains strongly opposed to cremation.

Can I have a ceremony when scattering ashes?

In most cases, yes, you can have some sort of ceremony to accompany the scattering. Again, it all depends on where you choose to scatter the ashes.

If you choose a scattering garden, work with the funeral home or cemetery to put together a program, like you would experience at a graveside ceremony. For scattering at a U.S. National Park, you can find a remote place to say a few words (though the gathering will likely be small and private).

Whether you choose to do something simple or more detailed, it’s important to express what’s on your heart and mind as you say that final goodbye.

Urn surrounded by red roses at a funeral service

What are some tips for planning a scattering ceremony?

  • First, always take the weather into account. You may not want to plan the ceremony for cold or rainy days, so keep an eye on the forecast.
  • Second, if you are transporting cremated remains, make sure that you have a sturdy container that opens and closes well and easily. You want to be able to release the ashes easily, but you don’t want the container to spill open during your travel time. If you need to fly with the ashes, check out What You Need to Know About Flying with Cremated Remains for more tips.
  • Third, plan the ceremony ahead of time because you may need to coordinate details with your chosen location. Without preparation, a scattering ceremony could turn into a minor scuffle with the law. So, do a little legwork to ensure everything goes smoothly.

If you have additional questions about scattering ashes, the funeral home is an excellent resource. Give them a quick call to set up an informal chat to discuss your options for scattering ashes. They will help you iron out all the details so you can honor a loved one’s life in a meaningful and personalized way.

Open wooden casket with ivory lining

Rental Caskets: What You Need to Know

By Cremation, Educational, Explore Options, Planning Tools

Cremation may be on the rise, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan a full service to celebrate a loved one’s life with viewing and visitation. Many families assume that choosing cremation means sacrificing a viewing or having the body present at the funeral service. But that’s where rental caskets (also called ceremonial caskets) come in!

Today, most funeral homes offer rental caskets, which allows you to select cremation and still have a full service with a loved one’s body present. There’s just one major difference. After the funeral service is complete, the casket will not be escorted to the cemetery. Instead, mourners will attend a gathering or reception, and the body will be prepared for cremation.

In this way, families can pair the healing power of saying goodbye in person with the cost-effectiveness of cremation. Thankfully, you don’t have to give up the traditional elements when you prefer cremation over burial.

Open wooden casket with ivory lining

What else do you need to know about rental caskets? Let’s review some important details to consider.

How is a rental casket different from a standard casket?

When looking at the rental casket, most people won’t be able to tell that it’s not a standard casket. However, the construction is a bit different. The foot panel swings out like a door, allowing an insert to be placed into or removed from the casket exterior. So, the deceased person is placed in a removable container (often made of wood or cardboard) and that box is gently slid into the rental casket. The removable insert comes with its own fabric liner, which is for one-time use, and it is hidden from view once inside the casket exterior.

So, the casket is re-used?

Yes and no; the exterior frame of the casket is re-used, but the removable insert is not. As mentioned above, at no point does the deceased person’s body come in contact with the rental casket itself. The removable insert fully supports the body and the fabric liner within the insert is one-time use only. In this way, the rental casket is protected and preserved.

Additionally, the rental casket is professionally cleaned and sanitized after each use. While the deceased body never touches the rental casket, this extra level of cleanliness is taken to ensure the best possible experience for everyone.

Couple standing next to a casket covered in flowers, paying their respects

What happens to the removable insert?

By law, when a body is cremated, it must be placed in a container of some sort (often made of wood or cardboard). The removable insert can perform both functions – both as the interior of the rental casket and the alternative container at the crematory.

Where can I get a rental casket?

If you’re looking for ease and convenience, the funeral home is your best option. They will have rental caskets available, and there may even be options to choose from. It’s possible to rent from a third-party business, but please note, you will be responsible for making sure the funeral home has access to it before the funeral.

What is the average cost of a rental casket?

It all depends on your area and the funeral home. To get a sense of costs, request a General Price List (GPL) from reputable funeral homes in your area. The GPL should list the cost of a rental casket and what that fee includes. Remember, you will pay for the removable insert/alternative container in addition to the rental casket.

White rose on closed wooden casket

Can I use a rental casket if I choose burial instead of cremation?

While rental caskets are most commonly used for funeral services before cremation, they can be used when burial is chosen. For example, you might want a ceremonial casket for the viewing, but then bury the deceased person in a much simpler casket. Speak with a funeral director about your options. Then, weigh the pros and cons of whether renting a casket is best for your needs.

What’s next?

To learn more about rental caskets or the full service options available with cremation, contact a funeral home you trust.

Also, if you’d like more information what a General Price List is and what your rights are as a consumer, check out Know Your Rights: The FTC Funeral Rule. With this information, you can confidently interact with the funeral home and get your questions answered!

Black urn sitting on side table with flower vase nearby

What Should I Know When Considering Cremation?

By Cremation, Explore Options No Comments

When considering final disposition, you have two main choices: burial or cremation. But what should you know when considering cremation? With this quick overview, you can get your questions answered and identify the options that most appeal to you.

Dark colored urn surrounded by a ring of red roses with mourners in the background

 What is Cremation?

Cremation is a form of “final disposition,” which simply refers to your preferences regarding what happens to the body after death. At present, people often choose between full-body burial or cremation, though there are other options (click here to learn more).

The cremation process exposes the body to extreme heat and flame, resulting in the reduction of the body to bone fragments. The fragments are then ground down into what is commonly referred to as “ashes.”

Afterward, the cremated remains, which usually weigh somewhere between 3-7 pounds, are placed in a chosen urn or temporary container and returned to the family. From there, families have many options for memorialization, including scattering, urn burial, and placement in a columbarium.

Columbarium wall covered in flowers

Is Cremation Really Eco-Friendly?

Although cremation does reduce land use as compared to burial, the practice is not considered green by either the National Funeral Directors Association or the Green Burial Council. Flame-based cremation releases pollutants into the air, including mercury, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxide. Additionally, flame-based cremation also requires a significant amount of fuel, which results in carbon monoxide emissions every year.

On the other hand, water-based cremation (alkaline hydrolysis) is thought to be more environmentally friendly. Instead of using fire, this form of cremation uses water, agitation, and either potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide to reduce the body to bone fragments. Water-based cremation has a smaller carbon footprint, uses less fuel, and doesn’t release emissions from the body. However, water cremation is not widely accessible yet, so it may not be available in your area.

Urn sitting on memorial table surrounded by yellow and light purple flowers

Can I Have a Service with Cremation?

Absolutely! In fact, there are quite a few service options available when you select cremation. The final disposition you choose does not dictate whether or not your family has the opportunity to celebrate your loved one’s life and say goodbye in a meaningful way.

To learn more about your service options, go to “Cremation and the Importance of Ceremony,” where you will find a breakdown of your cremation service options. And if you’d like to do something entirely different, simply speak with your trusted funeral professional. Most funeral homes are willing to work with you to create the type of service your family wants.

Blue metallic urn surrounded by yellow flowers

What are My Permanent Placement Options with Cremation?

After cremation takes place, you will need to decide what to do with the ashes of a loved one. Again, you have quite a few options when you select cremation.

Burial/Inurnment of the Cremated Body

First, you can choose to place a loved one’s cremated remains in a cemetery. You could place the urn in:

  • A columbarium niche
  • An existing adult burial space (next to a spouse)
  • A smaller plot designed for cremated remains
  • An urn garden
  • A mausoleum

Some families also choose to place a small portion of the cremated remains in cremation jewelry or other memorial items, such as cremation glass, cremation benches, or memorial rocks.

White urn with orange stripe, sitting on nightstand at home

Retain the Urn at Home

Second, you could choose to place the ashes in a decorative urn and keep them in your home. Some families choose to split the cremated remains into portions that can be divided among family members and multiple keepsake urns, while others choose to contain the remains in one ceremonial urn.

One word of caution: Make sure that you indicate in your will what should be done with the cremated body when you die. After your own death, whoever handles your estate may not know about your loved one’s urn and may dispose of it unknowingly. So, if you do keep a loved one’s cremated body in your home, make sure that you communicate a plan for their care after you are gone.

Family on boat setting our memorial flowers and scattering a loved one's ashes


Third, you could choose scattering. Most often, ashes are scattered on private property, on public lands (like national parks), in a cemetery, or at sea. Make sure you check all laws and ordinances before you scatter. For example, many national parks require a permit, and scattering at sea must take place at least three nautical miles away from land. Your funeral director can help you figure out what laws are in place and help you apply for any necessary permits and registrations.

A Quick Note on Scattering

Scattering all the physical remains of a loved one in one unmarked location can be difficult. For some family members, it’s important to have a place to go to feel close to a loved one. Before scattering, talk to your loved ones and see if it would be healing and appropriate to also create a permanent memorial.

You could set a plaque at the scattering site, place a memorial bench in a special location, or even reserve a portion of your loved one’s ashes in a columbarium while you scatter the rest. There are a lot of options, so speak with your family to get their thoughts.

Two men exchanging cardboard boxes

Can You Ship Cremated Remains?

Yes, you can mail cremated remains via the USPS, but there are certain regulations in place. Check out “5 Tips When Shipping Cremated Remains” to get an inside look at best practices when shipping a loved one’s ashes.

Additionally, you can fly with cremated remains (domestically and internationally), but there are a few extra hoops to jump through. Make sure you speak with your specific airline about their requirements, but also give “What You Need to Know About Flying with Cremated Remains” a quick read. It will give you an understanding of how the process works.

Attentive funeral director sitting on couch as he listens to older couple talk

With Cremation, Do I Receive the Same Support Services from Funeral Directors?

Yes, you certainly do. Funeral directors perform the same professional functions with cremation as with burial. They will help you create a personalized final tribute, coordinate all the behind-the-scenes details, communicate with the cemetery (if necessary), assist with legal documentation, and provide grief resources.

No matter what final disposition you choose, the funeral home staff will give you their best efforts and provide service that meets your needs. To learn more about how funeral directors can assist your family, take a moment to read “What Do Funeral Directors Do?

Woman using a calculator to calculate the cost

What Does Cremation Cost?

Cremation does tend to cost less than burial, but the cost of either is ultimately in your hands. You can choose the services and merchandise you want and ensure that the total cost stays within your budget. If you prefer burial but feel like cremation better fits your budget, speak with the funeral director. They can review the options and discuss whether there might be a burial option that could work for your family.

For more detailed information about the cost of a funeral, including statistics from the National Funeral Directors Association, go to “What is the Average Cost of a Funeral?

Black urn sitting on side table with flower vase nearby

One Final Note

As you consider your options, keep the emotional needs of your family in mind. Choosing between burial and cremation isn’t the only decision before you. If you are tempted to forego a funeral service to save money, first make sure that’s what your family wants. It may seem like a fuss to put together a service. But more than likely, the family needs time to honor life, share memories, and remember the person who has died. Only when we face the pain of loss can we begin to heal from it, and the funeral service is the start of the journey.

If you’ve decided you prefer burial or would just like to understand all your options, check out “Burial FAQs: What Are Your Burial Options?

Zion National Park, Utah

Your Guide to Scattering Ashes at U.S. National Parks

By Cremation, Educational, Explore Options

There are countless ways to honor a loved one’s life and memory. It’s just a matter of finding the options that are 1) meaningful to the family and 2) beautifully reflect the deceased’s life and interests. For outdoor enthusiasts, honoring a loved one’s life at a U.S. National Park may be just the right decision. But can you scatter ashes at National Parks? You can! But there are certain rules and regulations to follow. Let’s review some key information you will need as you plan a scattering ceremony at a National Park!

Joshua Tree National Park, California(Photo: Joshua Tree National Park, California)

How Many U.S. National Parks are There?

At present, there are 63 sites that are commonly referred to as “National Parks.” They include places like Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and so on. These are types of parks we will focus on today.

However, the National Park System encompasses more than 425 sites, spanning over 84 million acres. In addition to the 63 National Parks, they also manage national battlefields, national military parks, national historic sites, national monuments, national forests, and national reserves, to name a few.

Can I Scatter Ashes at Any U.S. National Park?

In most cases, yes, you can! There are no federal laws that govern burial and cremation – it’s left up to the individual states. That means that there are no “set” rules for scattering ashes at National Parks. Instead, each park has their own policy, based on the laws of their state.

Zion National Park, Utah(Photo: Zion National Park, Utah)

However, there are some general guidelines to be aware of:

A special permit is often required

Many National Parks require that you state your intentions to scatter cremated remains. You do this by submitting an application for a “special use” permit. This permit gives you permission to scatter a loved one’s remains at the park.

Each park will have their own paperwork to complete, so you must visit the website of your preferred park and fill out their permit request form. Allow at least 30 days for processing. You will receive the authorization permit in the mail once it has been approved.

Note: A few parks do not require a permit to scatter ashes. It will be clearly outlined on the park’s website, if they do require a permit.

Keep the group small

Some National Parks put a limit on the number of people allowed to participate in the scattering ceremony. Make sure you’ve checked into the regulations for your preferred park. However, if you would like to have a larger gathering, some parks require an additional permit granting permission. Again, the park’s website will outline all the requirements.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia(Photo: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia)

Stay away from public use areas

When you choose the location for the scattering ceremony, most National Parks prefer that you find a quiet, secluded space to do so. This way, you have more privacy, but also, your gathering doesn’t disrupt the natural flow of the park. Avoiding public use areas means that you should stay away from roads, walkways, trails, buildings, and parking areas.

Also, don’t scatter in just one spot; spread the scattering out over a larger area. And stay at least 100 yards away from any waterways or creeks. Additionally, some parks will have extra requirements regarding the location. For example, Yellowstone does not allow scattering near thermal areas.

Leave no trace

As any avid outdoorsperson knows, it’s important to the natural habitat that you “leave no trace” of your presence. The same holds true at National Parks. What does this mean for scattering? You cannot leave a marker of any kind to commemorate the event. However, you can pin the location on your phone using GPS, so that you always know your loved one’s final resting place. Also, many National Parks keep a “Book of Memories,” where you can record your loved one’s name as an act of memorialization.

Do not bury ashes

Burial is not allowed at National Parks, so do not bury the cremated remains of a loved one.

Yosemite National Park, California(Photo: Yosemite National Park, California)

Consider the weather conditions

Before settling on a date for a scattering ceremony, take weather conditions into account. Some parks may be closed for snow, flood, or other seasonal climate changes. If you need to make changes to your dates, contact the park directly.

What Type of Information Do They Request on the Permit Authorization Form?

Every park has their own application form, so the questions may vary from park to park. However, they will generally ask for:

  • Mailing address
  • Name of person whose ashes will be scattered
  • Preferred date, location, time
  • Number of participants

Also, some National Parks may require an application fee. If they do, it will be clearly outlined on their website. If you wish to do anything other than scatter ashes, you may need to apply for additional permits. For example, if you want to camp off the beaten path, you may need a wilderness camping permit. If you have larger plans than a scattering ceremony, you may need an additional permit. A park ranger can help you iron out the details.

Redwood National Park, California(Photo: Redwood National Park, California)

Do I Need to Carry the Permit with Me?

Yes, make sure you keep your permit with you. If a park ranger happens by and sees your scattering ceremony taking place, they may ask to see your permit. If you don’t have it with you, you may have to pay a fine.

Can I Include a Service When I Scatter the Ashes?

Absolutely, you can put together a short ceremony in honor of your loved one. While you cannot set up a large-scale event, you can invite each person to say a few words. Or you can sing songs, pray, drink a special beverage, and so on. Just keep in mind that it should be simple, intimate, and leave no trace when the ceremony is complete.

(Photo: Badlands National Park, South Dakota)

Where Can I Find Information About a Specific National Park?

To make planning a little easier for you, here’s a list of all National Parks that allow scattering.

From A to Z:

Haleakala National Park, Hawaii(Photo: Haleakala National Park, Hawaii)

Today, there are so many ways to honor a loved one’s life in a meaningful and unique way. And a scattering ceremony at a U.S. National Park may feel like just the right thing to do. Hopefully, this complete guide gives you all the information you need to get started. However, if you have additional questions, you can either reach out to the park directly or speak to a trusted funeral professional. They can help you get all the answers you need!

Shows a memorial service with urn

What’s the Difference Between a Funeral and Memorial Service?

By Cremation, Explore Options, Planning Tools

Have you ever planned a funeral or memorial service? If you haven’t, then you’re in good company. Most people haven’t. That’s why it’s not surprising that you may not know the difference between funeral and memorial services. But today, we’re going to break things down, and hopefully, clear things up.

“Funeral” as a General Term

First, let’s talk about the word “funeral.” Often, it’s used in two different ways.

The word “funeral” can be used in a general sense to refer to the entire process of taking care of the body after death including all associated services. So, “Our family is planning the funeral” could mean either a traditional service or a memorial service, burial or cremation, simple or elaborate. As a culture, we’ve used the word “funeral” for so long that no matter what kind of service it may be, we still use “funeral” in a general sense in our conversations.

However, there is a second meaning to the word that more directly applies to our topic today.

Shows a family of four with flowers honoring a loved one

What’s the Difference Between a Funeral and Memorial Service?

At the risk of sounding anticlimactic, the difference between the two is quite simple: is the body present or not?

Funeral Service

At a funeral service, the body is present, often in a casket in a place of honor. Considered the traditional way of putting a loved one to rest in our culture, the funeral service often features common elements, such as the presence of a casket, religious rituals (if applicable), and  post-funeral burial. They also tend to take place in certain traditional locations.

Memorial Service

At a memorial service, the body is not present, though there may be an urn or a portrait in a place of honor. The specific nature of a memorial service can vary on a case-by-case basis depending on the choices you make. In general, though, a memorial service is a ceremony that memorializes and honors the deceased without the body present (regardless of whether burial or cremation is chosen).

And that’s the main difference between the two. However, let’s go a little deeper.

What are My Service Options?

Most of the time, we associate a memorial service with cremation. However, did you know you can have a viewing, visitation, and traditional service with cremation? Funerals (general use, here) are becoming more and more customizable, so there are lots of options available.

Shows a young woman standing next to a casket with white lilies

Here are 3 basic types of services:

Traditional Service with Burial

Traditional burial may be what comes to mind when you first think “funeral.” A long-time practice, traditional burial typically includes a viewing or visitation, a funeral service (with body present), a graveside committal, and often, some sort of informal gathering following the conclusion of services. After services are concluded, the body is taken to a cemetery and buried according to the family’s wishes.

Traditional Service Before Cremation

Believe it or not, you can have a traditional ceremony, viewing, and/or visitation even if you select cremation. You can choose a private family viewing or a public visitation. You could even hold a full funeral with the body present using a rented ceremonial casket. After the services are concluded, the body will be taken to the crematory so that cremation can take place.   

Shows a memorial service with urn

Memorial Service After Cremation

On the other hand, you can plan a memorial service where cremation takes place before the service. Most often, the family will place the urn or a portrait in a place of honor. If the family has elected to bury the urn, then there may be a committal service, but otherwise, it’s common to invite guests to an informal gathering (like a meal or reception) where they can share stories and memories.

No matter what type of service you select – funeral or memorial – the most important thing you can do is create a meaningful and healing event. With a personalized ceremony, you can give grieving loved ones a solid foundation by creating a special moment in time that can bring comfort and peace, allow everyone to say goodbye, and encourage each person to start the grief journey on the right foot.  

Shows a woman placing flowers on a grave as a remembrance

After all, the funeral or memorial isn’t for the dead; it’s for the living. It’s a chance to share stories, to reminisce about the sweet memories, to cry, to give and receive support, and most of all, to express what’s deep in our hearts as we say goodbye.  

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of the differences between funeral and memorial services as well as a general idea of the types of services that are available to you. There are other options – like natural burial or burial at sea or scattering – so make sure to talk with a reputable funeral home in your area. They can discuss all the options with you so that you can make decisions that balance your own personal wishes with the emotional needs of your family.

Shows person following directions to pack box correctly

5 Tips When Shipping Cremated Remains

By Cremation, Explore Options

It’s impossible to know what circumstances you’re going to face after a loved one’s death. In some cases, it may become necessary to transport a loved one’s remains across a large distance. If this is the case, you have three transportation choices: personal vehicle (car or boat), commercial airline, or postal service.

If shipping a loved one’s (or a pet’s) remains is the most logical choice for your individual situation, then the United States Postal Service (USPS) can help you. As the only legal method of shipping cremated remains (both human and animal) within the United States, USPS can ship domestically through Priority Mail Express and internationally through Priority Mail Express International (if the receiving country accepts cremated remains via the postal service). No other service options are available (for example, you can’t ship cremated remains First-Class or Ground).

To make this process as smooth as possible, let’s review 5 key tips for shipping cremated remains.

Shows on person receiving a box

1. Consider Using the Cremated Remains Kit

You will, of course, need a box to ship the cremated remains in. The USPS actually provides a “Cremated Remains Kit” that gives you all of the materials you need to ship cremated remains through the postal service. You can order either Cremated Remains Kit 1 or Cremated Remains Kit 2 at (kits only available online).

The main difference between the two kits is that Cremated Remains Kit 2 includes instructions, bubble wrap, and a self-sealing plastic bag in addition to the box and Priority Mail Express tape. The biggest benefit to using the Cremated Remains Kit is that the kit is free, it is easily recognizable by USPS employees, and is sturdy enough to ensure the safety and security of your package.

However, if you’d prefer, you can use whatever box you want. It’s not required to use the Cremated Remains Kit.

2. Affix Label 139 to the Outside of the Box

If you choose to use your own box, you must affix Label 139 to all sides (including the top and bottom) of the box. This label says “Cremated Remains” in large letters and is brightly colored to draw attention. The Cremated Remains Kit already has this label printed on it so you won’t need to affix additional labels.

The intention behind the label is to ensure that your package is treated with the proper respect and more likely to be delivered in a timely manner. You must affix the label for both human and animal cremated remains.

Shows person following directions to pack box correctly

3. Pack Your Box Carefully

Whether you use the Cremated Remains Kit or your own box, it’s important to ensure that the urn/container is securely closed and packaged. It’s always a good idea to ship the urn/container in a sealed plastic bag.

With both a securely closed urn/container and a sealed plastic bag, you can ensure that the cremated remains are contained at all times and won’t sift or leak out of the box during transit.

You should definitely add plenty of padding to cushion the urn/container. Also, it’s good practice to include your name, address, and other contact information on a sheet of paper inside the shipping box.

The USPS has given detailed instructions on the best way to package cremated remains (whether human or animal). You can find a PDF version here or a video explanation here.

4. When Mailing Internationally, Check the Policies of the Receiving Country

Just because the United States allows the shipping of cremated remains doesn’t mean that other countries do. When shipping cremated remains (human or animal), contact the receiving country’s embassy or consulate. They can tell if it’s legal to send and receive cremated remains within that country.

In some cases, it’s not legal. In other cases, there may be additional forms to complete or regulations to follow. You can always check out the International Mail Manual (IMM) provided by USPS, and if the regulations aren’t clear, contact the embassy/consulate directly.

Do NOT mail cremated remains internationally until you’ve determined whether or not they can be successfully received by the recipient. Also, don’t forget to complete a customs declaration form.

Shows man and woman packing boxes carefully

5. Decide Whether Extra Services Will Provide Peace of Mind

If it will give you more peace of mind, you can sign up for extra service options when shipping cremated remains. You can request Return Receipt, Insurance, Signature Required, or Signature Waived. If you’d prefer not to pay or request these extra services, they aren’t required.

Consider the Risks

It would be remiss not to mention that there are risks to shipping cremated remains (human or animal). You run the risk of the box getting lost or taking an inordinate amount of time to reach its destination. Review all your options, and if shipping is the best option, then do it.

Also, don’t hesitate to contact the funeral home in charge of your loved one’s cremation. They may have helpful tips or might even be able to handle the shipment for you.

If shipping a loved one’s (or a pet’s) remains isn’t right for you, you can always make the drive by car or fly commercially. To learn more about flying with cremated remains, check out What You Need to Know About Flying with Cremated Remains.

No matter what you decide, may you find peace and healing in the days to come as you mourn the loss of someone dearly loved.

Shows people boarding a plane with sunlight on their hair

What You Need to Know About Flying with Cremated Remains

By Cremation, Explore Options

Did you know that it’s possible to fly – both domestically and internationally – with cremated remains? While flying with cremated remains may not be something you’ve ever thought about before, there are many reasons why someone might consider flying with a loved one’s cremated body. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Your seatmate is taking the cremated remains to a specific place for scattering or burial.
  • The surviving family is hosting a memorial service across the country to allow distant family members to say goodbye, and they want the cremated remains present.
  • The person died away from home – either in country or abroad – and your seatmate is flying them home.

No matter the reason, sometimes flying with the cremated remains of a loved one is necessary. But before getting on a plane with cremated remains, there are a few things you need to know to make the process smoother.

Shows a woman holding an urn clos

Use your Carry-on Instead of a Checked Bag

While many airlines allow travelers to transport cremated remains in a checked bag, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) doesn’t necessarily recommend it. If you’ve flown before, you’ve probably looked out the airplane window and seen airport employees tossing checked bags around rather quickly and roughly. They have no idea what’s in your bag. To them, the most important thing is to get all the right bags to the right places as quickly as possible.

That said, by transporting a loved one’s cremated remains in your carry-on, you ensure that they are handled with care every step of the journey. All you have to do is use an x-rayable container that fits into your carry-on suitcase.

One more quick note: Please, even though you have the urn with you, don’t open the container while on the flight or in the airport. Turbulence and bumping into bustling human beings happens, but if the urn is tightly closed, your loved one will remain secure.

Choose an X-rayable Urn or Temporary Container

Just like the rest of your carry-on items, the urn must make it through the x-ray machine at the security checkpoint. To make it through security, TSA recommends that you choose an urn or temporary container made of wood, plastic, biodegradable paper, or even fabric. Avoid metal or lead-lined urns, which will register as opaque on the x-ray.

If your container registers as opaque, TSA may try a few other options, but they will NOT open the urn (even if you say it’s okay). In part, they will not open the urn out of respect for the person who has died, but additionally, it is illegal for airport personnel to open any container that holds cremated remains.

Shows x-ray machine at airport security

If TSA is unable to clearly determine what’s inside the container, you won’t be allowed to take it on the plane. In order to avoid this complication, select an urn or temporary container that will easily make it through security.

If you have a decorative urn, you can always transport it in your checked bag (packed very carefully). Once you reach your destination, you can place the cremated remains back into the decorative urn.

If you’d like more guidance about temporary urns or containers, feel free to call your local funeral home. They can give you options and suggestions for traveling with ease.

Give Yourself Extra Time to Get Through Security

While TSA has a streamlined process for screening cremated remains, it’s always good to allow a little extra time. With an appropriate urn, the process should be smooth and quick. However, if there’s a problem, you’re going to want time to figure out your next steps. The airport is already a somewhat stressful place. The last thing you need when transporting a loved one’s remains is to run around last-minute trying to figure out what to do. Leave a little earlier and give yourself extra time.

If you have any questions about TSA’s policies, you can contact them directly through Customer Service.

Shows man going through airport security with carry on bag

Have the Appropriate Documents Readily Available

When flying, it’s important to have the necessary documentation on hand. The most commonly required documents are:

Certificate of Cremation (also called Disposition Permit or Cremation Permit)

This legal document certifies that a cremation has taken place and identifies the person cremated. Additionally, it includes identification information for the crematorium and the qualified staff member who oversaw the cremation itself. The funeral home or crematorium should give you this document when you receive your loved one’s cremated remains.

Death Certificate

The death certificate is used for many purposes, including updating accounts, switching beneficiaries, and receiving life insurance funds after the death of a loved one. It’s good practice to bring a certified copy with you when flying, just in case it’s asked for. You can obtain copies (usually for a small fee) through your local Registrar or Vital Records Office.

However – each airline makes their own regulations regarding the transportation of human remains. Contact your specific airline to find out what documentation is required. To be extra safe, you might also bring something that shows proof of relationship. You could use a birth certificate, marriage license, or a copy of the obituary.

Talk to Your Airline About Specific Guidelines

It cannot be stressed enough that you need to contact your airline about their specific regulations. For instance, some airlines do not allow cremated remains in checked bag at all or may require more documentation. By contacting the airline, you decrease the likelihood of issues at the airport.

Also, if you’d prefer not to take the cremated remains on a plane at all, you can ship them through the USPS. You can learn more about this option by reading 5 Tips When Shipping Cremated Remains.

Shows airport terminal with airplane outside window

A Few Extras for International Travel

All of the tips we’ve already discussed apply to flying internationally as well. However, there are a few extra things to consider. Let’s go over them.

  • Check with the embassy/consulate of your destination country
  • Be prepared for extra documentation

Every country has their own regulations when accepting cremated remains within their borders.

Because of that, if you are taking cremated remains outside the United States, you should contact the appropriate embassy or consulate before you travel to determine what that country requires. Some countries may require special forms or additional authorizations, so give yourself at least two weeks to get everything completed.

If you are entering the United States with cremated remains, you will go through U.S. Customs, which has its own policies. In general, if the remains have already been cremated, you should be fine, and a death certificate won’t be required.

If you have additional questions about international travel, contact your local funeral home for assistance.

Shows people boarding a plane with sunlight on their hair

Be Prepared for an Emotional Journey

As you get ready to travel, take a little time to prepare yourself emotionally. If your grief is fresh, this may be an emotional journey, and that’s to be expected. Give yourself grace. Grief is the natural result of love. When we love deeply, we open ourselves up to the grief that comes when the person we love dies.

It will take time and intentionality to come to grips with everything you think and feel, but it’s okay to give yourself permission to grieve. Use this journey to reflect on your loved one’s life and remember just how much they mean to you.

What You Need to Know About Pet Burial and Cremation

By Cremation, Pets

When a pet dies, we often feel a deep sense of loss. But no matter how we feel, we must also deal with the logistics of ensuring that our pet finds a final resting place. For most families, that will mean either burial or cremation. Let’s review both options so you can select which works best for your family.

Pet Burial

First, let’s review burial. This option has been around for a long time, and for many families, it’s the best option for keeping things simple and cost effective.

1. Home Burial

If a family has the available land, they may choose to bury a pet at home. By doing this, your pet will remain close to you, and you can even add a grave marker or have a burial ceremony. If your family chooses this option, there are a few things to consider.

  • Is it legal? Check your local laws to ensure that pet burial on personal property is allowed.
  • How deep should you dig? Four feet is usually sufficient to keep predators away.
  • Do you have a large pet? For large animals, digging a grave can be difficult so you may need a back hoe or help from friends or family.
  • What should you bury them in? Make sure that anything non-biodegradable is removed (like plastic) and consider placing your pet in a wooden or cardboard casket or box.
  • Have you chosen a good place for burial? Make sure that you know what’s below the ground where you plan to dig a grave, ensuring that you aren’t going to disturb buried lines or your neighbor’s water supply.
  • What if your pet dies in the winter? If you live in a place where snow blankets the ground in winter, making it difficult to bury a pet, have a chat with your veterinarian. Often, the vet’s office is willing to preserve the pet until spring arrives.

2. Pet Cemetery Burial

Another burial option is to talk with a funeral home that offers pet services or a pet burial services company to request burial in a pet cemetery. With this option, you don’t have to worry about potential legal issues, and if you move away, your pet’s grave will always be in a place you can visit, if you choose.

Typically, you can choose whether you’d like private burial or communal burial. Private burial is often more expensive, but it comes with the ability to add a memorial marker and gives you a specific place to visit, if that’s important to you. Communal burial means that your pet will not have an individual marker and may be buried with other pets. However, the cemetery may offer a memory wall where you can add a memorial for your pet.

Pet Cremation

Cremation is a second option to consider when deciding how best to care for a pet’s body after death. As with burial, you have a few choices, though cremation entails a few extra decisions. Let’s review your cremation options.

1. Private/Individual Cremation

The most important thing to consider when looking at pet cremation is whether or not you want memorial items. For instance, do you want to have an urn at home with your pet’s ashes? Do you want cremation jewelry or to have a memorial box? Would you prefer to keep your pet’s ashes close to you? If you do, then private/individual cremation is best for you. While this type of cremation is more expensive, it gives you greater flexibility on what you’d like to do with your pet’s ashes.

2. Mass/Communal Cremation

If you know that you don’t want memorial items and you also don’t want to bury your pet, then mass/communal cremation might be the best option for you. Because your pet will be cremated with other pets, this option is typically less expensive (often based on the weight of your pet), but it also means you won’t receive any ashes back.

With both of these options, speak to a funeral home that offers pet services, a veterinary clinic, or a pet burial services company to determine the current rates and full range of services available for each type of cremation.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve chosen which type of final disposition is right for your pet, you can decide what to do next. Do you need to purchase an urn or memorial item? Should you select a spot in the backyard for home burial? Do you need to choose a grave marker or headstone?

Another thing to consider is whether you want to have some kind of burial or memorial service. This practice is often quite helpful for children. If you opt for home burial, you can allow your child(ren) to choose the burial spot, encourage them to decorate the area with flowers, and maybe say a few words. With both home burial and private burial, you can work together as a family to choose a meaningful grave marker. These actions may help your child grieve and find closure following a pet’s death.

With cremation, you will need to decide what you’d like to do with the ashes. You can place them in an urn or memorial box, where your child could see it daily. Alternatively, you could scatter the ashes at a favorite park or outdoor area. Saying goodbye is always hard, so deciding what’s best for all members of your family is important and necessary.

For some additional ideas on memorial options for pets, feel free to read 7 Pet Memorial Options and 10 Family-Focused Pet Remembrance Ideas.

What You Need to Know About Burial at Sea

By Cremation, Explore Options, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

After a loss, we feel both a deep sense of loss and an innate desire to honor the memory of the person we love. We want to remember them for who they were. Recall the times when they spoke truth to us, comforted us, or simply made us laugh. This desire to honor and remember our loved ones is why it’s important to personalize a funeral – so that there is a unique and special tribute for the one you love.

One unique way to honor a loved one is through burial at sea. While burial at sea is not as common as burial or scattering on land, it is still an option worth considering, especially if your loved one had a special connection to the sea.

What You Need to Know About Burial at Sea

Burial at sea has a long history and is one of the oldest types of funeral ceremony. Throughout history, we see it used by the Greeks, Egyptians, and the navies of various nations.

Today, there are two ways to request burial at sea: through the U.S. Navy or through a civilian charter company. Each one has its own regulations, though both will provide your family with the date, time, and longitude/latitude of your loved one’s committal.

Naval Military Vessel

With the Navy, the committal ceremony is performed while the ship is deployed. This means that the family cannot attend, though the commanding officer will send a letter to the family sharing the exact date, time, and location where the committal ceremony took place in addition to any photos that may have been taken.

Only eligible veterans and their dependents can request burial at sea with the Navy. Following the death, your trusted funeral professional contacts the Navy and Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs Office on your behalf and begins the coordination and transportation process.

You will need several documents to request naval burial at sea:

  • Photocopy of the death certificate
  • Burial transit permit or cremation certificate
  • Copy of the veteran’s DD214, discharge certificate, or retirement order
  • Completed “Burial at Sea Request Form”

As with shore burial, veterans will receive the proper military honors, including the playing of Taps and the closing of colors. An American flag will fly at half-mast during the committal ceremony. If the family provides the flag, it will be returned; if not, the Navy will provide one.

Civilian Vessel

For those who are not veterans, you can charter a vessel through a burial at sea provider. By going through an official provider, you ensure that the vessel is Coast Guard inspected for comfort and safety and that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations are followed. Additionally, you can select a vessel intimate enough to accommodate only close family, or if you wish, you can charter a larger vessel to allow additional family and friends to take part in the committal service.

The EPA states that the vessel must journey to a distance of at least 3 nautical miles and to a depth of 100 fathoms (600+ feet) before any kind of burial can take place. Additional state laws may apply. Also, any materials placed in the water must readily decompose, so plastics and metals are not allowed. To learn more about the EPA’s guidelines, click here.

If you wish to bury a full body at sea, a licensed funeral director must be present to oversee the care and custody of the body until final interment. If possible, ask that preparation of the body be done with non-toxic chemicals. Any casket or burial cloth must be biodegradable.

The most common form of burial at sea is scattering of the cremated body. For this, you do not need a funeral director present. The family can facilitate a private service onboard, followed by scattering the ashes and placing wreaths or flowers in the water.

Whether you choose full-body burial at sea or scattering, the charter company will provide a certificate marking the exact coordinates of your loved one’s final resting place.

Helpful Hints for Civilian Vessels

  • Dress casually with a wind breaker and non-slip shoes.
  • Bring a camera, sunscreen, sunglasses, and other desired personal possessions.
  • Report any known or potentially unknown medical conditions to the captain before disembarking; this includes pregnancy, back or neck pain, or susceptibility to sea sickness.
  • If you are susceptible to seasickness, it’s for the good of all that you remain on shore. Many charter companies will provide binoculars for viewing and will call your cell phone when the committal ceremony begins. If you choose not to remain on shore, consider using motion sickness aids.

Planning Ahead for Burial at Sea

If you or a loved one are interested in burial at sea, it’s best to make your wishes known now. You can do this either by communicating your wishes to your family or by sitting down with a knowledgeable funeral professional who can walk you through the process of preplanning the funeral. The more information you provide, the easier the funeral planning process will be on your loved ones. Also, because burial at sea is a specialized service, it’s best to prepare everyone ahead of time to ensure that all the details are taken care of according to your wishes.

Permanent Placement Options for Cremated Remains

By Cemeteries, Cremation, Explore Options, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools, Precare

These days, it’s not uncommon for the family to keep the cremated remains of a loved in an urn at home. While keeping a loved one nearby can be helpful during the grief process, it’s important to have a permanent plan for your loved one. It’s unrealistic to expect family members to continue to amass a larger and larger number of urns through the years, so in order to ensure that your loved one is cared for after you’re gone, it’s best to put together a permanent plan.

You have many options for permanent placement of cremated remains. And you don’t have to make up your mind at the time of loss. You can keep your loved one close for a few years, and then visit the idea of where you want to inter them as a final resting place.

Reviewing the Options

Urn Burial

The first option is burial. Some cemeteries have landscaped urn gardens while others offer burial plots similar to those used for traditional burial. If you choose a burial plot, the cremated bodies of multiple people can be buried together. As with traditional burial, urn burial requires an outer burial container.

Another form of urn burial is green burial. The main difference from traditional burial is that the urn must be biodegradable, and the cemetery must be specifically set aside for green burials. The number of green cemeteries in the United States is limited, so you may need to travel a distance to lay your loved one to rest. One thing to remember: an outer burial container is not needed for green burial.


An above-ground structure, the columbarium is filled with niches (wall spaces) where urns are placed and interred. Each niche typically includes a memorial plaque that acts as a grave marker, listing the name, dates of life, and an epitaph (if the family wishes). All columbaria are communal, though a family can purchase a family-size niche to allow multiple urns to be placed together.


Scattering is the act of taking a loved one’s cremated remains to a special place (or places) and scattering them. The possible locations for scattering are numerous. You could elect to go to a scattering garden, which is a designated, beautiful space attached to a cemetery that is simple and environmentally friendly. With a scattering garden, the cemetery often provides a means of adding a permanent physical memorial like a plaque or grave marker.

Alternatively, you can go to the ocean, the mountains, or some other place that is special to you and your loved one. If you do decide to scatter your loved one somewhere other than a cemetery, make sure that you check the laws and regulations for that place.

Should you decide to scatter all of a loved one’s ashes, take time to prepare yourself emotionally. For some, it is an emotional shock to realize that everything remaining of a loved one is gone.

Planting a Memorial Tree

It is now possible to plant a loved one’s ashes so that a memorial tree will grow. The cremated remains don’t actually cause the tree to grow. Instead, you will place a special, biodegradable urn in the ground. In the top section, seeds and soil mix together. There is a separate section underneath for the cremated remains. First, the seeds grow in the soil, and once they reach a certain level of growth, the roots spread down to the cremated remains, and everything mingles together. This option is inexpensive, and afterward, you can visit the memorial tree anytime you wish.

Options at Sea

Underwater Mausoleum

Off the coast of Florida, you can have a special urn placed in an underwater mausoleum (similar to a columbarium). With different options available for memorialization, it’s an option for those who love the ocean.

Barrier Reef

Another option is to mix the cremated body with concrete to create an artificial coral reef. These artificial coral reefs assist in the repair and conservation of natural coral reefs by positively impacting the ocean’s habitat. As a memorial to your loved one, consider affixing a plaque to the artificial reef.

Burial at Sea

When we think of burial/scattering at sea, we often think of military personnel. However, scattering at sea is an option for civilians as well. While the Navy will work with a veteran’s family to arrange an official scattering at sea, services are available to civilians for an eco-friendly sea burial per US Coast Guard guidelines.

Launched into Space

It is now possible to send a person’s ashes into space. If your loved one adored space and all its mysteries or was always looking for the next big adventure, you might consider this option. Of course, there will be regulations and stipulations to follow, but this option is surprisingly affordable.

No matter which option is most appropriate, make a decision on providing a permanent home for cremated remains. Keeping the urn at home may be just what you need in the beginning. But, in three, five, or even ten years, consider the benefits of setting up something permanent. A permanent home will ensure that your loved one is cared for long after you are gone.

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