FuneralsUrnsHow to Choose an Urn

December 27, 2019Obitia

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In the last few years, cremation has overtaken traditional burial as the most common type of disposition for a funeral. This means that for many families, the choice of an urn is an important part of their funeral arrangements. Urns, like caskets, come in many options and there are several considerations to take into account before making a decision. We hope the following information will help you in this important decision.


How will the urn be used?

Will you be scattering the ashes somewhere? If you are planning on scattering the ashes, it is best to choose a scattering urn which will be easy to travel with (Read about traveling with cremated remains: “Can I Transport Cremated Remains Myself?”). If you are planning on having the remains scattered into the ocean or another body of water, you may want to consider a biodegradable urn made of paper mache or another eco-friendly material.

Will the urn be kept in a home or interred (placed either in the ground or a columbarium niche)? A wooden urn or keepsake urn will be appropriate for keeping in a home. If it will be kept in a columbarium niche (porticos with shelving found in a cemetery), then you will want to consider a brass urn or some other material that will survive the elements, especially if in a very warm or cold climate. Whether the urn will be buried is up to the individual’s wishes, or if they weren’t expressed in the funeral planning documents the family members may decide.

If you are going to bury the cremated remains, then you may want to consider an urn vault, which acts in a similar manner to a burial vault for a casket. These stone, polymer, or cement containers are used to keep the ground from collapsing around the urn due to the effects of time.

While alternative burial options are not strictly urns, they are a way of honoring a loved one’s wishes with their ashes. Two of the most exciting options are launching a loved one’s ashes into space or using them as part of the building material for constructing artificial coral reefs around the world.


Which material should the urn be made of?

There are many materials that urns can be made out of, but the most important thing to remember is how it will be used and where will it rest the majority of the time? We have also given some examples available online below to give you an idea of pricing for each material type.

Brass Urns

Brass is metal is a very common type of material for urns and is both pleasing visually and can stand up to harsh environments if kept outside. Many brass urns are coated in another material, such as ceramic or nickel. While brass core urns are by far the most common, you may see aluminum urns as another option. Aluminum urns are also very sturdy but tend to be cheaper due to aluminum in generally being cheaper than brass.

Marble Urns

Marble is a type of stone, which like metal can be both beautiful and easily withstand harsh environments if it is interred at a cemetery. Most urns are made of “cultured marble” or “cultured onyx”, this simply means that the stone is synthetic or engineered. Engineered stone is made by combining crushed stone and adhesives. This can be far superior to natural stone because it is less porous, stronger, and cheaper. However, the type of stone should reflect your loved one’s wishes and if you know they would have wanted a natural stone, then be on the lookout for the term “cultured” in any description.

Biodegradable Urn Materials

Several common materials are used for making biodegradable urns (including wood, see below). Materials such as paper, rock salt, and most commonly, clay and cotton can all make up biodegradable urns. It is a good choice if your loved one expressed the wish to have a green funeral and the urn will be buried or their cremains deposited in a body of water.

Wood Urns

Wooden urns can be both biodegradable (if they are buried) or kept in the home. Wooden urns can be either simple or carved with beautiful patterns, making wood one of the most customizable and flexible urn materials available.

Ceramic Urns

Ceramic materials are less common because they can be breakable (unless it is a ceramic coating on a brass core). However, ceramics do offer the positive of being infinitely customizable and beautiful. They are not necessarily recommended if the urn will be interred (deposited on a shelf) in a cemetery columbarium.

What size of urn should be used?

Urns come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The first and most obvious answer will be how much cremation ashes will be kept in it? Most full-sized urns are around 200 cubic inches in cubic space which will hold the ashes of someone up to 200 pounds in body weight. Make sure to double-check the size of an urn when you buy online because the pictures may be misleading, as many urns are miniatures meant to be bought in multiples for several family members. You may also want to consider whether family members will want to have small companion urns. Sets of smaller urns allow different family members to keep part of the ashes with them.


When should I buy an urn?

There is no particular right time to buy an urn. Most funeral homes will return the cremated remains to you in either an urn you purchased through them or another temporary container. Of course, if your loved one will be cremated and the ashes buried in a ceremony then the urn will have to be chosen before the burial ceremony. However, if the urn will be kept in a columbarium or at home you have more time to decide.

When to choose a cremation urn is up to the family. Many families may even decide to change urns, bury an urn, or use the ashes in an alternative burial years after their loved one passed away. There is no right time, as long as it feels right and honors the wishes of your loved one.



When choosing an urn for your loved one, you want to be conscious of how the urn will be used and what your loved one’s wishes were. There are a multitude of choices and designs when it comes to urns and keeping your loved one’s ashes, so go with what feels right and what would make your loved one happy.


For a wide selection of urns please view the Obitia store.




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