When a loved one has passed away, many families choose cremation as the funerary option; a process is where the body of a deceased person is exposed to high temperatures, reducing organic matter to create "cremated remains" or "ashes." A container called an urn is used to hold the ashes.
There are many cremation urn options to choose from. (See a selection here.)It can sometimes be challenging to know where to start. Here are some tips that will help you pick the best urn for your family and your loved one.
Choosing an urn size
Before picking out an urn, you must first select a size. Urns come in various sizes. You can choose an urn for one person's remains. Some families choose to co-mingle cremated remains, if so, you may need a larger urn. Typically, an adult-sized urn can hold the ashes for anyone up to about 200 lbs (91 kg) in body mass. If the individual weighs more than that, or the remains of more than one person will be placed in the urn, then select a larger capacity urn . Choose a smaller urn for the cremated remains of a child or infant.
Here is a general guideline on size. Each pound (or half kilogram) of body weight before cremation equals approximately one cubic inch (16.3 cubic cm) of ashes. If someone was 150 lbs before cremation, they would need an urn with a capacity of at least 150 cubic inches (2458 cubic cm).
Where will the urn be located?
Another thing to consider when picking out an urn is what you would like to do with the urn. Some families choose to keep an urn at home and display it in a prominent place as a memorial to the deceased family member. Where it will be displayed will have a bearing on what size is selected.
Some families choose to place a cremation urn in a niche. A niche is a permanent, above-ground location for the urn, typically located in a cemetery. Niches can hold one urn or several. It can be glass-fronted or wall-fronted and can have space for small pictures and tokens of the deceased. There are many niche options. However, the urn must fit within the dimensions of the niche that has been arranged. Dimensions must also be considered if the remains will be buried in a grave plot. Or if they will be buried alongside a loved one in a casket. Additionally, this may also affect the type of material used for the urn. For example, if the urn will be placed in the ground, you may choose a biodegradable urn that will decompose over time.
Alternatively, you may choose to scatter the ashes instead of keeping them. In this case, size is not a factor as long as there is enough capacity to hold the remains.
How to choose what the urn is made of
There are many types of materials used to make urns. Choices include metal, ceramic, glass, wood, stone, and biodegradable materials. Two of the more commonly used urn styles include ceramic and wood.
Ceramic urns come in a variety of colours and patterns. These options let you tailor the design to a loved one's preference, the family's choice, or as an expression to memorialize your loved one.
Ceramic, and materials like crystal, glass, and stone, are also easy to clean and maintain, as all that is usually needed is to wipe the urn down with a soft cloth. However, these materials are delicate, so you have to be more cautious about the choice of location. It is best to keep it somewhere where it is not likely to fall and break or become damaged.
Wood urns also offer customization. You can choose from various types of wood, such as maple, oak, bamboo, walnut, pine, cedar, etc. Some manufacturers will engrave inscriptions. Wood is also easy to clean. Simply wipe it with a dry cloth and avoid harsh cleaners and soap. Wood and metal are also less delicate than ceramic and glass options.
Some people opt for an urn made of biodegradable material, such as paper, clay, plant material, bark, wood, sand, and other substances that will naturally decompose over time. These styles are an environmentally friendly option if the ashes will be buried or committed to a sea, lake or river.
Types of Urns
Some commonly chosen urn types include keepsake, companion, child/infant, veteran, religious, and themed.
A keepsake urn allows the sharing of remains among members of a family. The ashes get divided into smaller urns so they can be kept in multiple locations. It is also an ideal option if some of the remains will be scattered and some will be kept.
A companion urn stores the cremated remains of two people. One version has a single compartment, where remains are co-mingled. A double-compartment urn allows for the remains to be together but separated. The urn style is a good choice for couples who have asked to be together even after death.
Other specialty urns
A child/infant urn stores the remains of a child or infant that has passed away. These are typically smaller in size and display a theme that is related to children.
A veteran urn memorializes a member of the Armed Forces. These usually display patriotic symbols and imagery and can be tailored to the individual's branch of the military.
Urns can also represent the deceased's religion by displaying imagery of themes that relate to a specific religion that they practiced.
Theme urns highlight the deceased's personality by showcasing something that was of interest or importance to them. This includes a sport, hobby, occupation, type of music, and more.
Which urn to choose
Although there are some specific factors, like size and material, that you need to keep in mind when picking out an urn, you can otherwise tailor your urn choice to suit individual needs and wants.
An urn is the final resting place for a loved one, so having the freedom to customize the urn allows friends and family of the deceased to pay tribute in a meaningful way. Picking an urn can sometimes be a daunting task, but it can also be a meaningful way to celebrate a loved one's life and legacy.