What Can I Do With Cremation Ashes?

Table of Contents:

  1. What Does the Law Say About Scattering Ashes?
  2. Locations for Scattering Ashes of Loved Ones
  3. Does Neptune Society offer scattering services?
  4. Types of Urns
  5. What is the difference between cremation urns and keepsake urns?
  6. What is a specialty urn?
  7. Unique Options for Memorializing a Loved One
  8. Neptune Society Memorialization Products


Cremation is becoming an increasingly popular end-of-life arrangement for numerous reasons. It can be much less costly than a traditional burial, and it also allows families to customize memorial arrangements to meet the wishes of the lost loved one and the immediate needs of friends and family members. For example, immediate family can be part of a direct cremation process before storing the ashes in an urn or keepsake box until other loved ones can attend a service or memorial.

Many family members ask about scattering the ashes of their loved one. Whether you're thinking about a formal scattering service or just want to spend some closing moments in a place dear to the deceased's heart, ash scattering can be a cathartic and beautiful experience. You do have to ensure you stay within the law and handle any scattering appropriately. In this article, you'll find everything you need to know to legally and lovingly scatter ashes.

What Does the Law Say About Scattering Ashes?

Local, state, and federal laws might come into play, depending on where you plan to scatter the ashes of your loved one. To avoid compliance or legal issues, you should research the laws for the location where the scattering ceremony will occur. If you plan to scatter ashes on private property, always check with the property owner first.


Scattering Ashes at Sea: What You Need to Know

Cremated remains can be scattered on the ocean without regard to the depth of a particular spot as long as the remains are taken at least three nautical miles from land. You also have to notify the EPA within 30 days of the scattering and provide information that includes:

  • Name of the deceased
  • Date the ashes were scattered
  • Latitude and longitude, distance from shore, and depth of the water
  • The name of the vessel used
  • Where you departed land from
  • The person responsible for burial arrangements

Scattering Ashes on Land: What You Need to Know

Most states require that you get the property owner's permission if you plan to scatter ashes on private land. While some states require you to get that permission in writing, it's probably a good idea to always do so to avoid future legal issues.

Certain states have more stringent requirements than others. For example, Texas law allows you to scatter ashes in public land that is uninhabited by others or on any private land if the owner consents. California, on the other hand, requires that you scatter ashes in a designated spot, such as a scattering garden in a cemetery or on private property if you have written permission from the owner and there isn't a local ordinance forbidding it. You can find a breakdown of burial and cremation laws by state in the Nolo online legal encyclopedia.

If you are planning to scatter ashes on federal land, such as in a national park, then you must request a permit from the agency that governs the land in question. Many national park websites provide guidelines for scattering ashes on the property. You can start at the National Park Service website to find pages for individual parks.

Locations for Scattering Ashes of Loved Ones

Where you choose to scatter the ashes of your loved one depends on a number of factors. In most locations, you can easily scatter ashes on your own land. However many families want to perform a final ceremony and scattering in an especially beautiful location or one that was special to the person who passed on.


Beautiful Locations to Scatter Cremation Ashes

For some families or loved ones, locations that offer natural grandeur are a great place to scatter ashes. This is why so many people want to be scattered at sea, in national forests, or in scenic areas. The idea of such beautiful locations being a "final resting place" brings comfort to everyone involved, and such locations can also provide a cathartic emotional experience for those involved in the ceremony or scattering.

Some locations you might consider as beautiful scattering places include:

  • Your own private garden or a beloved garden of the deceased
  • Mountaintop overlooks
  • On a hill that has a pretty view
  • On beaches or river banks (ensure that you follow local, state, and federal ordinances)
  • In meadows
  • National park locations

Finding a Significant Location to Scatter a Loved One's Ashes

You might also consider choosing a location that was significant to a loved one or to the family as a whole for a scattering ceremony. A significant location that has some emotional ties can also be comforting to loved ones. Some options you might consider include:

  • Favorite vacation locations
  • A beloved fishing spot
  • Regular hiking routes or views
  • Family homes
  • College campuses
  • The location of a proposal or other important life event

Any location that is intimately tied to the person who has passed on can be a great spot for scattering ashes as long as legal requirements allow it. Additionally, you can always return to visit them, and reflect on a favorite memory.

What is a scattering garden?

Scattering gardens are pieces of cultivated land that are set aside solely for the use of families who want to scatter cremated remains. A benefit of scattering gardens is that you don't have to worry about legalities, since the crematory or cemetery that owns the property would have handled all such matters. Some gardens provide options for memorials, including plaques, trees, or artwork, which can commemorate where the ashes were scattered.

Does Neptune Society offer scattering services?

Neptune Society assists families with scatterings in a variety of locations. Neptune Society scattering services are available in Colorado, California, Florida, Washington, and the Pacific Ocean.

Types of Urns

Whether you are planning to scatter the ashes of your loved one or want to keep them for years to come, you will have to consider urns. An urn is a container that is typically used for storing cremated remains. The type of urn you purchase depends on both what you plan to do with a loved one's cremated remains and your loved one's personality or interests.

What is the difference between cremation urns and keepsake urns?

Cremation urns are those that are designed as a temporary home for cremated remains before they are scattered. Keepsake urns are designed to hold cremated remains long-term and to be decorative for display in a home or memorial location. Both types of urns come in a variety of shapes, materials, and styles, so you can pick an urn that complements the lifestyle, interests, or personal style of the loved one.

When choosing a cremation urn, you might want to also consider the personality or individual interests of the loved one. While the cremated remains might not reside in the urn forever, having an urn that speaks to the loved one's personality can be a comfort to family before or during a scattering ceremony.

What is a specialty urn?

Urns designed with special symbols, patterns, shapes, or functionality can be ideal choices for families that want to celebrate or honor a loved one's memory.

Religious Urns

Religious urns put someone's faith affiliation on display, which both honors the person in question and provides some additional comfort for loved ones. Religious urns can include engraved or embossed elements such as symbols. They might also be shaped to reflect religious traditions or objects; urns might feature cross shapes, be designed to look like a religious text, or sport words or verses to reflect a person's beliefs.

Hobby, Sport, or Military Service Urns

You can select from urns that incorporate elements of hobbies or the experiences of the loved one. Hobby urns might incorporate elements such as model trains, race cars, crafts, needlepoint, gardening, or hunting. Sports urns can reflect either a person's favorite personal pastime, with elements such as golf clubs or balls incorporated into the design, or a person's favorite team. You can even find urns that sport the right colors and logos for the ultimate in team spirit. For loved ones with military service, families can find urns that incorporate symbols of service.

Clock Urns

Clock urns are growing in popularity and are an option for families who are considering keeping ashes in homes for some time. These urns are beautiful, functional pieces that can sit on a bookshelf, mantle, or special table, making it easy to keep your loved one's cremated remains close for as long as you need.

Decorative Urns

Decorative urns made via specialty processes are another option if you are looking for a unique and beautiful way to keep your loved one close. Decorative urns are a good option if you will be keeping the cremated remains for some time before scattering the ashes or if you're not planning to scatter the remains at all. Look for specialty stone or metal urns, urns made with Japanese Raku firing processes, or sculpted pieces of artwork that are as unique as your loved one.

Unique Options for Memorializing a Loved One

The Neptune Memorial Reef

The Neptune Memorial Reef is a unique option for individuals who would like for their cremated remains to be deployed at sea. It's an artificial reef located about 3.25 miles off the Florida coast. It was designed to look like an artist's vision of the lost city of Atlantis, and specialty urns are deployed there, creating a new habitat for sea life.

Using Cremation Ashes to Create Diamonds

The ashes of a loved one can be pressed into a diamond; you can usually choose the cut, carat, color, and clarity, ensuring a completely custom piece. The diamonds can then be used in jewelry or other settings, letting you keep your loved one close via a pendant, earrings, bracelet, or ring for years. One benefit of this route is that you can pass on this extremely sentimental keepsake to future generations.

What is a Teddy Bear Urn?

Teddy bear urns let you keep cremated remains in a friendly location that can be cuddled or displayed as desired. One benefit of teddy bear urns is that you can add just some of the ashes to them, which means that families with multiple loved ones needing this specific type of comfort can split cremated remains among multiple teddy bear urns. This is one option that many people use when trying to provide comfort to children after a loss.

Memorial Tattoos

Through special processes, the ashes of a loved one can be sterilized and turned into a milled substance that can be used alongside a small amount of ink to create tattoos. This process lets you memorialize your loved one in a very personal, custom manner.

Cremation Hourglasses

Some loved ones opt to keep cremated remains in a custom hourglass. Not only are hourglass urns beautiful and functional, they are philosophical in nature. There's something about drawing the connection between someone's life and the passing of time and watching the ashes fall through the hourglass like sand that can be a cathartic process for family members.

Using Cremation Ashes to Create Vinyl Records

Finally, you can have cremated remains pressed into a vinyl record. The audio on each side of the vinyl can include special song choices, recorded memories, or speeches and stories about the loved one. When created using professional processes, the vinyl functions as a standard record and can be listened to on any turntable.

Neptune Society Memorialization Products

Neptune Society offers a number of memorialization products, including all types of urns and keepsakes. Urns range from simple metal and wood options to bejeweled or hand-painted urns that offer elaborate, gorgeous permanent homes for remains. Choose urns that reflect something about your loved one so you can display them in a home, or opt for urns designed to safeguard cremated remains in long-term mausoleums.

Neptune Society also has a comprehensive selection of religious, hobby, and specialty urns to choose from.

For smaller keepsakes, you can choose from the Timeless Touch collection. The collection offer pendants that can hold portions of your loved one's ashes, as well as keychains, charms, or rings. You can combine ashes with fingerprints for even more personalization on these keepsakes, which can become family heirlooms to be passed down for generations.

Download The Complete Checklist for When A Loved One Passes Away

The Neptune Society is the nation's oldest and largest provider of affordable cremation services. Whether you have an immediate need or want to plan cremation services in advance, we are always available to assist you and your family.

Call 1-800-NEPTUNE (800-637-8863) today or contact us online to learn more.

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