This ultimate guide explores 10 ways to scatter ashes and provides an in-depth look at the options available. If you are considering holding your own private memorial service and scattering your loved ones ashes in a way or at a place that has special meaning for the one you’ve lost this guide will help.
There are now more choices available than ever before that can make a memorial so much more personally relevant. This guide covers a number of options that range from the bottom of the sea to orbiting the earth!
1. In The Garden
Our gardens, like our homes, can hold very special memories for us. We remember our children playing out during the summer, splashing around in paddling pools, playing games and family barbeques.
Winter brought bonfires, fireworks and snowmen. For keen gardeners they are a labour of love, pouring hours in to growing fruit, vegetables and flowers.
What better place to scatter the ashes of your loved one than the place they loved to spend their time in life?
Perhaps there’s a special place in the garden where they used to spend most of their time or a favourite tree which would be a perfect place to perform the scattering.
One of the families we performed a cremation for scattered their mums ashes in a circle around their stone birdbath because she loved to watch the birds splashing about in the water during the summer.
We performed a funeral for a gentleman who had passed away, his wife said she was going to keep his ashes until she too passed. Her ashes would then also be placed in an urn.
Their children would place both urns in the ground and grow a tree from their ashes. We really liked this idea, the children get to know that their parents ashes are in one place, reunited if you will, and have the tree as a living memorial.
There are lots of nice ideas that can be incorporated in to a scattering ceremony. You can write your own personal messages on biodegradable paper and bury them.
This is a particularly good idea if young children are attending as it provides a way for them to say a last goodbye. You can even buy biodegradable paper that contains seeds so flowers will grow where you buried your messages!
If you do decide on scattering your loved ones ashes in the garden do keep in mind that ashes aren’t necessarily good for young plants so be careful not to scatter them all in one spot! We have a post about this here.
2. Favourite Holiday Destination
A popular option is to scatter ashes at a favourite holiday destination. Some of our fondest memories are those made when we were on holiday. As we get older we often find ourselves returning to the same place year after year.
One of the things I like about this idea is that it can be made in to an event for family and friends. It can be an opportunity to remember those family holidays by actually returning to the location itself. You could even opt for a destination that they always wanted to visit but never got the chance.
If your favourite holiday destination happens to be abroad this shouldn’t pose a problem. Ashes can be kept in either your hand luggage or checked baggage. Personally I’d choose to keep them with me in my carry on bag so that I know they’re safe.
Checked baggage going missing is rare, but I just don’t think it’s worth the risk. Should you decide on putting them in your suitcase then it might be a good idea to wrap the container in a towel or something just to give them a little extra protection to avoid damage if the bags get thrown about.
You’ll need to keep the Certificate of Death with you too, you may need this if you declare the ashes at customs. Keep the ashes in a non-metallic container, plastic or cardboard are better options. A cardboard scatter tube is light, strong and can be opened if necessary.
Make sure the container is securely sealed, but that you’re able to open it should you be required to do so by airport security. The ashes will be x-rayed along with your baggage and it’s unusual for staff to need to look inside the container, but there’s always a chance.
We’ve had personal experience of scattering ashes abroad. We took the ashes to Turkey and scattered them in the sea one morning. The place was a small fishing village that we’d been to a number of times.
It was always really quiet there which is what we liked. The ashes were scattered from the end of a small wooden pier, there was nobody else around. We spent the next hour just watching the ashes disburse in the water and reflecting, not much was said, for us this was perfect.
Sunset is a popular time to scatter ashes – home or abroad. There’s an atmosphere that comes with the end of the day, the setting sun being symbolic of something coming to an end. At the same time, scattering in the ocean has a feeling of expansiveness and freedom that can be really comforting and uplifting.
3. Church, Cemetery or Crematorium
Many people choose to scatter their loved ones ashes at a church, cemetery or in the crematorium gardens. Permission is usually required to do this so make sure you get the appropriate permissions before doing so.
Often these places have family or friends already resting there so it may be the case that you want to scatter the ashes close to someone important to your loved one.
The crematorium will offer an attended scattering in which a member of staff will, if you so wish, scatter the ashes on your behalf. You can say a few words, read a poem or say a prayer.
We were performing a funeral at Bramcote Crematorium in Nottingham recently and they told us that they give a card to the attendees of a scattering that has a poem on it. That’s a really nice thought and gives something for people to put on display at home.
A crematorium will not usually charge for scattering the ashes if the deceased was cremated there, however if they were cremated elsewhere they may charge.
Churches are another popular place to scatter ashes, again many people have family already buried in churchyards and it can be the most fitting place. As with crematorium gardens you should get the necessary permissions.
These are places that you can be almost certain will always be available to revisit and remember your loved one, which is not always the case if you scatter on private land for example.
4. In a River or at Sea
Rivers and the sea play an important role in many peoples lives. Perhaps your loved one was keen on fishing, spending hours by the river from first thing in the morning to last thing at night.
Fishing provides the perfect opportunity to connect with nature and offer the peace and quiet for reflection. Scattering your loved ones ashes in a river that had particular importance for them can have both personal meaning and the symbolism of the ashes being returned to nature.
If boating was important to your loved one then what better way to perform a scattering than by venturing out on a boat and scattering the ashes from there.
There are no restrictions applied to scattering in the sea so you don’t have to worry about permissions, obviously if it’s a private river or stream you will need to get the go-ahead from the owner.
5. In the Sky
Compared to the options discussed so far this is relatively new and there are a number of ways to do it. Like scattering in the ocean there is an incredible sense of freedom that comes from scattering in the sky. Let’s look at some ways this can be achieved.
From a Plane or Helicopter
There are plane and helicopter tour companies that will provide the opportunity to spread the ashes in the sky.
The Scotsman newspaper reported back in 2010 about Captain Jim McTaggart who has a special device attached to the back of his beautiful ‘SA300 Starduster Too’ two seater biplane. The device trails behind the plane and uses compressed air to disburse the ashes.
There have been instances of people trying to pour ashes out of the window of small planes such as a Cessna and the ashes get blown back in to the plane, sometimes with fatal consequences.
My first thought when hearing about trying to scatter from a helicopter was that it would turn in to something comparable to a sandstorm!
There is a company in Somerset that will take you up in a Havilland Tiger Moth from which the ashes can be released, two additional craft can carry anyone wishing to watch the scattering.
Hot Air Balloon
I think this would be my choice if I were to scatter in the clouds, I imagine it to be a far more relaxed way compared to the planes and helicopter options.
Being able to watch the ashes spread out as the wind takes them and disburses them would be a poignant moment.
Hot air balloons can carry from 2 to up to 20 passengers so there’s plenty of space for family and friends. You’ll most likely have to book a private balloon for obvious reasons.
For most it would be an event combining both a once in a lifetime experience with the last farewell to their loved one.
Yes that’s right, you can even have your loved one’s ashes put inside fireworks!
Small amounts of the ashes are placed inside multiple fireworks which are then used in a display. Human ashes can actually be quite heavy, in the region of 1.8kg to 2.8kg, that’s a lot for a firework to lift, even the larger ones.
Typically the display will take place at a suitable venue where there’s enough space for safety distances to be met. You can even have the display set to music, the custom display will be made to synchronise with the music to provide an amazing spectacle.
Ashes can be sent in advance or brought with you on the day, you can even witness the ashes being placed in to the fireworks for peace of mind that they’re actually in there.
We have had a few funerals where family have released balloons at the end of the service. But some people go that little bit further and wait for the return of their loved ones ashes in order to use the balloons as the method of scattering.
There are actually a couple of different options here.
You could use a standard balloon (biodegradable balloons made of latex are available to minimize impact on the environment) and make an event of it, perhaps at the end of a bespoke memorial.
There are also companies that will place the ashes in an eco-friendly balloon which will rise to the edge of space! The ashes are held in a lightweight urn and released as they enter in to the stratosphere.
Obviously anything going that high is going to need permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) so using a company that can sort this is important. If you choose a particularly hi-tech option you can even have both the take off and release filmed.
How is the scattering filmed?
Once the specially designed container reaches the edge of space the ashes are released, at the same time cameras attached to the container film the release.
The equipment is then returned to the ground in a controlled descent. I have to say that it’s an impressive feat, not just the engineering behind the release of the ashes but also the retrieval of the footage.
If you want to go a little further Elysium Space is a company that uses a SpaceX rocket to launch its spacecraft in to orbit.
You get a kit in which you place the ashes, these are sent to Elysium Space. The ashes will orbit the earth for around two years, the craft will then burn up in the earth’s atmosphere as a shooting star.
7. Viking Longboat Urn
You can buy a longboat urn made out of wood or wicker, both look really good and for those with some particular interest in Viking culture they may be the perfect choice.
We saw a Viking re-enactment a few years ago during a family day out. The battles were really intense – taking some of the kids and adults by surprise!
They had a Viking village and taught what Viking life would have been like. I can completely understand why someone would choose a longboat urn for someone with that level of interest in all things Nordic.
The boats contain a flammable material that ensures the boat is totally consumed by the flames. I have to say that the wooden Viking boat looks particularly impressive and can be used as a permanent urn should you so wish. I’d find it difficult to set such an attractive thing on fire!
Yes, I did a double take with this one too!
You can have your loved ones ashes put in to shotgun shells so that family and friends can shoot (preferably not at each other!) the ashes and disburse them in the air.
In a similar vein you can upsize from a shotgun to a cannon. Surrey Live reported in 2017 of a local man’s ashes being shot from a cannon at the rifle club to which he belonged.
We also found CO2 launchers which appear to only be available in the US which will send ashes up to 70ft in the air – I presume the hope is then that the wind will take them rather than them descend on to the attendees.
9. Have Multiple Scatterings
This is an interesting one, perhaps suited to the traveller. Scattering a small amount of ashes at numerous locations might be a fitting tribute to those who loved to explore the world. Perhaps if they had family at different locations around the world this could be an option too.
10 Memorial Reef
Artificial reefs are being used as a way to restore habitats and eco-systems around the world. By combining cremated ashes with environmentally safe concrete they can become part of a designated reef that actively promotes the restoration of sealife. This has been available for some time in other countries but it’s now been made available by Solace Reef in Dorset.
Scattering Ashes and the Law
In Britain there aren’t any legal restrictions on scattering ashes but in some cases you’ll need to get the appropriate permissions. For example when you choose to scatter in a cemetery, at the crematorium gardens or if you’d like to scatter on private land. If you’re in any doubt please do check before you scatter.