A Guide to Burying Ashes

After cremating a loved one, you might be unsure of how to bury the ashes, as the options available for interment can seem confusing and unclear. Cremation is an acceptable practice among many cultures and religions, and burying ashes is actually more common than keeping them in your home or scattering them to the wind. 

However, you’ll need to do your research when choosing to intern ashes, as there are factors involved like costs or sensitive questions to answer. As you find a final resting place for your loved one, this guide to burying ashes can help you make the best choice.

What to Consider Before Burying Ashes

Burying ashes of a loved one in a permanent place is often called the internment of ashes, a preference of many cultures and religions. Before burying the cremated remains, however, you have to make some vital decisions and choices.

These aspects of ash interment will consist mainly of where you are going to bury the ashes, the cost of the burial place, the ceremony, and alternatives available for below-ground burying.

When burying the cremains of your family member, spouse, or friend, you should consider some of the following factors:

  • Do you or the deceased belong to a specific religion with guidelines for cremation and burial of ashes?
  • Is the burial place easily accessible to family or friends of the departed?
  • When the funeral takes place, will the urn be included or only the ashes?
  • Does the urn need to be biodegradable / are there restrictions on the material?
  • Is your burial location free or does it have a cost?
  • Should the ashes be interred alongside other family members within an existing plot?
  • Will you keep the ashes in a columbarium?
  • How will the ashes travel to the burial location?
  • Do you want to keep any of the ashes inside a keepsake or form of jewellery?

Where Can I Bury Ashes?

You can bury ashes in a cemetery, your private property, a crematorium’s garden, a woodland burial reserve, or the churchyard.

Burying ashes is more common than scattering them or letting them ride a Viking canoe downriver to Valhalla.

A cremated adult creates approximately 2-5kg of cremains, consisting mostly of bone ash. Cremated ashes can be buried inside an urn or simply as they are.

You’ll have to visit your local registry office for a Certificate of Burial Authority, there are also forms that your funeral director has to fill out for the burial location if it’s within a cemetery or churchyard.

Burying the Ashes in an Existing Grave

Can ashes be buried in an existing grave?

Yes, you can bury the ashes inside an existing grave. You will need permission from the cemetery and also proof of rights to be able to bury them together.

How much does it cost to bury ashes in an existing grave?

On average the cost will be somewhere between £150-£300. This is the fee to open the exiting grave and to place the ashes either directly inside or to place the urn inside the plot. Prices will vary from plot to plot.

Can you bury ashes in a graveyard?

Yes you can. Cemeteries are typically well-tended and maintained, and may offer some traditional benefits on memorial days, or a columbarium for above ground storage of urns. Some UK crematoria and cemeteries have Gardens of Remembrance, which are burial grounds for cremated ashes. Icons of remembrance will include benches, trees, or plaques on the grounds, which are well-tended and maintained by the crematoriums.

When burying your loved one’s ashes in a cemetery, you may have to purchase the burial plot, as well as a specified urn, please check for any potential guidance from the burial ground as to the material & size of the urn as well as what can be included.

Many religions and cultures practice cremation as the final resting place of their loved ones, and the interment of ashes in graves remains a common practice. A cemetery is a convenient place to bury the ashes, or in private land where zoning regulations allow.

Make sure you’ve signed a burial application, a requirement for UK ash burials in a burial plot or churchyard. This application form is issued by the cemetery or your local council office, after which you will be asked to buy the Exclusive Right of Burial.

What is an exclusive right of burial?

Depending on what type of grave you want to purchase for your loved one’s cremains, the Exclusive Right of Burial will give a typical 25-year period use of a burial plot. Certain conditions are also attached to this gravesite requirement, and private landowners can acquire their family’s deed of entitlement.

Arrangements are then made for the interment of ashes to proceed, and a funeral director can assist with the reservation of gravesites or the purchase of multiple burial places for future use.

Burying Ashes in a Memorial Garden

Memorial gardens are locations within cemeteries or crematoria that are secluded for burying cremated remains and are exceptionally well-tended and beautified. Urns in an urn garden can be placed above or below ground, identifiable by brass plaques, and a collective monument representing tranquillity.

A burial ceremony starts as the ashes are delivered to the site for burial. You and your funeral party then gather at the burial site, and a celebrant or someone of significance to the occasion begins the ceremony. There is usually an introduction or a prayer, and then friends, family members, or colleagues of the departed will be allowed to talk and eulogise the loved one’s life. 

Ashes are lowered into the ground or placed in an urn vault as the celebrant reads a prayer or recites a poem. Some parting words or prayers will be said as the mourners leave, and the urn is sealed into its final resting place.

How long after cremation can ashes be buried?

On average, 2-5 days. After cremation, you will be invited back to the memorial garden to witness the ashes being placed into the memorial garden. This will usually be a much smaller gathering than that of the actual cremation ceremony with just a small group of close family attending.

Burying Ashes on Private and Public Land

If you own private property and have decided to bury the ashes there, there’s no problem, but it’s essential to check with the local council’s zoning restrictions. First, you’ll need to get permission for loved ones that want their ashes buried on public property or land owned by a group or corporation such as their favourite football stadium.

Burying ashes in a cemetery without permission

Do not attempt to bury ashes on these locations without a permit. If caught, you’ll be prosecuted for trespassing, and your loved one’s cremains will be removed. Burial of urns is also not allowed in public parks and reservations due to the future environmental ramifications.

In most cases, however, the ashes alone can be interred at 100 meters away from water bodies, trails, roads, or developed areas. It makes sense to seek the park authority’s guidelines for burying or scattering ashes in national conservations, or environmentally sensitive reserves.

Can cremated remains be buried in a private garden?

Cremated ashes can be buried on public or private property, and that includes your back garden or front yard. You can also bury ashes in a dedicated urn garden, a cemetery plot, or natural burial ground.

While religious practices will promote using the consecrated ground to bury ashes, you may want to intern ashes in your garden or around your private property. Since burying ashes is traditionally similar to burying the body, a sentimental plot of choice within your garden may hold special significance for you or your family.
We have an inspirational guide featuring a number of unique ideas for placing ashes in your garden

Your loved one’s cremains can also be placed in their final place of rest using similar ceremonies like that of interning a body, including marking the grave, spiritual service, or selecting a headstone. A burial place for ashes in your yard may serve as a reminder of your dearly departed and would be a suitable location for memorial or anniversary of death services.

It’s legal in the UK to bury ashes in your garden if you are the homeowner or have the landlord’s permission.

Be aware, however, that should you sell the house, new owners may not be inclined to let you visit your loved one’s burial place, and moving an exhumed urn might be something to consider.

Interment of Ashes in a Columbarium

When purchasing a niche in a columbarium, that above-ground building which houses cremains in a cemetery, you’ll find that prices vary with the location of your urns niche. Niches are small spaces within the columbarium’s walls that hold one’s urn, and you can buy a group of them to maintain your family’s urns.

Bronze plaques placed on each occupied space help with urn identification. They include similar information to a gravestone.

How deep is a cremation grave?

The depth of the cremation grave is made as big as the urn purchased plus 6 inches for a sufficient layer of soil over the top.

The height of your urn will determine how deep you bury the remains, and having about 6 inches of soil or other congregate over the urn is deemed sufficient. If you are working with an urn that’s 10 inches high, then your hole will be 16 inches deep. Where the soil is heavy, less than 6 inches is sufficient, but an urn shouldn’t be buried with less than 4 inches of soil on top of it at a minimum.

A 12-inch urn requires approximately an 18-inch deep hole.

You should allow for soil to be mounded on top of the burial site as opposed to leveling it. This is because it will trim itself level over time as the earth settles so if you level it yourself, it ends up becoming a depression where rainwater will collect.

Can you use a monument for buried ashes?

The crematoria or cemetery administrator is the best person to approach for any uncommon monuments or memorials. Sometimes the memory garden may have a communal monument where you can add a name/message and other times you are able to pay extra for a single structure or memorial to be made/placed.

Storage Options for Cremation Ashes

After your loved ones’ remains have been cremated, you’ll usually be presented with the ashes in an urn, which comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs. Ash storage urns can be simple, aesthetically structured, or elegant and artistically designed.

Those urns that are used for ground burial or floating in water are made with biodegradable materials. A columbarium is a place where urns are stored in a cemetery or church and features built-in niches within the walls for funeral urns. You can also keep your container indoors, displayed on a shelf, or more commonly on a mantelpiece above the fireplace.

Transporting Cremated Ashes

Once you’ve placed your loved one’s ashes in a cremation urn, you will need an efficient way to transport them to where you’re going to bury the urn. Ashes are placed in a secured bag before being put inside a cremation urn, which is also adequately sealed.

Once the ashes are placed inside, you can travel with the urn by road, air, or water. The cremains can also be mailed legally after being correctly declared. Remember that the urn will pass through customs when you fly, where officials might open it and inspect your loved one’s ashes.

Alternatives to Burying Cremated Remains

Other than burying or storing ashes, there are alternatives available for handling the cremated remains of a departed sibling, spouse, family member, or friend.

Embedding Ashes

You can have ashes embedded into a cremation bench, a memorial rock, or a grave marker placed in a cemetery.

A Diamond for your Ashes

Your loved one’s cremains can also be transformed into a glistening diamond through a laboratory process that extracts the carbon present in the ashes. The custom-made diamond can then be fitted onto personalise silver, gold, or platinum jewellery of your setting and choice.

Ashes in Glass Keepsakes

You can also send you dearly departed’s ashes to be fused, blown, and swirled into a compounded molten glass, artistically designing patterns, and unique keepsakes. You can also scatter ashes in the air, on water or land, or in places that held significance to the deceased person and those left behind.

Custom Memorial Jewellery

A small amount of your loved one’s ashes in a pendant, locket, or rings and bracelets forms memorial jewellery that you may want to keep as close to yourself as possible. This process will involve dividing the ashes of a deceased person, a practice frowned upon by the Roman Catholic Church and many ethnic cultures.

A Final Resting Place for your Loved One’s Remains

Burial usually signifies finality and serves to bring some semblance of closure to the unfortunate instance of a loved one’s passing. While some people may prefer to hold on to the ashes of their loved ones or bury cremated remains in place that holds sentimental value, others act on behalf of wishes left behind by their dearly departed.

There are also religious and cultural guidelines to consider, but the more popular procedure involves interning ashes in a permanent place. This can be outside your home or in a commercial burial plot, and should preferably be accessible to those that want to pay their respects to the deceased.

A profoundly private experience, grief is a journey and your grieving process is unique. Burying your loved one’s cremated remains can provide a therapeutic opportunity for closure.