How to Choose a Cremation Urn

When choosing an urn for the cremated remains — or cremains of a loved one, the available options can sometimes feel overwhelming, particularly if the urn must be chosen during a time of mourning. It can feel like there are more styles and designs than you can possibly consider.

However, there are a number of factors to consider that can help you narrow your options. If you carefully take each of these into consideration and make small decisions along the way, you’ll greatly narrow your choices, making your final decision considerably easier. Below we provide a thorough list of every decision point you’ll face to help you choose the most appropriate urn for your loved one’s final rest place.

How Will You Be Treating the Deceased’s Ashes?

If you plan on displaying the ashes in your home, or placing them in a more public location, like a columbarium niche, or a mausoleum, you’ll want to choose a solid, decorative urn intended for public display. These can be found in a number of materials, including metal, ceramic, wood, glass, stone, resin and more.

If your plans include placing the deceased’s ashes behind a sealed monument or buried in the ground where they can’t be seen, you might choose to use a less expensive, non-decorative urn that’s still solid enough to protect cremains from the elements. Or, if burial is the preferred resting location, you can opt for a biodegradable urn that will slowly break down over time, releasing your loved one’s ashes back into the natural cycle of life.

If instead, you plan a scattering ceremony then you don’t need a permanent urn at all. You can choose a temporary, but dignified scattering tube. The tube safely holds your loved one’s ashes for transport to their final resting place and then facilitates a safe and easy scattering of the ashes.

For water ceremonies you can optionally choose a water-soluble urn that will float at the surface for a period of time before succumbing to the water, distributing the cremains contained inside. Finally, if there are a number of people interested in keeping a small portion of the ashes as a keepsake you can opt for mini keepsake urns or cremation jewelry.

Choose the Right Material for Your Location

If your urn is to be stored inside, particularly in a climate-controlled area such as your home, any material can be selected. Urns to be placed outdoors, especially if they’ll be subjected to the elements, require greater care in material selection.

Wood urns may not be a good choice unless they’re protected by many layers of polyurethane. You might also avoid metals that tarnish easily when exposed to the elements.

If the chosen location for the urn is in an area where it could be disturbed, and possibly knocked over by accident, then breakable materials such as ceramic, glass, and stone should be avoided.

In general, it’s important to consider what might happen to the urn you choose, and then select the most appropriate materials to keep the contained ashes safe and keep the urn looking its best.

What Size Urn Do You Need?

A standard rule of thumb used by the funeral industry is that each pound of pre-cremation weight equals one cubic inch of cremains. So a 200-pound adult would require an urn capable of holding roughly 200 cubic inches of cremains.

When sizing your urn, you can use this rough calculation to determine whether a given urn will fit the cremains you have. If your calculations put you right near the top end of a given urn size, you should air on the side of caution and get an urn a size larger.

What Can You Afford?

Deciding on your budget can do quite a bit to narrow your choices. It’s important not to spend more than you’re comfortable with. You can find beautiful urn choices to fit every budget.

If you’re looking to spend less than $100 you’ll find your choice of materials somewhat limited, and the styles available will be more understated, but still lovely and amply respectful.

In the $100 to $300 range, a much wider range of styles and materials become available. You’ll find craftsmanship escalates, and the number of man-hours required to create the final product increases.

If money is no object, you won’t be able to use budget to limit your available choices, unless you use the top tier of urn designs, unavailable to most purchasers, as your starting point. You’ll have access to singularly exquisite urns reflecting high production values.

What you should never do is feel that your budget indicates what the deceased meant to you. Spending more never equates to a more memorable, honorable, or appreciative memorial. Spending what you can afford is always enough.

Choosing an Appropriate Style

Once you’ve narrowed down your size, price range, materials, and application, your range of choices will have decreased to some degree. Now you need to choose a style. This is arguably the most difficult decision you need to make. Thankfully there are two very simple frames of reference you can keep in mind to help make the decision easier.

The first is to try and consider what your loved one would have liked. If they happened to share their wishes ahead of time, then there’s no guesswork involved. Otherwise, you can use everything that you know about the person’s interests, preferences, personality, and style to try and select an urn that they would appreciate.

On top of that, you can simply choose something that appeals to you. Because there are no wrong answers. Every funeral urn is made to be an attractive, stately, and reverent homage to the ashes that will reside inside of it. So you can use your own preferences as a guide. If you like a given design, chances are other people will like it, too. And if it aligns with what you know about what the deceased would have appreciated, then you really can’t go wrong.

Of course, if you need more help in choosing a cremation urn you can talk with a funeral director or the customer service representatives available through the online store you’ve chosen. They can direct you to tasteful selections that fit your budget and all the other factors on this list.