Options with Cremation
Updated: Oct 13
Cremation is becoming an increasingly common choice among Americans. We understand that this is not an easy topic to think about and discuss with your family. The reasons for choosing cremation are varied and personal. You may choose cremation based on environmental considerations, philosophical or religious reasons, or even because you feel it is simpler or less complicated. You may also choose cremation because it can be less expensive than traditional burial, although cremations vary widely in price based on your
Regardless of the reason, cremation is only half of the story. Your plans for a viewing, visitation, funeral, or memorial service don’t have to change if you choose cremation.
Gathering together for a service allows your loved ones to share stories, give eulogies and
otherwise reaffirm the value that you had in their lives. Most importantly, a service allows the immediate family to begin the healing process.
Services or ceremonies can precede or follow the actual cremation:
Prior to cremation, there may be a gathering or viewing, which can be either public or private, with an open or closed casket, similar to a traditional funeral service.
A memorial service typically occurs after cremation is complete, with or without the cremated remains present. It is a remembrance of the deceased, sometimes called a life celebration. Since it is intended to be a celebration of your life, it can take on any form you want. It can be religious, non denominational, spiritual, or none of the above. If the cremated remains are present, an urn may take a place of prominence.
If you choose not to have any type of service a “direct cremation” can take place. This simply means the body is taken from the morgue and cremated after obtaining the death certificate, necessary permits and authorizations, and the cremated remains are returned to the family.
Is a casket or urn required and what are my options?
The use of a casket will depend upon your service selections and is not required if you do not include a viewing. However, at a minimum, even if you are selecting a direct cremation, you will need to make well-informed decisions regarding a cremation container and urn.
If you decide you’d like to have a visitation, viewing or gathering before cremation takes place, you may need to be embalmed and will need to select a casket. Depending on the type of service, you may prefer the design and ornamentation of a traditional casket, which often can be rented for the viewing, or the simplicity of a cremation casket built with less detail and made from different materials.
If you choose not to have a visitation or viewing with a cremation casket, a cremation container will need to be used. These containers are combustible and often made of pressed board and cardboard.
You have countless options when it comes to urns. Urns often serve as the focal point at a memorial service and come in all shapes and sizes. They vary based upon the intended use, whether for scattering, interment in a cemetery plot or displayed in a home. Urns can be customized to represent a favorite sports team, hobby, religion, or military service. You may even choose to include smaller keepsake urns or jewelry for your loved ones that are designed to hold a small portion of the cremated remains, a lock of hair or flowers from the service.
Burial/Interment of the Cremated Body
When interring a cremated body, the remains may be placed in a columbarium niche, buried in an existing adult burial space, buried in a smaller plot for cremated remains, buried in an urn garden, or placed in a crypt in a mausoleum. Some families also choose to place cremated remains in cremation jewelry or other memorial items, such as cremation glass, cremation benches, memorial rocks, or grave markers.
Retaining the Urn at Home
The cremated body can also be placed in a decorative urn and retained by family members at home. Some families choose to split the cremated remains into portions that can be divided among family members and multiple keepsake urns, while others choose to contain the remains in one ceremonial urn.
Urns are typically chosen based on design and function. Types of urns vary from biodegradable urns that can be interred or put out to sea, to decorative urns made specifically to reflect the personality of the loved one. Decorative urns that can be displayed in the home are composed of all sorts of materials such as porcelain, wood, bronze, stainless steel, ceramic, marble, or glass. You can now even request custom urns that use 3D printing to create the absolutely perfect urn for your loved one.
One popular option for memorializing a loved one after cremation is scattering, which can take place on private property, on public lands (such as national parks), in a cemetery, in a body of water, or shot into the air in a memorial fireworks display.
Families should remember that certain laws and ordinances do apply when scattering cremated remains and should consult any laws that may apply, on both public and private land. For instance, scattering at sea must be executed three nautical miles from shore and should be reported to the EPA within 30 days. Scattering in a national park such as Yosemite requires a permit and no memorial or trace left behind. Most states allow aerial disposition over unpopulated areas. Scattering cremains on public or private property without permission—frequently referred to as “wildcat scattering”—can result in fines.
Transporting Remains Can Be Tricky, But Not Impossible
Transport of a cremated body via mail or escorted by air will necessitate the completion of proper paperwork and will require verification and certification. In the United States, the only postal carrier that will ship cremated remains is the USPS. Check here for instruction on packing and shipping cremated remains.
In addition, if flying, the TSA has specific restrictions. TSA allows escort of cremated remains. However, certain airlines restrict travel with remains, so be sure to check with the specific airline. TSA suggests placing remains in containers that can easily be screened by XRAY, such as wood or plastic, as this will likely facilitate easier movement through security checkpoints.
If traveling internationally, be sure to contact the embassy(ies) to allow more time for processing.
For more information on traveling and shipping remains, consult the Cremation Association of North America’s website.
If you have any questions please give us a call. (301) 349-2135. We are here 24/7 and more than happy to talk with you.