When is the best time to buy a cremation urn?

by Jerri Haaven

Cremation urns can be bought when someone is ready.

Image by Siyamalan*

Cremation and burial present family members with different logistical timeframes. If cremation is a choice, the family is generally afforded more time to plan. If a person’s last wish is to be buried, time is usually of the essence. Understanding the range of options in relation to the timeframe can lead to a satisfying experience.  

The best time to buy a cremation urn varies depending on answers to a few questions.

  • Is a display cremation urn needed for a memorial service? How soon is the service - is it immediate, or in the future?
  • Are you okay with receiving the ashes in the container provided by the service provider? The ashes typically come in a plastic bag inside a cardboard or plastic box. If so, you have time to research options and purchase a cremation urn that best suits your needs, budget and style.
  • Do you want the ashes to be returned to you in a cremation urn of your choice? In this case, you’ll need to provide the cremation service provider with the urn in a timely manner. Some funeral homes will hold the ashes for you until you get the urn you like. Ask if they will do this for you.
  • Do the ashes need to be shipped or transported to another city or country? In this case, consider shipping requirements and plan accordingly. Purchasing an urn for delivery to the final destination of the ashes might make more sense. Also consider timing if a memorial service or scattering the ashes is planned in another city. Scattering urns are more easily transported than a memorial urn since they are usually smaller and lighter.
  • Are you planning in advance of death? In this case, you have time to research and make a satisfying choice.

Ask your cremation service provider when the ashes will be returned, and options around urns. When my dad died, his wish was to be buried at Fort Snelling in Minneapolis, although he lived in Phoenix at the time. We arranged for direct cremation without an immediate memorial service. This allowed time for our family to make travel arrangements to Phoenix, and to plan the military tribute he requested in Minneapolis – more than six weeks later. We were given the option to purchase his cremation urn and keepsake urns at the time we met with the cremation provider. Back then, shopping for cremation urns online wasn’t an option – and if it was, certainly it wasn’t general knowledge.

Nowadays, there’s not an immediate need to purchase an urn at the time of death. The funeral home can return the ashes to you in a basic container, which provides you with the ability to shop around without feeling rushed. Funerals.org states that: “Many funeral homes will rent an attractive casket to families who want the body present for visitation or service before cremation. After the service, the body is transferred to an inexpensive container for cremation.”

Without the pressure to purchase an urn immediately, you can take your time. Evaluate your budget and determine the urn that is perfect for yourself or a loved one. An excellent source to review is 4 Questions to Consider when Choosing a Cremation Urn, which provides a guide to purchasing a cremation urn or memorial urn online.

If, however, you are in immediate need of an urn, don’t despair. Recently, an individual purchased a custom-designed urn, but it wasn’t available to ship overnight in time for the memorial service. Understanding the urgent need, OneWorld Memorials shipped a beautiful “stand in” display urn Next Day Air, which arrived in time for the service. This urn has a lid that opens on top with ample room to put in the temporary box with ashes. When the artisan urn was ready for shipment, it was expedited and the family stored the ashes of their loved one in the memorial urn of their choosing without pressure.

Although death is never timely, planning in advance eliminates stress at the time of death. The first time we encounter the need to plan memorial services for a loved one, we step into a world of the unknown. It makes sense that without daily exposure to the funeral industry, coupled with experiencing simultaneous grief, we can feel overwhelmed. Purchasing your own urn while not under pressure and at your leisure is a good idea. But, if an urn is needed at the time of death, the question to ask yourself is “how quickly do I actually need the urn?” It might be comforting to know it’s a decision you usually don’t have to rush into.

*Image: The Lighthouse - Cape Reinga can be found at http://bit.ly/1WuSbS6

Jerri Haaven is a freelance writer, and a certified Grief Recovery Specialist and Celebrant. When caring for her dad, who suffered from dementia and COPD, Jerri struggled with the negative side effects of his illness. She developed positive outlets to express herself and recover from her loss. Today as a certified Grief Recovery Specialist and Celebrant, she uses her skills to help people who are in the midst of their own personal story of grief and loss.

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