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Transferring Ashes to an Urn

by J. Malec


Image by J. Malec

Losing a loved one comes with unexpected challenges, primarily the final disposition preference. If your loved one preferred to be cremated, you might feel overwhelmed trying to determine what to do with their ashes. In this article, we’ll explore your options once your loved one has been cremated and provide you with valuable information on transferring ashes to a memorial urn.

Transferring Ashes to an Urn: Three Options

  1. Have the funeral home or crematorium transfer the ashes to a cremation urn for you.
  2. Place the ashes directly into the cremation urn without removing them from the bag provided by the crematorium.
  3. Pour the ashes into a scattering urn, keepsake urn, or jewelry for ashes yourself.

What Services Do Funeral Homes or Crematoriums Provide?

There are a variety of urns available from a wide selection of vendors. Some people choose to have their urns sent directly to the funeral home or crematorium so that the crematorium staff can transfer the ashes. This service is offered by many crematoriums and can be a convenient option. However, some funeral homes prefer you purchase memorial urns directly from them.

Funeral homes and crematoriums have a selection of urns available, but you may decide to purchase your memorial urn online. The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule specifies that the funeral provider of your choosing cannot refuse to handle an urn you bought online, at a local store, or somewhere else. They also cannot charge you a fee to do so. If you are in the process of choosing an urn, you may find valuable information in our article: How Do I Select the Right Size Cremation Urn?

Transferring Ashes to an Urn Yourself

If you choose to transfer your loved one’s ashes yourself, you may do so without removing them from the original packaging provided by the funeral home or crematorium. Cremated remains will come from the facility in a thick polyethylene bag encased within a durable cardboard or plastic box. The box will be labeled for proper identification and will contain a certificate of cremation that must remain with the ashes. To transfer, you should open the box and remove the sealed bag of ashes. Place the sealed bag into the urn of your choosing.

If the bag containing the ashes is too large to fit into the urn, you may need to pour the ashes directly into your memorial urn. Not all urns are designed the same way. Box urns may be better equipped to hold an entire bag of ashes, or you can look for an urn with a wide opening. Some facilities provide wooden cremation urns as a temporary means to take home ashes.

If your urn has a small opening and does not have enough room to house the entire bag of ashes, the ashes must be poured in. Bottom-loading urns, for instance, have small openings that can be accessed by undoing the threaded cap. This small orifice may be too small for the bag to pass through, even if the urn’s capacity is large enough to contain all the ashes.

Pouring Ashes into an Urn of Your Choosing

jade marble cremation urn

Wooden cremation urn box

Stained glass cremation urn - bottom loaded






Some people wish to transfer the cremated ashes from the original sealed bag to a biodegradable urn, scattering urn, or urn for display. This process requires a little preparation. Once you have found the perfect urn, you will need a flat, level surface, a well-ventilated area without wind or bad lighting, and a funnel.

Cremation remains are not toxic and do not present any health hazards. In fact, the website Cremation Resource suggests that human ashes are considered a sanitary, natural substance. However, fine particulate matter should always be handled with care to avoid inhalation. Cremated ashes can vary in texture from a fine sandy powder to a gravelly texture. You may want to have a newspaper on hand to catch any stray ashes or fragments.

Pour the cremated ashes with great care. Once the transfer is complete, replace the lid to the urn and store it in a safe place until the scattering ceremony or memorial service.

If you are sharing nominal portions of ashes with members of your family or friends, the process of transferring ashes to an urn may be more difficult. Cremation jewelry usually includes funnels and transfer kits to lessen the possibility of spilling. Ashes can also be incorporated into art, including ceramic sculptures or fused glass. Confirm your commissioned artist's requirements or preferences for receiving cremated remains.

You can also ask a friend or family member to help. Everyone’s ashes are unique in chemical composition, and the texture or weight may vary from one person to the next. The process of transferring ashes may provide closure if you are in mourning or feel uncomfortable about performing this task alone. With the help of a friend or family member, you can create a ritual around the transfer that is conducive to the grieving process.

Choosing the Right Memorial Urn

A plethora of options exists in the world of cremation urns. Because you want to ensure that the urn you choose accurately reflects the tastes of your loved one while also staying within budget, the process can be fraught. Luckily, OneWorld Memorials offers a wide selection of high-quality cremation urns for ashes at a fraction of the cost you might expect to pay at a funeral home.

If cremation jewelry is your thing, we’ve got you covered. A beautiful necklace or piece of jewelry is a beautiful way to honor your lost loved one and share their ashes with close family and friends. Choose from our wide selection of pendants made from sterling silver, stainless steel and gold.

Environmentalists are easy to honor with a memorial tree urn. These unique urns are available with a variety of tree and urn options. For example, our Bios urns contain biodegradable urns with vermiculite, coco peat, instructions for planting and seeds to grow your tree of choice. Consider a bonsai tree urn if you’d like to keep your loved one nearby.

A memorial photo urn is ideal for displaying on a shelf or table in the home. Photo urns are available in several sizes and shades. In addition, using our engraving services, you can further personalize a memorial photo urn with a name and dates.

Whichever urn you choose, we hope you find exactly what you’re looking for at OneWorld Memorials. Contact a cremation specialist today for more information.

J. Malec is a visual artist and writer whose work often deals with themes related to loss and healing. She lives in Minneapolis, and spends much of her time practicing permaculture in the city.