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How Deep to Bury an Urn

If you’re considering burying an urn, you should make sure that you’re burying the urn deep enough that it’ll remain secure and intact over the foreseeable future. Many cemeteries have their own guidelines when it comes to urn burials, but if you’re burying an urn on your own it’s good to know what the common expectations are.

How deep should you bury an urn?

The depth at which you bury an urn can depend on the location that you’re burying the urn and the regulations of the cemetery where you’re burying the urn. If you’re burying an urn at a cemetery, you should speak with the cemetery staff about their rules and regulations. Some cemeteries require that you purchase a burial vault to bury an urn, which is usually at least $1,000.

If you’re burying the urn in your backyard or on your own property, the general rule of thumb is to bury the urn at least 3 feet deep. If that’s not possible, you should ensure that there is at least 6 to 12 inches of soil covering the urn. When in doubt, 36 inches (3 feet) deep is a safe bet.

Purchase an urn

Where can I buy an urn?

You can usually purchase an urn from the funeral home you’re working with, directly from a manufacturer, or from an online marketplace. Purchasing an urn online is not only cheaper, it also gives you access to a lot more choices and variety. An urn will usually cost at least $75, but it’s possible to find standard urns for cheaper if you purchase online.

Purchase an urn

Can you bury cremated remains in your backyard?

It is acceptable to bury cremated remains on private property (with permission, of course), and this includes one’s backyard. In terms of burying remains on public land, you’ll need to look up your state’s laws. Each state has its own laws regarding burial and cremations. Many people choose to bury cremated remains in their backyard because it keeps the remains of their loved one in close proximity. Burying cremains in your backyard is also a way to save on burial costs, since it doesn’t cost anything. Additionally, the close proximity of the cremains makes it easy for any family members visiting your house to be able to visit the spot where the cremains are buried. Lastly, burying cremated remains in your backyard is a great way to ensure that the burial site is kept up to the standards you want it maintained at. (If you don’t think this is a concern, just do a quick Google search of cemeteries near you and read the reviews! Many cemeteries fail to maintain the integrity and appearance of gravesites, leaving families dismayed and in a tough spot.)

The downsides to burying remains in your backyard come into play when you consider selling the property. You’ll want to chat with your real estate agent about this, but you may need to disclose the fact that you buried cremains in the backyard. Additionally, if you sell the property, you’ll no longer be able to visit the burial site.

Holding a ceremony for burying the ashes

First and foremost, there’s no single “right way” to hold a ceremony when burying someone’s ashes. There are aspects of burying ashes that are popular or frequently done, but you should always keep in mind that you can customize your ceremony to your liking, or to your loved one’s liking. In general, here are some aspects you’ll want to think about when planning a burial ceremony for ashes, especially if you’re doing so on private property.

Will there be speakers?

Asking close family members, friends, important figures, or religious leaders to speak at a burial ceremony is not uncommon. You may want to consider asking a few readers to share a story, short reading, passage, or poem at the ceremony. You’ll want to approach them with this request and ensure they’re comfortable reading in front of an audience. If it’s a religious leader or important figure, the more advance notice, the better.

What type of event will it be? What’s the tone of the event?

Considering the tone of the event will influence not only the formality, but will also influence the mood of the audience. If you’re hoping for a more formal, somber event meant to honor the deceased, you’ll want to let attendees know what to expect. In comparison, if it’s a celebration of life and folks should dress informally or more casually, it’s a good idea to let them know. Celebrations of life typically involve a more joyful or uplifting type of mood and ceremony compared to a traditional memorial event.

Will you hold the ceremony near the burial site or elsewhere?

If you have a large number of people who’d like to attend the burial ceremony, and you’re burying the ashes on private property or in a backyard, you’ll want to consider the logistics of inviting that many people over. (This includes things like parking, seating, restrooms, food, social distancing, etc.) If the amount of attendees is too large, you can consider renting out a public venue for the celebration of life or memorial service and doing the actual burying of the urn privately, at a later time.

Will the event be private? How many people will you invite?

Consider requesting RSVPs if you’re hosting a larger event or are expecting those invited to bring others with them. If it’s a private event on private property, you’ll want to keep track of your RSVP list and let attendees know that the event is private. Looking for a quick and easy way to keep track of RSVPs? You can set up a memorial website to post events and keep track of RSVPs, easily. You’ll be able to easily message those attending any time you have updates or news to share.

Do you want to hold a reception afterwards?

Receptions are typically held after a funeral service occurs and are meant to give the family and friends of the deceased time to connect and support one another, usually over food and drinks. If you do want to hold a reception but aren't sure you're able to afford the food and drinks, you can always reach out to your friends and family and ask that they bring a dish or item to the reception to help out. Many of them will be more than glad to help and looking for ways they can support you during such a difficult time.

Create a memorial website

What preparations will need to take place before the burial ceremony?

If you’re burying the urn in your backyard, you’ll need to make sure that the spot you’re choosing to dig is safe to place the urn in. You should always contact your local gas and electric department before digging, since you run the risk of hitting an electrical or gas line, depending on where you dig. It’s also a good idea to consider the integrity of the ground you’re burying the urn in. Will it be able to withstand wear and tear? Is it softer earth compared to more rigid?

How will the site be marked or commemorated?

Consider the possibility of leaving markers around the burial site, especially if it’s on private property. Families can come up with creative and unique ways to memorialize the spot where an urn was buried. Some ideas include placing a plaque, building a bench, building a walk path, designing a rock garden, planting a regular garden, or planting a tree. If you’re interested, consider adding a grave marker to the spot to officially commemorate the burial site. Grave markers are sleek and smaller than headstones and they lie flat on the ground.

How much does it cost to bury cremated ashes?

Even though an urn is much smaller than a casket, cemeteries will still charge you to bury an urn in a burial plot. The price will change depending on location and whether you’re burying the urn in a public or private cemetery plot. In general, private cemetery plots are more expensive than public cemetery plots.

On average, you should expect to pay around $350 - $500 to bury cremated remains in a public cemetery.

In comparison, you should expect to pay around $1,000 - $2,500+ to bury cremated remains in a private cemetery.

You’ll want to contact the cemetery you’re thinking of purchasing a plot from and ask them about their burial plot prices. You should also keep in mind that your loved one may have already pre-purchased a plot, which will save you this expense.

Find a cemetery

Can you bury an urn on top of a casket?

In general, you should usually be able to bury an urn on top of a casket, or in the space next to the casket if there’s room. This should always be discussed with the cemetery where you’re burying the urn to ensure that this doesn’t violate any of their rules and regulations. Burying an urn on top of a casket is a way to keep two people together who chose two different methods of disposition.

Purchase an urn

If you’re interested in having an urn buried at a private or public cemetery, you may find yourself in need of funeral funds to cover the cemetery’s burial costs. You can find assistance in the form of donations from your friends, family, and community by starting up a funeral fundraiser. Many members of an individual’s community actively search for ways they can support their loved one during their time of need and are happy to help cover the costs of unexpected funeral expenses. Funeral fundraisers are easy to set up, easy to share, and will help you get the funds you need when you need them.

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Last updated June 15, 2022
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