Advice From Funeral Celebrants

Permanent Placement Options for Cremated Remains

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After receiving the cremated remains of a loved one, you have many options. You can keep cremains in a beautiful cremation urn at home. You can scatter ashes in places of special meaning. You can turn cremated remains into pieces of art or jewelry.

While all good options, they lack a certain level of permanence. Future generations might want to be able to visit a spot where they can find the remains of their ancestors.

Chester French Stewart, chairman of French Funerals and Cremation in Albuquerque, tells the story of a young woman who flew from New York to New Mexico to visit the grave of her grandfather. However, Grandpa had been cremated and the remains scattered in the mountains with no record of the exact spot.

Stewart said, “She began weeping and said, ‘How could you do such a thing?’ We’ve found over the years that when people don’t have a permanent place of remembrance to visit, they often regret it.”

“While they’re honoring the request of the person who died, I usually tell people it’s worth thinking about taking at least a part of the cremated remains and putting them in a permanent place to visit,” Stewart explained. “Often, it skips a generation; it’s not so much the kids that are interested, but the grandkids who are trying to find their roots.”

For those who want to give cremated remains a permanent resting place, here are a few options to consider.

Burying a Cremation Urn
Image provided by disneyite.

Earth Burial
Cemeteries are responding to the rising cremation rate by creating burial plots specifically for cremated remains. Smaller in size than a full body burial plot, they are also lower in cost. Most cemeteries that offer perpetual care will require a burial vault for cremated remains in addition to the container holding the ashes.

The depth of a cremains plot is not as deep, generally three to four feet. The cemetery’s fee for opening and closing a grave would also be less, some charging half the cost of a full body burial.

A columbarium (columbaria in the plural) is a structure for the storage of urns holding cremated remains. The term comes from the Latin columba, which means dove, a reference to dovecotes, the compartmentalized housing for doves and pigeons.

In a cemetery, you might find a wall with cremated remains placed within niches, and memorial information carved into the cover of the opening. Columbaria may also be part of a cemetery’s mausoleum or found within a church.

Placement with Pet Ashes
Many families regard their pets as members of the family and a growing number of people want to be buried with their pets. Some funeral directors will look the other way if a person wants the cremated remains of a pet put into a casket with the deceased. While most cemeteries do not allow burial of people and pets, a few places provide a permanent resting place for cremated remains of humans and their beloved animal companions.

People and pet combination cemeteries are few and far between in the U.S. Best Friends Forever in Albuquerque is the only cemetery in the Southwest to accommodate side-by-side cremated remains burial or columbarium placement. Hillcrest Memorial Park People and Pet Gardens in Hermitage, Pennsylvania offers whole body burial for people with their pets in the same or adjacent lots.

Scattering Gardens
Many cemeteries have scattering gardens with flowerbeds, shrubs and trees. These provide a dedicated place to scatter ashes and still give families a place to visit and reflect. Some cemeteries give families the option of inscribing their loved one’s name, date of birth and date of death on a nearby memorial wall or monument. Learn more in our podcast about scattering ashes.

Underwater Placement
For those who love the ocean, a creative permanent placement is to become part of a memorial reef. Eternal Reefs creates living environmental memorials with cremated remains mixed into concrete reef structures placed in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Families can participate in casting, viewing and dedication ceremonies for specific reef development projects. Scuba enthusiasts can then visit the remains of loved ones as the reefs grow and develop, supporting healthy ocean life.

All of these options provide a permanent site for family members to seek out the cremated remains of their forebears in the near and distant future.

Gail Rubin is The Doyenne of Death™ and author of The Family Plot Blog and the award-winning book A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. Visit her website, Her google profile.


  1. My sister passed away and was cremated. Her son has asked me to help him find a suitable urn for her ashes.

    He really wanted an urn with a pineapple painted on it or in the shape of a pineapple, but I don’t see anything like that. If you have anything or can have something special made let me know.

    • Hi Judy,

      We can engrave anything you like on Wood, Brass and Marble. Give us a call.

      Susan Fraser
      800 757 3488

  2. Johanna gajda Reply

    I was wondering if there was any law of cemeteries that would not allow you just to place the cremated ashes of a loved one in side a full body fault. The vault has been paid for for and the ashes are in a small leather box. Is there any reason why you just can’t place that leather box of ashes inside a full body fault ??? It will save the family so much money
    We live in Michigan


    • Hello Johanna,

      This is something that you would have to ask the cemetery that you are planning on using. Each cemetery has their own rules and regulations to follow. As far as a law against doing so, it is not one I have heard of, but again this is something specific to each cemetery. If you would like, give us the name of the cemetery and city in Michigan that you are planning on using and we can further research the matter for you.

  3. Cynthia Bickett Reply

    We want to bury my son’s ashes in the plot where his father was buried. There isn’t 3 ft of clearance so what do we do? If the headstone were to be placed over the Urn and it was only 2 ft deep, would that be acceptable?

  4. Doreen Dixon Reply

    Hello. My 22 year old son’s ashes are in a Catholic cemetary in a wall niche. Since he was in an auto accident and I was in terrible shock (not in good frame of mind) I agreed to having his ashes put there. I live in another state and it’s hard for me to get there to visit him. I feel so disconnected since I have no family at that cemetary. What are my legal rights as his mother to take them from there and is that possible?

    Thank you.

    • Hello Doreen,

      I am very sorry for your loss. As far as your legal rights go you should not have any issue with contacting the cemetery where your son’s ashes are and requesting to have them. There may be a charge for accessing the niche and ashes depending on the cemetery and what their standards are, but legally those ashes are your right to have.

      I hope this was helpful.

      Best of wishes,
      Susan Fraser

  5. Rochelle Emmanuel Reply

    I’ve had my Great Great Aunts Ashes for 15 years. Lately I’ve been wanting to spread her Ashes in my garden. Will this be appropriate especially when It cones to watering etc.

    • Hello Rochelle,
      No worries, you can safely spread your grandmothers ashes in your garden as long as you are the property owner. If you are not the property owner you would just need to get permission from the owner before hand, this can be either in written or verbal form. Watering the garden after the ashes are spread wont be an issue either. Once a human body has been cremated, it is no longer considered a health risk when it comes to scattering. There is also the option of placing her in an urn suitable for the outdoors, if you decide against spreading her cremains. Our traditional cut marble, granite and brass urns make great outdoor urns and can withstand harsh weather conditions,

      Susan Fraser

  6. Gary Foster Reply

    My dad recently passed away and he was a veteran. His ashes are being stored by a local funeral home in an urn that will also have my mother’s ashes placed when she passes away. Are there any rules that prevent a headstone with date of birth and death of my dad being placed on the designated burial spot at the cemetery, even though he has not been interred there just yet? Also, will the VA permit a marker to be placed on the grave if he is not interred there yet? Thanks for your help!

    • Hello Gary,

      Great question! If you have purchased a plot, I suggest you contact your local funeral home for their rules and regulations. What type of funeral home is your dad staying at? Headstones do not always mark the place of a burial, they have other uses too. If they are being buried in a private cemetery, you would be responsible for all placement costs while national and military base cemeteries will set the marker at no cost. If you have not found an urn for either member, I would suggest marble because it is suitable for being underground.

      Susan Fraser

  7. Mary Kaylor Reply

    My daughter just passed on 11/20 in Troy Michigan. Are there any cemeteries in the area that have a scattering garden?
    Thank you

    • Hello Mary, there are plenty of options when it comes to scattering your loved ones ashes and many cemeteries do offer scattering gardens. I would suggest checking out some of these located in the Troy Michigan area; White Chapel Memorial Cemetery, Crooks Road Cemetery and Troy Union Corners Cemetery. Also, don’t forget to always check in with each cemetery when when it comes to burial or the scattering of cremains because each cemetery has its own regulations.

      Susan Fraser

  8. I appreciate you talking about how some people choose to be buried with their pets. It is interesting to know that a funeral home could help you arrange this and hep you personalize your funeral. Personally, I would want to make sure I take my time to do some homework and compare a couple of location so I can find the one that can accommodate my burying preferences.

    • Hello John, yes i would definitely do some research first so you will always be aware of any rules or restrictions. If you ever need help deciding on which urn best fits certain restrictions please give us a call and we can help you with that. 1(800)757-3488

      Thank you

  9. I would like to put the ashes of a relative on the coffin of another relative (both adults). I would like the askes to remain in the wooden box. I do not want the urn to be down at the feet. Is there a way of positioning the box urn in the coffin with the body but not at the feet?

    • Hello Celia, in that situation i would suggest purchasing a long narrow urn so it could lay beside the person. If you need help picking one out please feel free to give us a call and we can assist you 1(800)757-3488

      Thank you

    • Michael Boone Reply

      Hello, I lost my son a few years ago and he was creamated and ashes are in urn at my home and would like my son’s ashes put in my casket when I pass away, do you know. If that is possiible, I am asking because I read your article just now. Thanks

      • Hello Michael,
        You can have your sons cremains placed in your casket when you pass. I would consider pre-planning with the cemetery you wish to be buried at and take in consideration the size of the casket needed as well as the size of your sons urn when it comes to the placement in the casket. Hopefully this helps, and you can always call and speak to one our memorial specialists as well, 800-757-3488.

        Susan Fraser

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