Here are some thoughts on the question, ‘Should a couple’s remains be commingled?’
Can two people’s ashes be mixed together?
Yes. Mixing ashes is a common process known as “commingling.” Commingling means that the couple’s cremated remains are mixed, or “mingled” together in an urn, most often a companion urn.
How to commingle ashes
There are two options for combining the ashes of two people. For most people, it is the parents whose remains will be put together so that is the example we will use.
Funeral home. Ask the funeral home to do it for you. When the cremation process is complete, bring in the companion urn along with the first parent’s remains. The funeral director or staff will then combine the ashes, filling the cremation urn and returning it to you within a few minutes.
Do it yourself. If you’re comfortable handling the remains, it’s simple enough to do at home. Here’s how:
- Lay down a plastic sheet or some newspaper on your kitchen table.
- Prepare the companion urn by opening it.
- Open the first urn and remove the plastic bag that holds the first person’s cremated remains.
- Repeat the process for the second urn and the second set of remains.
- The bags are typically twisted closed with a twist tie. Remove and open each bag.
- Pour one bag into the other, or pour both sets of remains into a third, larger bag.
- Twist tie it closed and place the bag into the companion urn.
- Close the urn and display it in memory of your loved ones.
Many companion urns will include a 2 gallon plastic bag; if not, you may want to get a large, sturdy plastic bag with at least 400 cubic inch capacity (1.75 gallons).
Usually the plastic bag from one parent’s remains will be large enough to hold both, so you may not need another.
However, as every crematorium is different and may not provide large bags, it’s best to be prepared.
Is it common to mix or commingle cremated remains?
Yes, the remains of two people are frequently commingled in a single companion urn.
Most companion urns are designed with a single opening, which allows you to commingle the ashes in a single sealed plastic bag inside the urn.
However, some families do choose to keep the remains separate within the urn. To do so, simply place the remains of each person individually (using separate plastic bags) inside the urn. That way, they are “together” in the urn, yet their remains are still distinctly identifiable.
Should a couple’s remains be commingled?
Commingling is usually a matter of the personal preference of the couple. If you are a family member in charge of handling the funeral and disposition arrangements, be sure to check the couple’s will to see if they had particular instructions regarding the mixing of their ashes.
When an individual’s remains come to you from the crematorium, in most cases they will be inside a durable plastic bag which will be placed inside a plastic or cardboard “temporary urn,” an inexpensive container provided by the crematory or funeral home.
To transfer remains, we recommend simply taking the plastic bag out of the temporary urn and placing it inside the permanent urn.
Do remains have to be commingled in a companion urn?
No. Again, this is a matter of personal preference. Here are the two most common methods of inurning a couple’s remains:
- Simple: In the case of a companion urn, we generally advise placing each of the two individual’s plastic bags of ashes into the urn side by side. This is the easiest way to combine two people’s remains into a companion urn. In this case, the couple’s remains are together inside the urn, but are not commingled.
- Commingled: However, if the couple requested their ashes to be commingled, or if the family decided that commingling was the best expression of the couple’s love, then the easiest way to commingle and inurn the ashes is to open one plastic bag and pour the contents of the second into the first. Then you can place the newly mixed ashes into the companion urn for permanent storage.
Is it illegal to mix ashes?
No, it is not illegal to mix the ashes of two people. Commingling remains is both legal and common practice.
However, you will certainly want to be respectful and only combine the cremains if the two individuals would have welcomed it.
Some religions specify how cremated remains should be handled.
For instance, the commingling of cremated remains is not part of the Roman Catholic tradition for inurnment; a separation inside the container must be maintained. From Catholic News Herald:
Since the human body was the temple of the Holy Spirit during life, was fed at the Eucharistic table, and will share in the bodily resurrection, contemporary cultural practices like scattering the cremated remains over water or from the air or keeping the cremated remains at home are not considered reverent forms of disposition that the Church requires.
Other practices such as commingling cremated remains or dividing up cremated remains among family members or friends are not acceptable for Catholics.
For more information on Catholic practice, see Can Catholics Be Cremated? Cremation & The Catholic Church.