Ideas for urn burial

How to Bury an Urn

Last Updated on August 19, 2016

Final arrangements FAQWhen a loved one is cremated, there are many options available for honoring the life of the individual in the storage or disposition of the remains. These options can generally be distilled down to three basic choices, each of which will be discussed in its own post:

  1. Burial
  2. Scattering
  3. Storage

Click the link to view each option. Let’s begin with the first choice listed here, burial of a cremation urn.

How to Bury an Urn: Choose an Appropriate Urn

Cherry Wood Urn and Memory ChestWhen you receive the cremains (“cremated remains”) from the crematorium, they will usually be in a plastic bag which is inside a plastic or cardboard box, known as a temporary urn.

This cardboard or plastic temporary urn is perfectly suitable for ground burial, but you will want to be sure to honor your loved one in a fitting way, depending on the individual’s the the family’s wishes. Many people prefer the simplicity and affordability of simply burying the temporary urn, while others prefer to honor the life of a loved one with a beautiful cremation urn preserved in a burial vault, or with an eco-friendly biodegradable urn for an organic burial.

If you are planning on burying the urn in a funeral home plot, contact the curator before selecting an urn as they may have restrictions on which types of urns they allow, or if a burial vault is required.

How to Bury an Urn: Choose Location for Burial

How to Bury an UrnYour decision on where to bury your loved one will take into consideration the individual’s or the family’s wishes, cost and availability, and not least of all the departed one’s personality and individual style.

If you have decided to bury your loved one in a formal setting such as a funeral home cemetery, the funeral home director or curator will provide you with all information needed for burial and will most likely make all the arrangements for you, leaving you with a few simple options and minimal stress.

Other options include burying an urn at your own residence, for example in your backyard or on a relative’s ranch, or out  in the wilderness somewhere. Laws vary from state to state, and even from one county to the next, so contact the local authorities before proceeding. Many areas allow for scattering of remains but not burial, so please be sure to confirm with the city or county authorities.

How to Bury an Urn: Perform the Burial

Performing the Burial Service

Be sure to dig at least three feet deep for burying the urn. If you are burying the urn in a place where you are confident it will never be disturbed, a wood cremation urn is appropriate.

If you are burying an urn out in the wilderness somewhere, we would recommend a biodegradable urn.

Conduct a service appropriate for the memory of your loved one, then deposit the urn and cover it by re-filling the hole.

A closing suggestion: You would well-serve yourself and your family to make a record of the burial, as with the passage of time many details may become blurred in your memory. Be sure to include these details:

  • Where the urn was buried
  • When (day and time – either exact time or “sunset”)
  • Why you chose the location and/or time
  • Who was there
  • Any other pertinent details, such as Bible verses or poems read, who spoke or prayed, etc.


26 thoughts on “How to Bury an Urn”

  1. Cremation Urns Ashes

    Thanks for such a wonderful article and information. You are correct, Losing loved one is very sad news to every body. But keep their memories to store with cremation urns. It is a good idea also and our responsibility to keep the memories of our love one who expired.

  2. Kay Meadows Haycraft

    If your relative is already buried in a plot can ashes be buried with that relative.?

  3. Hi Kay,

    Yes, you can sometimes bury ashes in a plot along with a relative. It’s entirely up to the funeral home or cemetery where the relative is buried, so you will have to check with them.

  4. We want to move an oak urn that was buried 8 years ago, do you think any wood remains? Maybe the plastic box? Its in Iowa near the Minnesota border. Thanks.

  5. If the oak urn was directly buried with no burial vault, it may not be intact. The only way to know for sure, is to find it. If it was in a vault, most likely it will be able to be moved with no issue.

  6. I am in the procces of arranging to take my brothers ashes to Ireland to be buried with my mum, as that was his wish so that is where he will rest, Ireland was home to him, and I find this page so helpful as it is not an easy task to do so all the extra details and information has helped me a great deal. Thank you

  7. Pingback: What is Direct Cremation? » Urns | Online

  8. Hi Mia,

    Great question! It depends on several factors, mainly:
    (1) Where the body is buried (i.e., a cemetery or your private property?) and
    (2) Your state / county laws

    Here are a few links to help guide you:
    Relocating a Body –
    Changing Cemeteries After the Deceased Has Already Been Buried –
    Exhumation of the remains of a deceased person –

    I hope this helps!


  9. Can we (my brother and sister) bury my brothers ashes in our parents grave? My sister holds the deeds to the grave.

  10. Jackie,
    You will have to check with the cemetery. It should be allowed by law depending on depth, etc… but you may want to check your local and state laws before talking with the cemetery.

  11. Just a comment… My cousin was cremated and we buried her urn on top of her father’s grave…right about where his heart was. This was fitting and perfectly legal in Tennessee. I understand from a cemetary manager that two urns per grave, or two persons, is allowable under such circumstances. I plan to be buried in one grave along with my husband who I am now burying in an urn.

  12. I have a question if someone buried a urn in there you are and they move and the person that lives in the new home does not want them there can they be moved or dug up and gave back to a member of the family in Michigan?

  13. Hi Robin,

    Great question! My understanding is that there are no legal restrictions on the burial (or subsequent exhumation or “digging up”) of the cremated remains. Please note that I am not a lawyer and this does not constitute legal advice so you would be best served by contacting a lawyer about this. Definitely contact your lawyer before exhuming the remains if there are family members that are opposed to it.

    I hope this helps!

  14. Is it illegal in Kansas to bury the cremains yourself in a public cemetery next to the headstone of a loved one without the knowledge of a funeral home or cemetery association?

  15. Anonymous daughter

    I had the same question Cynthia did. I found out my father buried both my brother’s and my aunt’s cremains between his parents graves. he put the marker he got from the VA for my brother up by himself as well (there is no marker for my aunt). This is in WV in a public cemetery and I’m trying to find out if this is legal or not.

  16. Hi Anonymous Daughter,

    Interesting situation. Yes, it was probably not legal for that to be done. You’ll need to contact the manager of the property to find out what to do in your situation. Hope this helps!

  17. I want to bury my father’s remains on his property next to his mother and father. I have his ashes and a plastic weatherproof urn container. How long after burying can I put a marker on top? Should the marker be put in cement? What is the process for that?

  18. Hi Noreen,

    Great questions! I’d recommend speaking with someone at a cemetery or a monument company. They should be able to give you some guidance. For myself, I would probably set the marker in the undisturbed earth at the “head” of where you are burying the urn. In that case, you would be able to place the marker right away. If the marker is small, it would probably be ideal to set it in cement. If it is very large and heavy, then it would be up to your discretion. Again, that’s what I would do but for the best info contact a local professional!

  19. I live in Pa. and own a family grave site which will hold eight, four caskets and two Urns on either side of the head stone. I understand the depth dimension of an urn to be a minimum of 3 feet what is the length and width? My reason for asking is that I think the adjacent head stone to my plot, which has been recently installed, is too close to allow the burial of two urns even when stacked.

  20. Hi Fred,

    It will depend on the size of the urns. Some urns are larger, others are smaller. But typically urns are usually around 8″ x 6″ x 4″ at a minimum, and up to maybe about 16″ x 12″ x 12″ at a maximum. It will of course depend on the design and style of the urn, some are highly decorative but generally speaking you’ll have something in between those two measurements I gave. Hope this helps!

  21. Hi, We want to bury my father’s ashes, which are now in a small wooden box (8″ x 5″) next to my mother who was buried in a casket 23 years ago. There are 3 paces in the cemetery plot.
    But when I asked the caretaker what the fee was to dig the hole, he said $450. That seems a big much. When we could very well do it ourselves. Is that allowed in PA?

  22. Daniel Szczesniak

    Hi Ro,

    Great question! It would depend on the funeral home or cemetery, since each one is privately owned and has their own policies. They will certainly want to maintain an appropriate respect for the burial place of all decedents, and so out of courtesy to all the families who have loved ones buried there, they will probably want to complete the unearthing themselves using appropriate equipment. You can certainly ask if they’ll allow you to do the digging, but I wouldn’t expect them to say yes. Hope this helps!

  23. I just buried my son he was created and in a vault they put buried him where the marker should be placed should he be in front of a marker ?

  24. Daniel Szczesniak

    Hi Donna, the grave marker is placed in the same way for and urn with ashes as it is for a traditional casket – at the “head.” So the urn would be buried in front of the marker.

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