An Overview of Choosing and Buying Urns

An urn is a container that holds cremated remains. Urns are used if cremated remains will be buried or kept by family members. Urns are available in various materials, styles, and prices, and can be bought from funeral homes, crematories, online retailers, and other places.

Urn Styles

Urns are available in a wide variety of materials and with many different types of decorations. There are also a number of different styles that urns come in. The most common urn styles include:

  • Keepsake urn: A keepsake urn is a small urn that is used to contain a portion of the ashes, rather than all the ashes. If your ashes will be shared among multiple people, they may all use keepsake urns.
  • Companion urn: A companion urn is an urn used for containing the remains of two people, usually a husband and wife. Companion urns sometimes have two interior chambers so that the ashes can be next to each other but separated, and sometimes don’t have a divider so that the ashes can mix. Companion urns are generally large so that they can accommodate the remains of two people. 
  • Scattering urn: “Scattering urn” is a general term for urns that are used to hold cremated remains that will be scattered on land or sea. Some scattering urns are shaped like vials that can hold a portion of the remains so that everyone at the scattering can scatter some of the remains; some scattering urns are biodegradable containers or pouches that can be dropped into the ocean or buried in the ground, and will naturally decompose.

Purchasing an urn

Though you may purchase an urn before the cremation (so that the cremated remains are returned to you in the urn you’ve purchased), you may also take your time in purchasing an urn, as the crematory will provide an alternative container for you. You may also not purchase an urn, and use the crematory-provided container to hold the ashes. Be aware that in all likelihood the alternative container will be a cardboard box, and may even be marked "Temporary Container."

Personal advocacy

When shopping for an urn, remember that the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule guarantees that a funeral home or crematory may not refuse or charge a fee for using an urn you purchased elsewhere, including an urn you made yourself.

Urn costs

The cost of an urn is completely dependent on the style, design, and materials that you’d like. There are many different places where you can purchase an urn, and all will have a variety of different urns at different prices.

To learn more about purchasing an urn online, see our resource Guide: Purchasing an Urn.

Comments