A Guide to the Perfect Urn

Choosing, Handling, and Displaying a Memorial for Your Loved One

Choosing the right urn can be a challenging process. Whether you’re looking for a small keepsake memorial or a full-sized urn, there are many options available to you. This guide will help you understand those options so you can select the perfect urn.

Selecting an Urn

When selecting an urn for your loved one, there are a variety of factors to consider, including size, style, and quantity. This urn will act as a vessel and memorial, so don’t be afraid to be specific with your needs and desires.


Urns come in a variety of sizes, grouped into four main categories: adult, keepsake, child, and companion. The size of your urn will depend on both the weight of your loved one prior to cremation, and the intended purpose of the vessel.

Adult urns Typically hold the cremains of a loved one weighing up to 180-200 lbs prior to cremation.
Keepsake urns (also known as sharing urns) Made to hold a small portion of cremains – usually around 2-3 cubic inches. These urns are ideal if you wish to share your loved one’s cremains with several family members, or if you prefer to cherish a small portion and spread the remainder of the cremains in a special location.
Child urns Smaller than adult urns, and come in a variety of sizes. They are usually larger than a keepsake urn.
Companion urns Intended to hold the cremains of more than one person. The capacity may vary, but most companion urns are capable of holding the cremains of loved ones totaling 300+ pounds prior to cremation.

How Do You Choose the Correct Size?

urn-sizeWhen selecting an urn, make sure to allow at least 1 cubic inch of space for every 1 lb of weight prior to cremation. This means that if your loved one weighed 150 lbs prior to cremation, you will need an urn with a capacity of at least 150 cubic inches.

If you wish to divide the cremains between vessels, simply make sure that the total capacity of the urns is equal to your loved one’s pre-cremation weight. If you’re concerned, try to err on the side of too much capacity – it’s better to have extra space than to not have enough.

Style and Material

urn-materialsWhen choosing an urn style, consider the type of vessel that would best match your loved one’s personality and interests. Urns can be made of almost any material, including ceramic, glass, metal, wood, stone, or even a mixture. This means you have a wide array of options for your loved one’s memorial.

Traditional urns are typically made of metal or ceramic material. Although they all share a standard shape, these urns can come in variety of artistic styles. Another simple yet elegant option is the classic wooden box urn, which can be adorned with a plaque, a photo, or even a shadow box of meaningful items.

If you’re looking for a more artistic memorial, many options are available. Traditional urns can be painted, decorated, or engraved to add a personal touch. Urns can also be created in nearly any shape imaginable; you can either choose to purchase a pre-made artistic urn, or commission a fully custom piece to honor your loved one.




Some family members choose to place their loved one’s cremains in a single vessel, while others choose to share the cremains among multiple households. Keep this in mind during the urn selection process, as it can affect the size and style of the urn you choose.

Handling an Urn

Once you’ve purchased your urn, you will need to choose where to place it. Some families display the urn in a common room, while others prefer to locate the urn in a cemetery. Whatever you choose, it’s important to treat your urn with care.

Filling an Urn

urn-fillingFilling an urn is not typically a difficult process, but it should be done with care. Some funeral homes may offer to fill and seal your urn for you; however, you can easily do so yourself, if you prefer.

If your vessel is a traditional metal urn, or is otherwise sturdy and watertight, you can often place the cremains directly inside. Otherwise, you can place the cremains in a bag, which will then be held by the urn. This method is often preferred for urns which may break or spill if dropped.

With some exceptions, sealing an urn is typically permanent; before doing so, you should make absolutely sure that you will no longer want or need to access the cremains within. Although a few urns come with a screw-on lid, most urns can be sealed using an adhesive suitable for the type of material from which the urn is made.

Displaying an Urn

If you plan to display your urn, consider the location you will place it, as this may affect the type of urn you choose to purchase. If the urn is intended to go in a specific room, you may wish to choose an urn that matches that room’s color and theme. Likewise, if the urn will be placed in a high-traffic area, you may want to choose a more durable material, like metal or wood.

The size of your display space should also be taken into consideration. When selecting an urn, make sure that the length, width, and height of the vessel will fit in the space you have chosen, in addition to having enough capacity for your loved one. If you are placing the urn in a columbarium or cemetery niche, you may need to check with the facility to see if there are any specific size or material requirements.

Burying an Urn

Some families choose to bury an urn after filling it with their loved ones cremains. if you elect to do so, please be sure to check with the cemetery or funeral home to ensure that you meet any requirements for the types of urns that can be buried. A beautiful glass urn may be perfect for display, but won’t always be practical for a cemetery plot.

Spreading Ashes

In some cases, you may wish to keep a small portion of your loved one’s ashes in a keepsake urn, and spread the rest in a meaningful location. There are few to no regulations regarding spreading loved one’s cremains, but there are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  • If your preferred location is on private property, always ask the owner’s permission before scattering cremains.
  • Many state and federal parks have their own environmental regulations which must be followed. Depending on the park, you may be required to apply for a permit.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency has its own set of regulations for the burial of cremains at sea or in an inland body of water, which can be found on their official website.

A Note on Biodegradable Urns

If you wish to bury your loved one’s cremains, a biodegradable urn can be a great option. Once buried, these urns slowly fall apart, releasing your loved one’s ashes into the surrounding soil. Some biodegradable urns include the seed of a tree or other plant, which will grow as a memorial.

There are no restrictions regarding burying a biodegradable urn on your own property. However, if you wish to bury your urn in a cemetary, make sure to ask if biodegradable vessels are permitted.

Making Your Choice

choiceUltimately, the purpose of an urn is to act as a memorial and tribute to the loved one who will inhabit it. Whichever style, size, or material you choose, you should ensure that it reflects the personality of your loved one, and provides comfort to you and your family members.

If you have any questions or concerns about the process, or would like help selecting the right urn, please contact Une Belle Vie Memorial Urns at 303.867.7735 for more information.

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