How To Do An Ash Scattering Ceremony
How to plan a ceremony that’s meaningful (and legal)
Many will choose to be cremated after they die, leaving others unsure of what to do with the ashes. Luckily, you have plenty of options to choose from. You could put the ashes in keepsake jewelry or a beautiful cremation urn. But maybe your loved one had something different in mind: an ash scattering ceremony.
You might have a vision in your head of what ash scattering looks like. As with most things that involve death planning, there’s a lot more preparation involved than you might have anticipated.
Let’s start by defining what this process is. Scattering ashes is when you disperse cremated remains at a designated location. It’s often at a place that was meaningful to the person, like where they grew up or spent their free time.
Making end-of-life decisions can be tough, to say the least. To make it a little easier, we’re going to walk you through the process of planning an ash scattering ceremony. Here’s what you need to know:
Ask for Permission or Obtain Permits
Before your loved one passed, they might have told you where they’d like their ashes to be scattered. Maybe it’s near a childhood home, a public park, or a waterway. Regardless of the location, you must seek permission to spread ashes before doing so. Certain regulations may restrict you from scattering ashes in specific areas.
At national parks or public waterways, you may need to obtain a permit before you can scatter the ashes. We recommend that you contact the organization or corporation that owns the land to confirm.
Do you plan to scatter the ashes on a privately owned property? If so, be sure to obtain permission from the owner. Once you’ve contacted them and received their consent, you can move forward with your plans.
Check the Weather
Try to plan the day of the ceremony around the weather. You’ll want to avoid days with forecasted rain, snow, or heavy winds, as these conditions can interfere with the scattering process.
As you’re dispersing the ashes, make sure that you’re standing upwind. The direction of the wind will affect where the ashes go, so be sure to position yourself accordingly.
As you release the ashes, hold the container at waist height. This will reduce the chances that the ashes will fly into your face if the wind turns against you.
Here’s a common misconception about cremation ashes: That they actually look like ashes. Cremated remains more closely resemble sand than the ashes from a fire. Some ashes contain bone fragments, which may be sharp to the touch.
Cremated remains are also a bit heavier than most people expect. Ashes weigh ~3.5% of the deceased person’s original weight. If you’re scattering them with the wind, some of the contents may fall to the ground.
Planning the Ceremony
Now that the paperwork has been sorted out, the next step is planning the ceremony itself. Where should you disperse the remains? Your loved one may have designated a spot in their will, but if not, you have room to be creative. A few ways you can scatter ashes include:
This is a beautiful way to say goodbye to a loved one. You can scatter the ashes directly, or place them in a water-soluble urn. A biodegradable urn ensures that the container will not pollute the water.
With this ceremony, you can rake the ashes into the ground. You might do this in a garden or a patch of soil in a park. This is a special way to reconnect your loved one to a cherished location.
Using a small shovel, you can create a shallow hole in the ground to place the ashes. Then, smooth the dirt back over the ground. Some people also choose to plant a tree or bush in that spot. Consider placing an object to commemorate the spot, like a small statue.
You might also consider doing this at a beach. Dig the trench near the water, and watch as the waves slowly collect the cremated remains, returning them to the ocean. As with every method we’ve mentioned, it’s important to obtain the property owner’s permission before planning a trenching ceremony.
When you picture an ash scattering ceremony, this is probably what you imagine. You can give each person who attends the ceremony a portion of the ashes, so everyone can be part of the scattering service. Each person can then share a personal story or memory about the deceased when it’s their turn.We also suggest that you take a few photos of the location. This will help you commemorate the special day when you look back on it years later.
Scattering ashes is a deeply personal and meaningful way to say goodbye to someone you’ve lost. You can choose to scatter ashes during a funeral or after reading a eulogy. Before you plan the event, just remember to obtain permission from the property owner, and account for the weather conditions.
Adrian Martin is a writer based in Canada. She writes articles with a focus on mental health and funeral planning for a variety of businesses. Some of her favourite pieces can be found on Alterna Cremation’s website.