An Urn is recommended but not required. Urns come in many shape and forms and are made from different materials.
How to select an urn
Choosing an urn can seem overwhelming. The aren’t the sort of item most people encounter in daily life. If you begin your search online, it can be a shock to discover how many varieties there are.
Fortunately, this decision doesn’t usually need to be made in a hurry – even if you are planning for a wake, you may be able to rent a display urn. Then, you can browse all you like, take your time and ensure you make the right choice. If you are really struggling, you can even have a family member or friend lend a helping hand. Whether you doing your own planning, or selecting an urn to hold the ashes of a loved one, the decision can wait until you feel ready.
Urns come in many themes, styles and shapes. You could select a keepsake urn to display on the mantelpiece, a religious vessel to be interred in a crypt, or a biodegradable box made of paper and designed to be used when scattering ashes at sea. The choices are limited only by your imagination.
The various urn styles can be made of almost infinite materials, including metal, ceramic, wood, paper, glass and marble. Today, we will look three popular materials: wood, metal and stone. All are durable and long-lasting and make for a good choice. But, before getting to materials, let’s look at some basic things to consider when selecting any urn.
Some basic urn considerations:
1. Purpose: The first thing to think about is what you want to do with the urn. The basic options are display, scattering and internment. To put it another way, your decision will depend on whether you want to display the ashes at home, scatter them, bury them, or do some combination of all three.
2. Size: Another key consideration is the size of the urn. A standard model is based on the Cremation Association of North America’s standard of 200 cubic inches, or 6.8 pints.
If your loved one was particularly large, you might need to consider buying something larger. Generally, you need one cubic inch per pound of a person’s total weight.
The shape of the urn will depend on its purpose. Smaller versions, also called keepsake urns, are available, along with urns sized for pets.
3. Cost: As with most products, the price of an urn can vary greatly. The total will depend on what you purchase. However, a basic urn can cost anywhere from $10 to $5,000 on up.
4. Who will fill the urn? Filling an urn is usually simple, and it can be therapeutic. Still, many people want to avoid the process. Usually, the funeral professional will do it for you, or sometimes you can mail the ashes to the urn vendor. But, if you are comfortable with the idea, you may want to see if a loved one is willing to help you. For some, the process is therapeutic and comforting.
These basic considerations will help you narrow down your selection, but the materials used to make the urn are also important. The choice of material often comes down to budget and personal taste, but there are a few things worth keeping in mind. Let’s take a look…
Urns can be made of almost any wood imaginable, but the most common include cherry, maple, pine, oak, poplar and walnut. Exotic hardwoods such as zebrawood and mahogany are also popular. The wood can then be stained, adorned with inlays, or laser-etched; many are reminiscent of jewelry or cigar boxes. They are often hand assembled by master carpenters and woodworkers.
They may be basic and biodegradable, or detailed, extravagant creations, and the natural wood grain means no two are exactly alike.
Keep in mind that a wooden urn may degrade over a long period. If you are planning to bury the ashes, you may want to check with the cemetery or mausoleum. Most will not accept a wooden urn.
A variety of metals can be used in urn-making. Bronze is the most popular, but brass, copper and pewter urns are also available. These materials can be lacquered, decorated with cloisonné, and then displayed at home, but metal urns are also used for burial.
Discount urns are becoming increasingly popular. These are often made of cast bronze. Don’t be put off by the term “discount”. Many are tasteful and timeless, and you would never know they were lower-cost options.
A ceramic, or clay, urn is usually made from porcelain, stoneware, or earthenware which has been shaped or molded and then treated in a special kiln. This style can be incredibly fragile. Hand-painted decorations are common, and the cost can be extraordinarily high.
The oldest urns known to exist are made of ceramic; examples have been found dating all the way back to the Stone Age. The forming and firing of the clay means each piece will be unique, and models are available in almost every color imaginable.
If you can imagine a particular style, it is probably already available for purchase. Far from the typical metal vase on the mantelpiece, today there are unique options to suit every taste:
• A religious urn features images or words depicting the various sacred traditions. These embellishments can be painted, etched, drawn or even burned in.
• Companion urns allow a loving couple to remain together after death, with one or two compartments to hold the ashes.
• Infant urns provide great comfort to families who have suffered the loss of a child; these may feature a photograph of the child.
• Sports urns are great for a person who always followed their favorite team
• Military urns pay tribute to veterans.
Urns made of decorative blown glass are increasingly common. Even special jewelry with compartments is available, so you can always keep a part of your loved one nearby.
Choosing an urn shouldn’t be scary. No matter what you and your loved one’s interests are, no matter what their final wishes were, and no matter your decorating style, you should be able to find a suitable piece. A custom urn is always an option, too. And don’t forget, if it’s too much right now, you can ask your funeral director or loved ones for assistance, or wait until some time has passed.
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