Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy, but luckily, there are simple ways to choose a cremation urn. We’ll make it easier for you to choose a cremation urn that will be perfect for your newly departed.

Key points

Before choosing a cremation urn, there are three important factors to consider. They are: 

    1. Cubic inches – i.e. how much ash (cremains) does the urn need to hold? Bodyweight before death determines the amount of ash to store. So 1 pound = 1 cubic inch.
    2. Height, width & depth – i.e. most niche, vault and columbarium spaces have size limits, so check first.
    3. Purpose – i.e. is the urn intended for permanent display, ground burial, water burial or green burial? The answer determines what urn material type is the best choice.

What size cremation urn do I need? 

Cremation urn sizes range from:

  • tiny keepsake urns that hold three tablespoons of ash;
  • up to extra-large adult funeral urns that hold 250 cubic inches of cremains; and
  • double urns that hold 400 cubic inches of ash.
Urn Size Chart
Your loved one’s weight before death determines the cubic volume (cubic inches or litres) needed to hold their ashes.  The rule of thumb formula is 1 pound bodyweight = 1 cubic inch of cremains (ashes).


Which urn material type is best?

Cremation urns are made from either cold resin, metal, wood, ceramic, stone, marble, faux marble, eco-friendly compounds or biodegradable elements. Which material type is best depends on what you plan to do with your departed loved one’s ashes.

For the majority, the final resting place for a loved one’s ashes is within a cremation urn on display at home. Likewise, many place their loved one’s funeral urn in a cemetery niche or vault. In contrast, others opt to bury the urn at home or in a cemetery while others set the urn afloat at sea or in a lake. Similarly, scattering a loved one’s ashes over land or at sea is another popular alternative. Therefore, matching the urn material type with the purpose ensures a successful outcome. Also, human ashes are heavier than most people expect. On average, cremains can weigh over six pounds (3-kilograms). So, urn strength plays a role too.

Display the ashes at home

When displaying a cremation urn at home, all urn material types are suitable except for some biodegradable compounds. Eco-friendly biodegradable elements, by design, break down. So for display urns that need to stand the test of time, aim for a durable material with a finish that won’t fade, tarnish or scratch.
The best material type for display urns includes cold resin, metal, wood, ceramic, stone, marble, or faux marble.

Couple looking at cremation urn on a shelf.

Ground burial at home or in a cemetery

Many people bury a departed loved one’s ashes in a cremation urn at home or in a cemetery. In either case, choose an urn made from metal, wood, marble, ceramic, or biodegradable material.  However, some cemeteries discourage using biodegradable urns because of ground sinking. Meaning after the buried urn breaks down, the soil above drops causing unsightly divets on the surface.
The best material choices for ground burial urns include metal, wood, ceramic, stone, marble, or faux marble.

Water burial

Water burials are more popular than ever.  As a result, the choice of beautiful water burial urns is growing every day. Specifically, look for water urns that float for 5 -20 minutes before slipping underwater to dissolve, leaving no trace.
The best material types for water burial urns includes sustainably produced paper and natural binding agents that leave no harmful residue after dissolving.

Can I supply my own cremation urn?

The short answer is yes. No regulations govern what defines a cremation urn; therefore, nothing is stopping you making your own, or buying online. Plus, the Funeral Industry Practices Rule prevents funeral homes and cemeteries from pressuring customers into buying or selecting specific products or services.  In short, a funeral home, crematorium or cemetery cannot refuse burial or cremation if you choose to supply your own coffin or cremation urn.

Is renting a cremation urn an option?

If you don’t mind the thought of cremation urn recycling, renting a cremation urn for the funeral service might prove a convenient alternative. Hiring an urn can take the pressure off – especially when time is of the essence. Plus you avoid expedited shipping charges. Then once the service is over,  you can take your time shopping online for the perfect cremation urn.


4 Important urn buying questions

Ultimately, four questions are all you need to ask before buying a cremation urn online. They are:

  1. Will the cremation urn hold all the ashes?
  2. Are there any height, width and depth restrictions I need to consider?
  3. Is the cremation urn made from the best material to suit my purpose?
  4. Do I love the color and style? 


Make the experience of choosing a cremation urn a beautiful part of saying goodbye. Trust yourself to make the right online buying decision. Have faith your departed loved one will approve of your choice.