How to Choose an Urn for Your Loved One's Ashes


By Emma Castleberry

A decision often associated with cremation is choosing an urn that will hold the ashes or cremains of your loved one. While some people choose to have their ashes scattered after cremation, others choose to remain with their family in an urn or have their ashes buried in an urn.

While the word “urn” has come to mean any container that contains the ashes of a cremated person, the typical shape for an urn is rounded with a tapered base and a stem neck. Contemporary urns can take a variety of different shapes, styles, colors and sizes.

Choosing an urn, like all decisions associated with death and the celebration of a life, can be overwhelming and sometimes complicated. Here is a guide to help with choosing and purchasing an urn for your loved one’s ashes.

Factors to Consider

There are three primary factors to consider when choosing an urn:

  1. Size
  2. Material
  3. Style

While your choice of material and style will be a matter of personal taste, the size of your urn will depend on a number of other factors.

How to Choose an Appropriately Sized Urn

Determining urn size requires knowledge of the cremated person’s weight upon death as well as knowledge of the urn categories available to you. A common rule of thumb is that you need a cubic inch of space within the urn for every pound of weight before cremation.

Urns usually come in four sizes: adult, keepsake, child and companion. An adult urn is sized to hold a person who weighed between 180 and 200 pounds upon their cremation. A keepsake urn is designed to hold just a small part of the person’s ashes, often used to spread the ashes among family members or different places. Child urns are larger than keepsake urns but smaller than adult urns—sized to fit a child’s cremains. Companion urns provide a vessel for two people who wished to be urned together, such as a married couple. These are larger and can usually hold the resulting ashes of a combined weight of 300 pounds before cremation.

Of course, when choosing urn size, it is better to be cautious and end up with a little too much space than not enough. Additionally, considering where you will put the urn might impact the size: ensure that the dimensions of the urn will fit in that space.

Choosing the Right Material For An Urn

Urns can be made of mostly any material, which can make this decision daunting. Ceramic or metal urns are more traditional, but urns are also available in glass, wood and stone.

When choosing the material for an urn, it’s important to consider where the urn will be placed after the funeral and/or memorial is over. If, for instance, the urn will be on a low shelf in a house with children and pets, it might be best to choose a durable material like aluminum or brass that can withstand bumps and falls. If you plan to bury the urn, there are a variety of biodegradeable urns available, as well. Cost will also be a factor when choosing the urn material.

Style and Design Choices for an Urn

The style of the urn can be deeply personalized. Custom-made urns, while expensive, allow loved ones to create any shape and design they wish. Artists can engrave messages on an urn, paint or tile an urn and even add photos, plaques and other memorabilia to the urn design.

All style choices will come at an additional cost.

Choose the Urn That’s Right For You

For those of us who will keep our loved one’s ashes, an urn is an investment. It is worth spending a little extra money now to ensure that your urn is durable, long-lasting and pays proper tribute to your loved one.

Contact Us

6051 East Seven Mile Road,
Detroit, MI
(East of Mound Road)

Direct Line: 313-893-1880
Fax: 313-891-1758

Hutchison Funeral Home

6051 East Seven Mile Road,

Detroit, MI 48234

Phone. 313-893-1880