How to Select an Urn


Families may want to think about the final resting place of a loved one's cremation urn before looking at urn styles. Will you scatter the ashes, bury the urn, or place it at home / in a niche? 

Scatter the Ashes

You may want to look at the choices in scattering urns or scattering tubes, water burial urns, or less expensive urns as the urn itself is only temporary.

Urn Burial

If you plan to have a permanent memorial in a cemetery -- in other words -- bury the urn, then you have a wide selection of cremation urns. Almost any urn can be placed in an urn vault and then buried. You may wish to check out cultured marble urns as they are especially popular for ground burial.

Placement at Home or in a Columbarium Niche

The style of the urn can become more important if you will have the urn 'on display’ at home. The dimensions of the urn are important if the urn will be placed in a columbarium niche.


Consider the capacity and dimensions.


The typical size needed is an Adult cremation urn. Adult size generally will hold the ashes of anyone who was 200-220 lbs. or less prior to cremation. Keepsake urns are for small amounts of ashes to be kept in remembrance. Extra large urns are available for very tall or larger framed individuals (over 6 feet tall).

To be more specific, the general guideline in the industry is that 1 lb. of weight prior to cremation equals 1 cubic inch of ashes. Thus, a person who weighed 180 lbs. prior to cremation would need an urn with a capacity of at least 180 cubic inches.


The actual dimensions of the urn -- height, width, diameter -- may be important. If you are using a niche in a church or columbarium, call ahead to find out the niche size before choosing your urn. Some columbariums have very compact niches, so we encourage you to find out the niche size before choosing an urn. Other columbariums have family niches -- like family cemetery plots -- with room for larger urns or multiple urns.

For those who need an urn for a compact niche, we often recommend rectangular urns such as our Niche Urn at 8.5 x 8.5 x 4 inches. Direct Cremation Services of Virginia recommends that you find out more specifics on the niche size before making a purchase.


Urns are made of materials from brass to wood to marble. Most people choose a cremation urn based on a “look” they like -- the traditional look of a brass urn, the warmth of a wood box, or the stately look of genuine marble.

If you are looking for a unique or artistic statement piece, check out our glass or ceramic urns. Choose marble or cultured marble if permanence is most important to you. Cultured marble is ideal for burial as it can be permanently marked with the person's info via engraving, and these urns often can be buried without the added expense of an urn vault. (Be sure to check with your cemetery first though).

Within the last twenty years, the selection of urns has expanded so that you have a wide range of styles from multicolored glass urns to aluminum urns dipped in popular camo patterns.

Traveling on a plane? Choose an urn of material that can be x-rayed (wood, paper, plastic or cultured marble). To maintain the highest level of security, Transportation Security Administration determined that documentation from a funeral home about the contents of a crematory container is no longer sufficient to allow the container through a security checkpoint and onto a plane. Since February of 2004, all crematory containers must pass through an X-ray machine. If a container is made of a material that prevents screeners from clearly seeing what is inside, the container will not be allowed through the checkpoint. Out of respect for the deceased, screeners will not open a container, even if requested by the passenger. TSA recommends that passengers transport remains in temporary or permanent “security friendly” containers constructed of light- weight materials such as plastic or wood.