Cremation Urn Buying Guide

by Get Urns January 29, 2021 7 min read

If this is your first time experiencing cremation and you find yourself at a loss on where to begin, this guide is for you. 

Cremation urns come in a large variety of materials, shapes, sizes, and can be used in a number of different environments as well. This guide will walk you through some important questions to ask yourself and to discuss with your family so you can commemorate your loved one in the perfect resting place. 

It can get fairly complicated so we’ll be splitting this guide up into separate sections for your ease. This allows you to break down the process of choosing a cremation urn so you can make the most appropriate decision to honor your loved one, while still keeping their personality alive and their final wishes in mind. 

First, here’s the overview of what you should be contemplating:

  • What is the final resting place?
  • What size urn is necessary?
  • What is the urn material?
  • Have you considered personalization?


What Is The Final Resting Place?

Families need to consider what is the method of final disposition for their loved one. This means figuring out what will be done with the ashes once they’re received. Will your loved one be preserved in a single urn, shared amongst family members in multiple urns, scattered at a special location, buried, or placed in a columbarium? What will be their literal final resting place? This needs to be the first decision made as it directly influences the urn you select.

- If You’re keeping The Urn At Home Or In A Columbarium Niche: Decorative Urns

Decorative urns offer a style-conscious memorial that you can proudly display in a special spot at home or in a columbarium - a dedicated location that houses cremated remains in wall spaces called niches. Do keep in mind that columbarium niches are designed for size specific urns, you will need to contact the cemetery to determine the inner dimensions of the niche so you choose the correct size urn - see below for sizing guidance.

Other options include, keepsake urns - miniaturized versions of full sized urns which offer the opportunity to share the ashes of your loved one among family members. Keepsake urns are a great way for children to hold onto a portion of a parent’s or siblings ashes. 

An additional great method of sharing ashes, in case you don’t want to carry a small urn with you everywhere, is a piece of cremation jewelry - these are gorgeous and elegant pieces that hold a pinch of ashes so you can carry them with you wherever you go.

- If You’re Scattering The Ashes: Scattering Tubes


    Scattering Tubes are a wonderful method of temporarily housing your loved ones ashes while you prepare to spread them in a significant place. Scattering tubes are especially helpful for those who do not want to handle their loved ones ashes directly with their hands. Scattering tubes come equipped with a perforated hole on the cap so you can scatter your loved ones ashes in a dignified manner. 


    Another considerable fact about these scattering urns is that they're recyclable! So after scattering the ashes, you’re able to recycle the tube - making these urns a great option for someone who was environmentally conscious in life. 

    Please note: Every state/country/location has their own laws and regulations regarding the scattering of cremated remains. Make sure to check local, state, and federal laws ahead of time so the process of scattering the ashes is done in a legal and respectful manner. 

    - If You’re Planning A Burial: Decorative Or Biodegradable Urns

    Decorative Urn Set

    Burying an urn in a cemetery plot or in an urn garden is a viable option for those who like having a bit of a traditional funeral as part of the cremation process. (Read more about different cremation processes here) Burial of an urn offers you the chance to have a concrete place to visit your loved one and pay your respects as you’d like. 

    With burial there’s also several choices with the type of urn to use. 

    If you would like to bury your loved one’s remains in a decorative urn, the urn will most likely need to be enclosed in an urn vault – a supporting structure in the soil that also protects the urn itself from the elements. Decorative urns are usually not weather or waterproof so it is not recommended that they be buried without a vault. 

    If you would like to bury your loved one’s remains in a biodegradable urn, an urn vault is not necessary. A biodegradable urn is an incredible eco-friendly option as they are constructed of materials that will naturally degrade - returning your loved one back to the Earth. Some of these urns even contain seeds so new life can stem from the site of your loved one’s burial. 


    What Size Urn Is Necessary?


    Cremation urns vary in size and dimensions. It is very important to understand exactly what you need before you make a purchase. The size of the urn correlates to its capacity - the volume of ashes the urn can hold. To determine the correct size needed for your lost loved one you will need to know their body weight before cremation. 

    All urns will have their capacity listed in cubic inches. 1 lb of body weight = 1 cubic inch. [For a detailed size guide, pleaseclick here.]

    Also keep in mind the inner dimensions of the burial vault or columbarium niche so you can be sure you get an urn that not only fits your loved one, but also is suitable for the method of disposition.


    - Adult urns also known as standard or full sized urns, typically hold a capacity of 200-220 cubic inches = 200 - 220 pounds. 

    [The title “Adult” is not enough to determine if that urn is appropriate for your loved one. To know the actual capacity of the urn, always read the full product description. Every urn will vary in capacity.] 


    Medium Urns- Medium/child urns are great for sharing a portion of a loved ones ashes if they’re an adult or for holding the full amount of children’s ashes. Medium urns range from 30 - 50 cubic inches = 30-50 pounds. 

    [The title “Medium” is not enough to determine if that urn is appropriate for your loved one. To know the actual capacity of the urn, always read the full product description. Every urn will vary in capacity.]


    Keepsake Cremation Urns are miniature versions of full sized urns that are used to divide remains among several people. Keepsake urns range from 3 - 5 cubic inches = 3-5 pounds.


    Tealight/Candle Urns - Tealight urns are a beautiful alternative to the traditional urn shape as they are specially constructed for the purpose of holding a tealight or votive candle. These urns can be used for your own candle lighting memorial service or as another form of sharing ashes.  

    Tealight urns usually range from 10 - 18 cubic inches = 10-18 pounds


    Extra Large Urns - are necessary for anyone weighing over 220 pounds before cremation and can hold a capacity of 230 - 350 cubic inches = 230 - 350 pounds. 


    What Is The Urn Material?

    Urns come in an assortment of materials with each one providing their own set of benefits and uses. Read on to discover which material is ideal for your purposes. 

  • Brass/Metal Urns 
  • Metal urns are the strongest urns available, able to resist general bumps and scrapes and will remain intact even when dropped. They can be buried for interment in a cemetery (within a burial vault), inurnment in a columbarium, or even simply placed on a shelf within the home to keep your loved one near.  

  • Biodegradable Urns
  • Biodegradable urns are made from sustainably sourced materials and are constructed to gently deteriorate into the earth or water. Made of paper, sand & gelatin, or even natural rock salt - these materials offer a variety of urn shapes from traditional scattering tubes to molded paper turtles, hearts, and shells. 

  • Wood Urns
  • Wood is an incredibly popular choice after metal urns. They are a naturally strong option  for your loved one’s resting place. Wooden urns are most commonly found in a box or clock shape so they will forever remain a classic beauty within your home, for burial, or for inurnment in a columbarium.

    Wooden urns can also be buried in the earth as a longer lasting biodegradable option which can take anywhere from 6-15 years to deteriorate, (certain stains/wood types can delay this). 

  • Marble Urns
  • For those looking for a classic urn in both design and material, stone and marble urns are the way to go. These beautifully sculpted pieces are carved out of strong and robust stone with a durability meant to outlast generations. 

    Have You Considered Personalization?

    The final element to consider when selecting an urn is whether or not to customize the urn itself with personal touches unique to the dearly departed. In this way, you can embody the spirit of your loved one in the vessel that will be their final resting place. At GetUrns, we understand the importance of celebrating life which is why we offer custom engravings unique to your loved one’s life is our way of celebrating their memory with you. Our website offers a personalization generator that allows you to preview various personalization options on select urns. Personalization options include: different fonts, custom text engraving, double-sided engraving, and clipart engraving. Once you have decided on a custom design, you can submit your personalization request through our simple online ordering process. For more information onEngraving and Personalization, read here


    Searching for the perfect cremation urn should not be a daunting task. We’ve put together this Cremation Urn Buying Guide so you know exactly what to consider during the process of choosing your loved one’s final resting place. 


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