When tasked with choosing a cremation urn for a loved one who has passed away, nearly everyone is a beginner. That is perfectly fine!

You will no doubt have many questions. How do you know that the funeral urn you choose is the right one? Are there certain requirements? What size do you need? Is one type of material better than another? These are great questions. As you begin to think through these matters, here are five things to consider when choosing a cremation urn to help ensure you get not only what you need, but also what you want to honor your loved one.

5 Things To Consider When Choosing A Cremation Urn

1. Intended Use

The first consideration is how and where the urn is going to be used. If you are going to bury the urn at a cemetery, they may have certain requirements for what they allow to be buried. This may put some limitations of size and material on your choice.

Alternatively, if you plan to display the cremation urn in your home, you will have much more freedom and will likely focus on the aesthetics of the memorial. And if you plan on scattering the ashes, your choice of urn can be greatly affected by whether you will scatter the ashes right away or perhaps wait for years until the spouse passes away so that the remains can be scattered together.

Here are some of the common uses for cremation urns, and how they may influence your choice.


As mentioned above, when the urn is buried you may want to go with a simpler, sturdier design. Some burial facilities require the use of a protective urn vault to keep the ground in the cemetery from collapsing. This means you can get a small wood or metal or sometimes even ceramic urn and place it inside an urn burial vault.

Conversely, to save yourself from purchasing both the urn and a vault, you can go with a cultured marble urn, which serves as its own vault. Be sure to verify with the cemetery regarding their requirements.


This is when the urn is placed inside of an interior or exterior wall niche. These have very limited space, so that will be the deciding factor when choosing an urn. This urn was specifically designed for the niches at the Arlington National Cemetery, and will work with most other funeral home niches as well.


There are many methods for scattering ashes. You can also wait a long time, even years, before scattering; others choose to scatter right away while all the family is present for the funeral.

If you choose to scatter right away, there are many affordable biodegradable scattering urns designed to help you easily pour or otherwise scatter the ashes. These are paper-pulp based and eco-friendly. They will certainly last for several years, but if you want something more durable you may want to consider an urn with a more solid material.

This walnut wood scattering urn is made in the USA and features a magnetic slide-lock closure for easy scattering. It’s the perfect combination allowing for long-term storage of the remains and a simple method for scattering.


When keeping the urn at home, most families opt for an urn that is beautiful and expressive. If they were the natural, earthy type, a wood urn made in the USA can be the perfect choice. Sometimes a handmade ceramic memorial perfectly captures beautifully delicate personality. Sometimes an everyday household item like a coffee tin or a tackle box makes the most sense for someone who didn’t want a whole lot of fuss and bother.

Or maybe they loved gardening, hunting, fishing, or some other hobby – there are urns for each of those themes, and it will remind you of the things they loved in a very special way.

As you can see, the intended use of the urn will greatly influence your choice of a cremation urn. Let’s now look at a few additional factors to consider.

2. Size

One of your biggest concerns will be to make sure that the ashes fit inside the urn. There is a very simple rule used within the industry to help with this:

One pound of the person’s normal body weight equals roughly one cubic inch of cremated remains.

This is why cremation urns are typically measured in cubic inch capacity. You can read more details on this rule here.

In general, a standard adult urn has a capacity of about 200 cubic inches. This works for nearly all adults who weighed about 200 lbs or so. There are smaller “keepsake” urns for when some of the remains are divided among family members or scattered, leaving you with a portion of the remains as a “keepsake.” There are also “companion” urns which are designed to hold the cremated ashes of two adults. For further details on urns for two people, see our Complete Guide to Companion Urns.

So when you are choosing an urn, keep in mind that most adult urns have an interior capacity of about 200 cubic inches. The outside measurements are really only important for burial, placement in a niche, or if you have a specific area in which you would like to display the urn.

3. Material

There are many, many materials for cremation urns. The most typical and popular, however, are metal, wood, stone, and ceramic.

Choosing the material type is really a matter of preference. Each of these main types of materials will last for years, even generations. As mentioned above, if you are burying the urn in a cemetery plot you may want to consider a stone urn such as cultured marble or granite, which will serve as its own protective vault.

There are other materials, of course, such as paper, sand, gelatin, and salt; these are typically biodegradable urns that are designed to return your loved one’s remains to the earth in a natural, earthy-friendly way.

4. Design

Fortunately there is a nearly inexhaustible abundance of designs and themes available. From urns customized with a photo of your loved one to classic and simple Christian cross urns and everything in between, you have a wide array of themes from which to choose.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Angels
  • Book shapes
  • Butterflies
  • Dolphins
  • Dragons
  • Eagles
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hummingbirds
  • Hunting
  • Lighthouses
  • Motocycles
  • Ocean/Seacoast
  • Praying Hands
  • Sailing

5. Cost

Lastly, you will want to consider the cost. Your funeral budget is important, and so is finding ways to save on funeral costs.

There are some things that are worth any price tag; for instance, turning your loved one’s remains into a beautiful heirloom diamond. The same goes for choosing the perfect cremation urn.

However, there is no need to pay more than you must. Sometimes a cremation urn at a funeral home is several hundred dollars more than the same urn sold online. So it is very worthwhile to shop around and consider an urn from a trusted online source such as Urns Northwest.

Our consultants understand the emotional weight of making this important decision. To guide you through the process and help you create your never ending bond, please talk to us.
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