After a loved one has been cremated, there’s the question of where the ashes will be kept. Some families choose to keep them at home, some scatter them, and others look into the interment of ashes: finding a resting place outside the home.


What does ‘interment of ashes’ mean?

The interment of ashes is the act of placing them in a final, permanent location. It can include burial in a cemetery or private land, as well as placement in niche in a columbarium.

All these options take a little planning and budgeting – as will the interment of ashes ceremony. Here’s what you need to know …


Arranging the interment of ashes

You can start the interment of ashes procedure by deciding where the final resting place of the ashes will be. Options include:


Interment of ashes in a memorial garden or cemetery

To arrange this, contact the local authority (the council) in charge of the cemetery or garden.

If you already have a family plot with space, you could bury the ashes there. However, if multiple people hold the Deed of Exclusive Right of Burial, and there’s limited space, you may need permission from the other owners to go ahead.

If you don’t have a plot already, you can purchase the rights to one. If you or your loved one are local to the area, you will usually pay less for this.

Did you know? Burial plots and columbaria niches are often not so much bought as leased – you are actually purchasing the right to say who is buried in that spot, often for a fixed period of time (25 years, say). When that time runs out, you will be asked if you’d like to renew.


Interment of ashes in a churchyard

The process for a churchyard is very similar. The difference is in the interment of ashes service: the minister may wish to hold a full ceremony when the ashes are buried, whereas a local authority will leave you to sort out your own.

Exhumation can be an issue. Churchyards are consecrated ground, which means that churches can be very reluctant to let you disturb the ashes.

Remember! Cemeteries, churches and burial grounds often have rules about the types of urns and headstones that can be used. Check their guidelines before making a purchase.


Interment of ashes on private land

As with scattering ashes, the burial of ashes on private land is fine as long as you have the permission of the land owner.

If you are burying ashes at one of the many natural or woodland burial grounds in the UK, be aware that you will likely need to choose a biodegradable urn. Headstones are not usually allowed, but trees can often be planted on graves instead.


Interment of ashes in a columbarium niche

A columbarium is a room or building with niches for holding urns. They can be found in some churches and crematoria, and there are private columbaria as well. You can find out more about columbaria here.

Did you know? If you’d like to hold the funeral service when you bury the ashes, rather than at the crematorium, you might consider arranging a direct cremation without a service. Find out more about direct cremation here.

Once you’ve chosen where to keep the ashes, you may be asked for paperwork. Be ready to provide the Deed of Exclusive Right of Burial, a notification of interment of ashes, or a cremation certificate.


Interment of ashes: Costs to budget for

Prices for ash burial plots and columbarium niches vary across the country.

On average, an ash plot at a secular cemetery in the UK costs around £450 and is leased for 75-100 years. Columbaria niches range between £400 to £700 for a period of 10 to 25 years. Religious plots and niches are in higher demand and may cost several thousand pounds.


What happens at an interment of ashes ceremony? 

Usually, a post-cremation interment of ashes ceremony will last about 45-60 minutes, with the occasion planned along these lines:

  • The ashes will be delivered to the burial site or columbarium beforehand, along with any documentation.
  • The mourners will gather at the site.
  • A celebrant – who could be a religious leader, a humanist speaker, or someone close to the departed – will start the ceremony with an introduction and perhaps a prayer.
  • One or more people will give a eulogy, talking about the life of the person who has died.
  • The ashes will be lowered into the ground (or placed in the urn niche), and the celebrant may say a prayer or read a poem.
  • The urn will be sealed in its final resting place.
  • The celebrant will say some parting words and/or prayers, and the mourners will leave the site.


What to say at an interment of ashes

If you can’t find the right words for an interment of ashes service, reading a poem can feel both helpful and comforting. Some widely-loved options include Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye; Gone From My Sight by Henry Van Dyke; When I am Dead, My Dearest by Christina Rossetti; or Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.


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