It’s very normal to want to put something special in someone’s coffin. People all over the world have been doing it for centuries, from Vikings to Aztecs and Ancient Egyptians. But these days, there are rules on what’s allowed. So, what can you put in a coffin, and what’s best left out?

 

What can you put in a coffin for burial in a cemetery?

If you’re arranging a traditional burial in a cemetery, there aren’t usually any restrictions on what you can place in or on the coffin. Letters, photos, cuddly toys, books, flowers and the ashes of someone else are all okay.

You can even get creative. The socialite Sandra Ilene West was buried sitting in her 1964 Ferrari 330; relatives of Arch West scattered Doritos in his open grave in honour of his involvement in their creation.

 

What can you put in a coffin for a green burial?

If the person is going to be buried in a natural burial ground, things are different. Usually, anything that goes in the ground there has to be biodegradable. That means it should be made of something that will break down and become part of the soil in time.

So: paper, cardboard, wood, clay and natural fabrics are usually fine. Metal, glass, plastic and synthetic fabrics are usually forbidden.

 

What can you put in a coffin for cremation?

Almost anything you like can go in a coffin for cremation, but there are some restrictions. The reason for this is that some items react to the heat in unexpected ways. While most things will burn into ash, as you’d expect, other things can melt – or even explode.

 

What can you not put in a coffin for cremation?

Things you can’t put in a coffin for cremation include:

  • Items with batteries: mobile phones, TV remotes, e-cigarettes
  • Bottles or jars made of glass or plastic
  • Combustible materials: alcohol, lighters
  • Coconuts and other items that may have air trapped inside
  • Certain treated fabrics, like leather, latex, and vinyl (these can give off polluting fumes)

 

Can I put jewellery in a coffin for cremation?

Yes – but be aware that the jewellery will usually melt in the cremator. Some of the metal could potentially be lifted out of the ashes at the end, but it would likely be very warped and mixed with other things. Most UK crematoria recycle this metal and donate the proceeds to charity.

If the jewellery is important to you, it’s better to keep it yourself.

 

When in doubt, ask

Your funeral director will have a good idea of what’s allowed in a coffin for cremation or burial locally. Don’t be afraid to ask them – they’ll be happy to explain. You can find a great funeral director in your local area here.

For things that can’t stay in the coffin, there may be a compromise. For example, you might be able to leave it in the coffin until the time comes for it to be closed permanently, and then get it back.

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