Ceremony for Scattering Ashes

Today we’ll look at memorial ceremonies for scattering ashes.

The best advice on most of these methods is KEEP IT LOW and check the wind, unless you want a face full…

More information and resources on cremation memorials for spreading ashes can be found on our site.

Scattering Methods

* Casting: is the act of simply tossing the ashes to the wind. Usually done by one individual while others look on. Care and consideration of others should be used when casting. Check the direction of the wind and cast down wind. The ashes are mostly made up of a dense sand like matter and will quickly fall to the ground but some of it will be a fine powder and this will become airborne forming a whitish gray cloud. Casting can also be done as a group. People can take turns doing a partial scattering one at a time. I have also seen group scattering where multiple people scattered simultaneously in a toast-like gesture using paper cups.

* Trenching: This is done on land when a shallow trench or groove is dug in the soil. A hoe works well. Then the trench is filled from the scattering urn and usually racked over at the conclusion of the ceremony. You can get creative and dig the persons name in the soil, maybe inside a heart, then fill the void with the ashes. If its not too windy, candles can go in the ground alongside the trench for a more spiritual feel. Imagine filling a trenched name in beach sand and having the group form a ring around it. You can place and time it right so the tide will come up and wash the remains back to the sea while you all wade in the surf and share memories.

* Ringing: This is when we form a ring on the ground around an object or even a group of objects, it can be with or without a trench. The scattering urn will need to be held close to the ground when pouring the ring. Some ideas include a ring around a favorite tree or shrub. How about a ring around a group of candles or a memory table? The survivors can be the outer ring and take turns entering the ring to share words of remembrance.

* Raking: The ashes are poured from the scattering urn evenly on loose soil and raked into the ground, at the conclusion of the scattering ceremony. This is often how it is done in the scattering gardens that are now located in many cemeteries. Your funeral director can help you find a scattering garden in your area.

* Green Burial: A hole is made in the soil and the ashes can either be poured in or a biodegradable scattering urn can be placed in and covered. Many cemeteries will let you scatter on the grave site as long as the remains are buried. If the cemetery requires an urn, the biodegradable style is often permitted. Multiple scatterings or green burial can be done on one grave even if a casket has been buried the ashes can go on top. As with any scattering it is important to establish a permanent memorial so survivors have a place to continue remember and heal in the years to come.

* Water scattering: When scattering over a body of water a water-soluble urn can enhance the experience. These urns are specifically designed to gradually disperse the ashes back to the sea. Ashes can be cast directly into the water, but will often blow back at the boat and cling to the sides of the boat. This can be both frustrating and unsightly. A water-soluble urn will usually float for several minutes then slowly sink where it will degrade or melt back to the sea. The survivors will often toss flowers or petals as a final tribute as the urn slowly drifts away. There are professionals with boats available that will do either private water scatterings or create an event were the survivors may voyage and participate. Your funeral director will usually have the contacts to set this up in your area or you may find a provider on the resources section of this website.

* Aerial scattering: Usually done by professionals, this is done when the ashes are cast from a private plane.  Some pilots will coordinate with your ceremony to fly over and cast the ashes at a specified place and time. On clear days a cloud of ash can be seen from the ground. Most professionals will provide a certificate of the place and time and even photos. Some will allow passengers to attend the scattering for an extra fee.

Dispersing of cremated remains comes with a variety of regulations that vary by location, and typically requires a permit from the local health department as well as permission from the location where you are planning on scattering the ashes.  Scattering cremated remains, like any other method of saying your final good-byes, is emotionally very difficult. This is a good time to ask other family members or friends if keepsake portions need to be retained for those that may want a small portion.

By being knowledgeable about the available options makes the process a little easier, and establishing a permanent memorial for survivors to pay tribute to the departed often helps in the mourning process, and enables people a place to heal and remember their loved one for years to come.

Today’s tips on methods of  scattering or spreading ashes is courtesy of our friends at Cremation Solutions.

More information on planning a memorial service or ceremony for spreading ashes:

cremation memorial

Related Posts:

Scattering Ashes

Spreading Ashes At Sea

Dust in the Wind

Spreading Ashes Over Water



  1. Michelle Pratt says

    I love this about the urn garden! I have some of the ashes of my grandparents and as we have a large family, it was their wishes that each member of the family be given a small portion of their ashes. I chose a beautiful sunflower scattering urn and have been debating on what to do. This is the answer I have been looking for. I try to do a new garden every year on my property and I will create a small place and spread some of their ashes along with a small memorial stone or statue in their honor. It gives me a place to go and visit them and combine it with something I love to do which is garden. Great, great idea!