Cremation Memorial Buyer’s Guide

Shopping for a cremation urn or other memorial is never easy. Even when a death is anticipated, it’s hard to make a decision when you’re struggling with grief and loss. Buying an urn, memorial jewelry, or a stone memorial should be simple, but with so many options to choose from, you may simply feel overwhelmed and make a choice that doesn’t fit what you really need or want just to have the decision made. In addition, there are likely many different urn and memorial options available that you simply don’t know about.

To help make the process of choosing a memorial easier, we’ve broken out some of the most important questions that you need to ask yourself before making your decision. You may want to print out this list and make notes as you think about what you need and what you want. Then take a look at our cremation urns, memorial jewelry, outdoor memorials, or other memorial products.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. What type of memorial do you need?
  2. What portion of the cremains will you be keeping?
  3. Will you be keeping the cremains at home or elsewhere?
  4. Which materials do you prefer?
  5. Is there a theme or design that you prefer?
  6. Would you like a keepsake or memorial jewelry?
  7. What other memorial items would help you to honor your loved one?

What Type of Memorial Are You Looking For?

You’ll find a wide number of options available when shopping for a memorial, from full-size cremation urns to engraved memorial pendants. Here are a few of the different types of memorials that you may want to consider:

Many people choose a combination of different items to create a memorial to their loved one. For example, you might need a biodegradable urn for a water burial, a few small keepsake urns so that family members can keep some cremains at home, a cremation necklace to keep a bit of dried flowers from the memorial service, and a personalized photo plaque to place on your mantel. Each of these items keeps your loved one’s memories alive and allows you to honor them with the respect that they deserve.


Cremation Urns

As cremation rates continue to rise in the U.S. and Canada, shopping for a cremation urn has become a more and more common experience. The number of designs and options available has also increased significantly, which both makes it more likely that an urn that you like will be available and gives you so many options to choose from that it can be overwhelming. Narrow down your search by using our easy urn finder and asking the following questions:

What portion of the cremains will you be keeping?

This question is a little more complicated than it seems because you first need to know: Will the urn need to hold all of the ashes? If the answer is yes, then you will need a good estimate of the healthy weight of the deceased. You can read our article “How to Select the Right Size Cremation Urn” for more specific details, but the basic measurement to remember is:

1 pound of healthy weight = 1 cubic inch of cremains.

If the deceased weighed 150 pounds, you’ll need a cremation urn with a capacity of at least 150 cubic inches. For comparison, 1 cubic inch of cremains is about 1 tablespoon. It’s always better to have an urn that’s slightly too large so there’s less risk that the ashes will not fit. Please note, special sizing requirements apply for pet, child or infant urns. More information on this topic can be found in our article “How to Select the Right Size Cremation Urn.”

You may also wish to keep a couple or family members together after death. Companion urns are very large urns or urn pairs that can hold the cremains of at least two people. Alternatively, many people choose to divide a loved one’s cremains among family members so that each person can have their own memorial. In this case, you’ll likely have significantly less volume and may not need a full-size urn.

Will you be keeping the cremains at home or elsewhere?

Where you ultimately decide to keep the cremains will have an impact on your cremation urn options.

  • At home: If you decide to keep all of the cremains together at home, your options are almost limitless. Choose any urn that you like, making sure that it’s large enough to hold all of the cremains.
  • Burial: Many cemeteries have specific requirements about what type of urn can be buried, since materials like wood, glass, and ceramic can easily be damaged. You may be required to have a burial urn / urn vault or an urn burial container. Most burial urns are made of marble or other stone, while burial containers may be made of stone, metal, polystyrene, or a strong polymer.
  • Columbarium placement: A columbarium is a building (or portion of a building) designed to hold cremation urns. Typically, any type of urn may be placed in a columbarium, but the urn must be small enough to fit within a designated niche. The facility may have additional requirements, so it’s always a good idea to ask before choosing your urn.
  • Scattering: If you decide to scatter your loved one’s ashes, you will still likely need an urn to hold the cremains before and during the ceremony. Any type of urn can be used, but it’s a good idea to choose one that is easy to open. Scattering urns are specifically made for this task. If you plan to release the ashes at sea or bury them in a natural area, consider a biodegradable urn.
  • Sharing the Cremains: Rather than keeping all of the cremains together, you may wish to share the ashes among family members or to keep a small portion and scatter the rest. If you do not need a full-size cremation urn, you might consider a keepsake or sharing urn or cremation jewelry.
  • Traveling: Taking a cremation urn on an airplane can be a challenge. The TSA recommends that you use an urn made of wood, biodegradable materials, or plastic when flying with ashes. Airplane-safe urns are available for temporary use. See our article, “9 Tips for Flying with Ashes and Cremation Urns” for more details.

More About Sharing and Keepsake Urns

Because they are not made to hold all of a person’s cremains, sharing and keepsake urns are not as large as typical cremation urns. These urns do vary in size, however, with smaller keepsakes holding 1 to 3 cubic inches of ashes and larger sharing urns having a capacity of 30 cubic inches or more. When choosing one of these smaller urns, you’ll need to know how the cremains will be divided and what portion you’ll be keeping. Choose an urn that’s slightly larger than you think you’ll need to ensure that the cremains will fit inside. You may want to purchase multiple keepsake urns at the same time to share among family.

In addition to being a logical choice if you’re sharing the cremains of the deceased among family members, keepsake urns are a wonderful way to have a small memorial to your loved one at home when the main portion of ashes is elsewhere. Cremains are often buried in cemeteries, scattered in a formal cremation garden or favorite location, or placed in a columbarium. Many people find solace in being able to keep a small portion at home as a memorial. Even if you are keeping a large cremation urn, you might select smaller keepsake urns to place in a separate memorial in a garden or private area in your home.

Cremation Urn Material Options

Cremation urns can be made out of almost any materials, although metal, stone, ceramic, and wood are some of the most common. If you prefer a more traditional “vase” style, you’ll likely find many metal, stone, and ceramic options, while wooden urns are more likely to be in a box or chest style. That said, you’ll still find a huge range of unexpected choices, including heart-shaped stone urns, delicate glass or crystal vases, sculpture urns with a figurine on top, and sophisticated metal cube urns.

It’s important to remember that specific materials tend to be a better choice for certain circumstances. If you do plan to bury the urn, stone is your best option. Biodegradable urns are specifically designed to break down when exposed to water, so they are best for scattering or natural burials. Wooden cremation urns also need to be kept in a dry location where they won’t be exposed to the elements.

Your choice of materials will also factor into the price that you pay, although you can typically find affordable options in almost every category. Glass and crystal urns do tend to be more expensive due to their delicate nature, while wood urns are often some of the most affordable. Expect to pay more for a large urn or a companion urn as well, due to their size. Keepsake and sharing urns are often some of the least expensive.

Cremation Urn Themes & Designs

A good way to narrow down your cremation urn options is to consider whether you prefer a more traditional urn design or one that reflects an interest of the deceased. Traditional options include beautiful classic brass urns, unpretentious metal cubes, colorful cloisonné vases, and elegant marble Grecian urns. Many of these familiar options have attractive design elements integrated into the piece; traditional metal and ceramic vase urns often include flowers, butterflies, and other similar imagery. Others are made to let the beauty of the natural materials stand out, whether it’s a stunning marble urn with gorgeous patterns and colors or a polished brass urn.

There are also many cremation urn options that allow you to celebrate your loved one and the interests that made them unique. Choose a metal cube or wooden chest urn that includes images of a favorite pastime, or a sculpture urn that brings that area of interest into three dimensions. Here are just a few of the different hobbies and interests that can be represented on an urn:

  • Angels and other Christian imagery
  • Books and libraries
  • Sports, from football, baseball, and golf to curling, horseracing, and more
  • Lighthouses and dolphins
  • Motorcycles
  • Fishing and hunting
  • Birds and butterflies

If your loved one served others in the military, police, or as a firefighter, there are a wide range of specialized cremation urns and other memorial products available. These patriotic options include urns with the seals and logos of all U.S. military branches, bald eagles, American flags, and more.

Another wonderful option is to choose a cremation urn that includes either an engraved photo of your loved one or includes a picture frame so that you can add a favorite photo. Photo frame urns come in a wide variety of sizes and materials, while photo engraving is typically performed on a separate plaque which can then be added to the urn or an urn stand.

Urn Engraving Options

No matter what size or type of urn you purchase, we strongly recommend that you have it engraved with the name and dates of the deceased. Most cemeteries and columbaria require that all urns include direct engraving — which means that the urn itself must be engraved rather than the name and dates being put on a plaque or urn pendant. This is necessary so that there is no question who the cremains belong to. Even if you are keeping the urn at home, personalized engraving is important to identify the individual for future generations. Most urns also have space for a brief sentiment or poem to be engraved as well.

At Perfect Memorials, we do all engraving in-house. Your personalized message will be engraved quickly and accurately by our skilled team. We will contact you immediately if there is any question about your requested text.

Not every cremation urn can be engraved directly. If you will be placing the urn outside your home, be sure to ask about engraving requirements. Cremation urns made of glass, crystal, and ceramic often cannot be engraved. This is also true for certain types of biodegradable urns. When direct engraving is not required, there are a number of alternative personalization options available, including urn pendants, urn medallions, and engraved plaques.

How Do I Transfer the Cremains to an Urn?

For a full explanation of how to move the cremains from one container to another, please see our article, “How to Choose the Right Cremation Urn.”

When you receive the cremains from the crematorium, they will typically be inside a plastic bag in a temporary urn. We strongly recommend that you leave all of the ashes inside the bag, and simply place it inside your new cremation urn. This will minimize the risk of spillage or loss. If you are uncomfortable making the transfer yourself, ask the crematorium or a local funeral home if they can help. Most funeral professionals will be happy to help.


Memorial and Cremation Jewelry

People have been making and wearing memorial jewelry for centuries, with rings, necklaces, and other pieces acting as a personal tribute to the departed. In recent years, cremation jewelry has become more common, allowing individuals to keep a portion of cremains or another small memento inside the jewelry. This beautiful memorial allows you to carry your loved one with you always.

Before selecting memorial jewelry, you’ll want to decide if you want a piece that can hold cremains. You have a wide variety of choices for both general memorial jewelry and cremation jewelry, including photo engraved pendants and dog tags, hearts, crosses, angels’ wings, simple cylinders, and much more. Always check to see if a volume is listed on the product page; if you don’t see one, you should assume that the piece does not open for cremains.

Cremation Jewelry Options

When shopping for cremation and memorial jewelry, start by thinking about what kind of jewelry you wear regularly: would you be most comfortable with a necklace, a ring, or something else? While cremation pendants are some of the most popular jewelry options, there are additional possibilities. Cremation rings have a long history and are available in a variety of designs, many including elegant stone accents. Cremation charms and cremation bracelets are available to suit both men and women. Many of our pendants can be attached to a necklace or keychain.

Because cremation necklaces are very popular, you’re likely to find the widest number of options in terms of design. Consider both what theme or style reminds you of your loved one, as well as what you like and will enjoy wearing. Hearts, crosses, and dog tags are all wonderful choices, but there are many natural and animal pieces, objects like anchors and crescent moons, and sports-themed shapes.

Cremation jewelry is also available in a wide range of materials, including the following:

  • 14k gold
  • white gold
  • gold vermeil (gold plated)
  • sterling silver
  • stainless steel
  • aluminum
  • glass and crystal

Jewelry made with solid gold and sterling silver is often the most expensive, especially when precious stones are added, but there are many affordable options available. Stainless steel, with its bright silver shine and durability, has become particularly popular for jewelry in the past few years, and most pieces come at a very reasonable price.

How Do I Open and Fill My Cremation Jewelry?

For a complete explanation of how to fill your cremation jewelry, please read our article, “Opening, Filling, Sealing and Caring for Cremation Jewelry.” The basic process is relatively simple: most jewelry comes with a small screw or top-opening bale that can be removed. Use a small funnel (most jewelry pieces from Perfect Memorials include one) to add a pinch of cremains to the piece. You may use a toothpick or other small tool to help guide the ashes through the funnel. Once filled, use a drop of epoxy or modeling glue on the threads of the screw to seal the piece permanently.

Please note that cremation jewelry typically only holds about 1 cubic inch of cremains. It’s important to work slowly and carefully when filling your jewelry so that you don’t accidentally overfill or spill. If you are concerned about filling the jewelry yourself, we recommend that you call a local funeral home or jeweler to ask if they can assist you. Be sure to ask if they can seal the pendant as well once it has been filled.

Do I have to put cremains in my necklace?

Although many people find solace in keeping a loved one’s cremains with them in a necklace, ring, or other piece of jewelry, you do not need to fill your cremation jewelry with ashes if you don’t wish to do so. Here are a few alternatives that you might want to consider:

  • A lock of hair from the departed.
  • A small amount of dried funeral flowers.
  • A pinch of dirt from a grave site.

In addition, you can leave the jewelry empty. Wearing a piece of memorial jewelry is about remembering the departed and keeping your love for them in mind each day. If you cannot or choose not to fill your cremation jewelry, it makes the piece no less meaningful.

Cremation Jewelry Engraving Options

Most cremation jewelry can be engraved, including many glass and crystal pieces. We strongly recommend having all cremation jewelry engraved so that there is no question whose ashes have been placed inside. It’s also a beautiful way to personalize your jewelry and honor your loved one. Depending on the size and shape of the piece, you’re likely to have very limited space. Add a line or two, including the departed’s name and dates. You may also have the option of adding a small piece of pre-selected artwork, such as a heart or cross.

At Perfect Memorials, we do all engraving in-house. Your personalized message will be engraved quickly and accurately by our skilled team.


Additional Memorial Items

In addition to cremation urns and memorial jewelry, there are a wide range of memorial items that you may want to consider. Some of these items can hold a portion of cremated ashes, but most are simply wonderful ways to honor the memory of your loved one. These memorial items also made beautiful gifts to give to others who have experienced a loss.

Memorial Stones and Statues

Whether your loved one was at home in nature or you simply wish to create a peaceful oasis in which to remember them, memorial garden stones are a lovely memorial option. Choose from stones engraved with common meaningful messages, such as the first lines of “Amazing Grace,” or have a custom engraved stone made to include the name of the deceased. Many custom stones also include space for a brief message or poem.

Garden stones are made to be placed outside, so they are made to be resistant to the weather. Because most of these memorials are made with natural stone, they do often vary in size, shape, and color.

While garden stones can certainly be placed inside your home, you might prefer a memorial statue or accent stone. These pieces are often made of high quality resin that has been finished to give it the look of stone; this allows the memorials to have a consistent size and appearance. These memorials are not necessarily made to be weather resistant, and often feature more detailing than garden stones. You’ll often find statues and stones with religious imagery, including angels and crosses, as well as flowers and doves.

Holiday Memorials

Holidays can be especially difficult after a loved one passes away, but many people find solace in incorporating their fond memories into the season. Choose a beautiful cremation pendant with “Mom” or “Dad” engraved to remember them on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. For Christmas and other winter holidays, choose an engraved crystal ornament or a porcelain memorial ornament with your loved one’s picture.

No matter the time of year, you can find special memorials to honor your loved one.

Picture Frames and Photo Plaques

Few items are more precious than photographs of our loved ones who have passed on. A simple frame can be a beautiful tribute. To make your memorial more personal, however, consider a custom engraved picture frame with the name of your loved one and a brief sentiment. Many wood frames can have engraving added to them through a special printing process.

Create an exceptional tribute with a personalized photo plaque. This special process uses lasers to permanently engrave an image of your loved one onto a metal plate. These beautiful memorials include the name and dates of the deceased and often have space for an additional message. Choose from plaques to be hung on the wall, small plaques on a stand, or plates that can be attached to an urn base or other foundation.

Bells and Chimes

Remember that famous movie line about bells ringing and angels’ wings? With memorial wind chimes and bells, you’ll be reminded of your loved one whenever the wind blows. Memorial wind chimes are available in a range of styles, and many options include poems written right on the metal chimes. Motorcycle bells are a modern take on the tradition of ringing bells to honor the departed and bring luck to the living. Add your own personalized engraving to dedicate a bell to your loved one.

Teddy Bears

When someone who we love passes away, it’s often the physical interaction that we miss most — the hugs and closeness. Many people find that having a soft keepsake that they can cuddle with gives them comfort. Teddy bear keepsakes are soft and plush, allowing you to hold tightly to your memories and removing the distance that many people feel with traditional cremation urns. These stuffed bears can hold a small portion of cremains inside, but they also have space for other keepsakes. You can also add custom embroidery to the bear, including the name of the departed. These special urns are particularly valued by children and can make a wonderful gift.


Do You Need More Assistance?

Please take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions section, where we’ve provided detailed information to answer many of the questions that our customers often ask. In addition, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our helpful customer service team at 800-979-8767 for assistance. We know that any loss can be a struggle, and we’re here to help you deal with some of the more practical aspects of finding the right cremation urn and creating a memorial to your loved one that will help bring you comfort.

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One Response
  • I weigh 260 please show me what urn I need to look at.

    Comment by Frances Zamora — April 24, 2019 @ 3:24 pm

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