This is a common question that arises when a loved one has passed away and preparations are being made for the funeral and burial. There are a few factors to consider when deciding if an urn can be buried in the same casket as the body.
The first thing to look into is whether it is legal to bury an urn in the same casket as a body in your state or municipality. Laws regarding burials and cemeteries can vary between different areas, so it is important to check the regulations for your specific location.
In most places in the United States, it is legal to bury cremated remains in the same casket as a body, as long as the cemetery allows it. Some states may have additional paperwork that needs to be filled out, but generally there are no laws prohibiting this practice.
However, the cemetery or funeral home may have rules against it even if it is legally allowed in your state. Some cemeteries only allow one person to be buried per plot or require cremated remains to be buried separately from casketed bodies. So the cemetery should always be contacted first to make sure burying an urn and body together is permitted.
As mentioned, even if legal in your area, the cemetery itself may not allow an urn to be buried with a body. Cemetery regulations can vary widely, so it is crucial to check their specific policies.
Some things to find out from the cemetery include:
- If they allow more than one person to be buried in the same plot
- If cremated remains are allowed to be buried with casketed remains
- If there are any requirements for how the urn must be packaged or encased before burying
- If the cremated remains must go in a particular location in the grave or casket
The cemetery may have restrictions in order to make maintenance of plots simpler or to maintain plots in a uniform way. Make sure to abide by any regulations they have in order to have the burial approved.
Another consideration is the size of the casket and if there will be room for both the body and the urn(s). Standard adult caskets range internally from around 20-25 inches in width and 65-85 inches in length.
The size and number of urns to be buried will impact if they can fit. Common urn sizes include:
- Miniature urn – 4 inches high x 3.5 inches wide
- Small urn – 6.5 inches high x 6 inches wide
- Medium urn – 8.5 inches high x 7 inches wide
- Large urn – 10 inches high x 8 inches wide
So a single mini or small urn could likely fit at the foot end of the casket or on the side fairly easily. But trying to fit 2 or more larger urns may be a tight fit, depending on the casket size.
The funeral director can help determine if the chosen urn(s) can realistically fit within the casket space around the body. The urns can potentially be placed at the head, foot, or side areas of the casket to maximize space.
Casketing and Urn Options
If permitted by the cemetery, there are some options for how the urn can be contained within the casket:
- Place the urn as-is in the casket – typically the urn would be placed at the head or foot areas. The urn may be secured with adhesive or a holding bracket to prevent shifting.
- Encase the urn in a special containment shell – This is a rigid plastic or metal container designed to securely hold the urn in the casket during burial.
- Bury the ashes without an urn – The cremated remains can simply be enclosed in a plastic bag or cloth shroud and placed in the casket, taking up less space.
The cemetery may have regulations about urn encasement and containment when being buried with a body. The funeral director can go over the options available for properly securing the urn given the cemetery’s requirements.
Check with Family Members
When considering burying an urn with a body, it is important to check with any other surviving family members and make sure there are no objections. Burial arrangements affect the whole family, so getting a consensus is advised.
There may be situations where some family members would prefer the cremated remains be buried separately from the casket for personal or religious reasons. If the loved one who passed away left instructions for the handling of their remains, this should be honored as much as possible as well.
Handling the conversation gently and communicating the reasons for wanting to bury the urn and body together can help smooth over any disputes. But if disagreements cannot be resolved, separate burials may need to be arranged.
Consider the Long Term
Before moving forward with burying an urn in a casket, it can be helpful to reflect on the long term implications of this arrangement for surviving family and future generations.
Will the double burial make it more complicated to visit the grave site and pay respects in the future? Will it make disinterment more difficult if that is ever desired?
Think through if burying the urn and body together will create limitations or complications down the line for descendants who may want to handle the remains differently someday.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Let’s summarize some potential advantages and disadvantages of burying an urn with a body in the same casket:
- Keeps cremated remains and body together
- Uses a single plot
- Single graveside service for remains
- Lower cost than two burials
- Less environmental impact from one burial
- May not fit in casket depending on size
- May not be permitted by cemetery
- Could complicate future grave maintenance or disinterment
- May go against deceased’s wishes
- May go against family member’s preferences
Weighing the personal pros and cons can help decide if a double burial in one casket makes sense for your particular situation and preferences.
Special Considerations for Ashes of Multiple People
If you are considering burying the cremated remains of multiple people, there are some additional factors to keep in mind:
- Ensure the cemetery allows ashes of more than one person to be buried together. Many do not.
- Get a large enough casket to fit multiple urns while leaving room for the body.
- The greater the number of urns, the more challenging it will be to fit them in the casket.
- Agreement from multiple families will need to be obtained if burying ashes of more than one individual.
- Separate urns should be used to keep each person’s ashes distinct, rather than mixing ashes in a single urn.
Burying remains of multiple people together is usually only possible if cremated. Fitting even just one extra urn in a casket can be tricky, so make sure to coordinate carefully if attempting this.
Have an Urn Encased
For added protection of the urn during burial, you may choose to have it encased in an additional container before being placed in the casket.
Some options for encasing include:
- Urn vaults – Protective concrete boxes designed to withstand soil pressure and prevent the urn from being crushed.
- Burial capsules – Plastic or metal cases to contain the urn and keep it sealed.
- Urn liners – Fabric bags that contain the urn while allowing contact with the soil.
An encasement container tailored for an urn can protect it and allow the urn to stay sealed. This may provide peace of mind and is sometimes required by cemeteries for uniformity and easy maintenance.
Urn Encasement Options
|Urn vault||Concrete||Very protective, guards against elements||Expensive, not suitable for green burials|
|Burial capsule||Plastic or metal||Inexpensive, seals urn completely||Less durable protection|
|Urn liner||Fabric||Allows contact with soil, lower cost||Less protection for urn|
Select an Appropriate Urn
If burying an urn in a casket, it is important to choose an urn that is up for the task. Not all urns are designed to withstand the conditions of burial underground:
- Metal or ceramic urns hold up better than glass or weaker materials.
- Consider an urn with a secure sealing lid to prevent water seepage.
- Pick an urn with sturdy construction without thin or hollow areas.
- An urn with a rough textured surface may fair better than a smooth glossy finish.
- Standard rectangular urn shapes may pack in a casket better than unique irregular shapes.
A final factor can be choosing an urn size and shape that coordinates well with the casket dimensions. Your funeral director can guide you in selecting an urn suitable for burial.
Consult a Funeral Professional
With all the factors in play, it is wise to consult closely with funeral home staff when planning to bury an urn and body together. A funeral director has the experience to advise you on:
- If the double burial is permitted in your area and cemetery.
- How to conform to any regulations or protocols required.
- How to arrange urns and the body within a standard casket.
- Options for securely encasing the urn during burial.
- Selecting an urn designed to withstand burial conditions.
- How to include the double burial details in funeral planning paperwork.
With their knowledge of local regulations and practices, funeral staff can ensure everything is done properly so the double burial goes smoothly.
Burying an urn in a casket with a body is possible in many cases, but should be approached carefully. The legality, cemetery rules, casket space, and family’s wishes should all be looked into when considering this arrangement. With proper preparation and encasement to protect the urn, a joint burial of ashes and body can allow loved ones to rest together. Consulting closely with funeral professionals for guidance is advised when planning this special double burial.