How Heavy Is an Urn of Ashes? Full Guide on Urns

According to a study done by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), nearly 44% of respondents preferred their ashes being scattered over a traditional burial. Other surveys found a 40% increase in people choosing urns over coffins in their end-of-life requests since the 1960s. 

An urn of ashes weighs approximately 9-17 lbs (4.08-7.71kg). Many urns weigh about 4-7 lbs (1.81-3.18 kg), if made of lighter materials, while the average weight of ashes varies from 5-10 lbs (2.27-4.54 kg). 

Read on to learn all about urns, cremation, and non-traditional burials, to help you develop the best plan for yourself or your recently departed family. 

What Impacts the Weight of an Urn?

Urns are perfectly sized for both small cemetery interment and home storage. Lightweight and affordable, they’re a great alternative to expensive burials. Beyond that, they present an intimate form of closure that increases daily access to the departed. It’s a loving, respectful sendoff. 

The material an urn is made from can impact its weight. An urn can also be heavier if it’s completely filled or a larger vessel. However, most modern urns are made from lightweight materials that are designed for easier transportation. 

Another benefit of the lightweight material is the ability to create miniaturized matching containers that can hold a small portion of ashes. This gives families the ability to each have their loved one in their home. 

Classically, heavier materials were used, such as marble or metals like bronze. This could mean an empty burial vessel could weigh as much as 20 lbs (9.07 kg), with more ashes due to certain personal items being burned along with the body. This is mostly unheard of today, though it’s possible to find urns made of the same materials on special request. 

A metal urn with ashes of a dead person on a funeral

Special necklaces exist that further allow the spreading of ashes. The wearer will have a sealed pendant where the ashes are placed. They can then wear them around their neck every day, keeping the lost – but never forgotten – close to their heart.

How Urns Have Transformed Burial Practices

We don’t know for sure when the practice of keeping ashes in an urn began. However, the oldest urn discovered was in 7,000 BC, during an excavation of a Jiahu site in China. The dig brought up thirty-two separate vessels, giving us some insight into ancient burial practices in the region. 

Since then, most cultures have had some form of cremation as a practice and have used different materials to hold ashes. 

While it fell out of favor in the West for a time, burying bodies comes with a few drawbacks. Requiring a great deal of space, a growing population makes it harder to continue burying large coffins.

The chemicals, such as formaldehyde, can also seep into the ground and are terrible for the Earth. But burying bodies without it comes with its problems as rot settles in. Some environmentalists have suggested that all burials be moved to cremation to improve global conditions over time. 

Several cultures refuse cremation, requiring the body to remain intact during burial. This demand has lost popularity over the years, with primarily Orthodox denominations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam continuing the tradition. 

In the West, the founding in 1874 of the Cremation Society of England (CSofE) would spark a trend toward using urns over coffins, further promoted by Queen Victoria. The CSofE founder Sir Henry Thompson was one of Her Majesty’s personal physicians. 

Today, the rate of people choosing cremation over burial continues to rise. 

How Much Does an Urn Cost?

An urn can cost as little as $75 for basic models, while customized urns average $500. Two-person models exist for around $600, allowing loved ones to be interred together, while mini containers meant to hold a small portion of ashes are about $100. 

Customization is usually built into the price and allows names, dates, and messages to be engraved into the surface. Some will allow you to choose the design, which can be changed to better match the deceased’s personality. The material selected for the vessel will also affect the price. 

A direct cremation, done from a service without any extras such as the urn, starts at $2,000. With services, that cost can be as much as $7,000. Many places exist to offer low-cost cremation to families in need. For those who can’t afford it, most states provide financial assistance. In the case of people who have no one to cover the costs, the state will cremate at their expense. See your local medical examiner’s office for more information. 

With such a wide array of options, cremation fits most budgets. Urns can be purchased directly from funeral directors at the home chosen for funeral services. However, more people buy their own online, using websites dedicated to cheap or at-cost funeral accessories. These providers give control to loved ones, who may have a specific idea in mind of what best fits the style of the passed relative or friend. 

Looking at the different vessels on display will show a surprising number of variations. As the demand for cremation increases, so do the designs to choose from. For example:

  • INTAJ Handmade Rosewood Urn – This wooden urn (from has intricate carvings made from durable, rich wood and offers a beautiful display for your loved one.
  • OneWorld Memorials Peacock Stained Glass Urn (available on – This triangular-shaped box with stained glass peacocks on the front provides a stunning, colorful display for your dearly departed. 

The creativity behind modern urn design is staggering and shows why more and more people are choosing this unassuming method of tribute to the usual gravestone. 

How To Select the Right Urn for Your Loved One

There are some considerations before you choose an urn: size, material, and how the ashes will be stored or displayed. Having this information before you begin will be critical and avoid common mistakes. If you choose, the funeral director can show you the appropriate selections. 


Size is one of the most significant factors that cause headaches when buying from a direct retailer instead of a funeral home. You’ll notice that each has a different size rather than a standardized one. That’s because the number of ashes will depend on the deceased’s weight, height, and bone density at the time of death. 

The rule of thumb is one cubic inch (16.39 cubic cm) per one pound (0.45 kg) of weight. If the departed was 180 lbs (81.65 kg) at their time of death and otherwise healthy, you can assume you need at least 180 cubic square inches (1,169.29 cubic sq. cm) in an urn. If they had healthy bones, that would match the weight, though weak bones could lead to slightly fewer ashes. 

Height may also be a factor, as someone who is abnormally tall could have more bone density as a result. Adding a few more inches can ensure enough space, especially if there’ll only be one container. 


An incredible number of materials exist for urns these days, thanks to the specialized designs we see on the market. Metals and ceramics are the most frequently used, though wood is becoming more popular every year. Porcelain, glass, and crystal are also typical, though sometimes only used in mixed material urns as aesthetic enhancements. 

There’s no single best material, but knowing some risks is vital before making your final selection. Wood should be sealed to avoid rot, but there’s always some danger if it gets wet, and termites are also something to protect against. Glass, crystal, and porcelain can be chipped or shattered. Some metals can rust. 

In the end, it’s less about what you choose and more about how you care for the urn over the subsequent years. Some will need to be maintained more than others, so make sure you know the responsibilities before you decide. 


Where’s your urn going to be kept? Some families choose to buy a plot in a graveyard where vessels can be stored. This allows loved ones to be next to others who’ve already passed or will in the future. Others keep the ashes in their homes or passed out among the living in smaller containers that can be displayed or worn. 

Knowing the final resting place will narrow down your selection. Many will come in sets, even customized versions with a large container for the majority of ashes and a small one that matches it. This is perfect if you have an internment spot but want to keep them close. 

If you have a mini urn or wearable jewelry for ashes, ask the funeral director to separate the remains into each. They are happy to help. 

What Is the Proper Way To Display an Urn?

If you’re using a cemetery, there are two potential spots for an urn: a mausoleum and a columbarium. A mausoleum is a covered structure or building, usually owned by a family, to keep ancestral lines together. A columbarium is a public display with sealed boxes of stored ashes.

Any surface where the urn is unlikely to be jostled or pushed is appropriate for home display. Some prefer to keep them in the main room, where anyone can view. Others prefer to keep them in the bedroom, a more intimate setting where their loved one watches over them while they sleep. 

There is no wrong answer; the important thing is to comfort those still living. 

It’s best to keep urns out of reach from pets or children. You should also ensure the urn is sealed to prevent any obstruction.

Many people choose to create a dedicated space in their homes for a memorial. It may include photos of the dead, trinkets that represent them, and memories of a loved one’s life. These altars are a lovely way to pay tribute to those who have passed and give the family a place to visit, and offer a sacred space to keep the urn safe.

What Are the Rules of Spreading Ashes?

Not everyone wants to keep the ashes, while some loved ones may have had requests to spread their ashes elsewhere. One of the benefits of cremation is the ability to scatter them in places significant to the dead. We see people tossing them into the wind anywhere in movies and TV shows. But are there rules regarding spreading ashes? Less than you would think. 

Cremation destroys any waste that would be harmful to public health, which is one of its most beneficial qualities. 

In most situations, you are welcome to spread ashes anywhere, including public spaces. Just make sure that you ask permission if it’s private property and never trespass. 

And if you’re looking to spread ashes in places such as national parks or wildlife reserves, you may need to apply for a permit first or get approval from the appropriate authorities. 

How To Talk to Your Loved Ones About Cremation

Even if it isn’t imminent, starting a conversation about death is never easy. Superstitions and emotions often get in the way, making it a complex topic to bring up. But being prepared and telling your loved ones your wishes before it becomes relevant is always preferable to leaving things open-ended.

When the time comes, there’ll be a lot for those who care for you to deal with. Taking care of your own death plans can alleviate a ton of stress and give your family and friends the time they need to grieve your loss. The first step is to sit down with your next of kin and tell them that you want cremation, not burial. 

How far you go into this process is up to you. But approaching it logically, calmly, and with a set of directives will make the conversation go more smoothly.  


There are many benefits to choosing cremation over burial, and prime among them is to take a piece of your loved one home to be close to you through the coming years. Finding the perfect urn can provide closure. It’s clear why urns are becoming the internment of choice. 


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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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