Burying Ashes: All You Need to Know

A short guide to burying ashes in a cemetery, churchyard or existing grave

Last updated: 11 March 2019

Burying ashes is something that many families choose to do, instead of scattering a person’s cremation ashes.

Some people may choose to hold a quiet cremation funeral when someone dies, and for the committal of their ashes to be a part of a bigger memorial service led by a religious minister or civil celebrant at a later date.

You can choose a burial plot for someone’s cremation ashes at the time of their funeral, or take time after their cremation to decide where and when you would like this to happen. Unlike a traditional burial, there is no time limit for when you may choose to bury someone’s ashes.

Where can I bury cremated ashes?

The most usual places for the burial of cremation ashes are in small graves in cemeteries, crematoria gardens of remembrance, woodland burial grounds and in parish churchyards.

But some people bury their loved one’s ashes in the garden, and the UK even has an underwater cemetery for burying ashes, off the Dorset coast.

Cremation ashes can be buried directly in the ground, or interred in an urn in a burial plot. You can buy double urns to hold two people’s ashes.

Cremation ashes can also be placed inside someone’s coffin, before a traditional burial.

When you buy a grave for cremation ashes, what you are actually getting is a “exclusive right of burial” in that plot for a fixed number of years.

Many cemeteries and burial grounds have special areas for the burying of ashes according to religious faith or denomination. The Catholic Church, for instance, does not permit the scattering of ashes, but permits their burial in an area of a cemetery dedicated to the faith, or ashes in an urn to be placed in a columbarium niche which has been similarly blessed by the Church.

How do you bury ashes in a cemetery?

You can ask your funeral director about burying ashes in a cemetery at the time of arranging a funeral, or make your own enquiries directly with a cemetery in advance or at a later date.

Crematoriums have a dedicated areas for the burial of ashes, in their gardens of remembrance.

These include graves in lawned areas, which can be marked with memorial masonry and more informal garden areas where cremation ashes – not in an urn– can be buried, with the place marked with a rose, shrub or tree.

Some cemeteries and crematoriums also have above-ground burial options for cremation ashes, including a type of mausoleum called a columbarium, where funeral urns can be placed in niches set into the walls. Families can buy a dedicated niche for their loved one and columbariums are generally open to visitors year-round.

Other above-ground ways of burying ashes in a cemetery include ornamental masonry, such as carved stone benches, which have spaces inside where the remains are placed.

Many woodland burial sites also offer gravesites for the burial of ashes. These ashes plots can be purchased in advance or at the time of need.

Many people choose to have a committal service for the ashes, as part of a memorial for the person who has died.

Can you bury ashes in a churchyard?

Parish communities more often have space for burying ashes in the churchyard than they do for traditional burials.

The Church of England can help people arrange a funeral in their local parish even if they weren’t a churchgoer and a local vicar or the parish council may be able to advise about space in your local churchyard.

How much does it cost to bury cremated ashes?

The cost of a cremation ashes plot can vary according to the location of the cemetery and grave. However, they cost far less than a traditional grave – between a few hundred pounds to several thousand pounds.

It may cost more if you are not a local resident or member of the local parish, or you wish to buried in a specific location within the cemetery or churchyard. Family plots and larger grave sites will cause the cost to increase as well.

The total bill cost of buying a grave (or more accurately, the purchase of the exclusive burial rights for a plot), includes an additional fee for the internment of the ashes in the grave, paying for the right to mark the grave with a stone, and the cost of any masonry or living marker.

If you are burying ashes in an existing grave, you’ll still need to pay a fee for opening the grave and their interral.

If you are planning for burying ashes at the time of arranging a funeral, these costs are called “disbursements” – third party goods and services which are added on to the total bill from the funeral director.

Can you bury ashes in an existing grave?

You may choose to bury ashes in an existing grave site, provided you are the owner of the grave or next of kin with a claim over the exclusive burial rights.

Can the burying of ashes take place on private land?

In the UK, you are legally allowed to bury ashes on private land with the landowner’s permission. However, bear in mind that the land could be sold to another owner which may make it difficult for you to visit the grave in future.

What is a committal service for the burial of ashes?

A committal service is a short graveside ceremony that takes place during the burial or interment of ashes. It can be religious or non-religious.