Updated on 11/13/2020
Designing the perfect ceremony for scattering ashes takes time and thought. Ashes can be scattered in all kinds of areas. From the top of a mountain to the beach, or from a home garden to a beautiful lake. Each ceremony tells a story about the person whose ashes are released into the ground, water or air. Urns for scattering offer the ideal complement to a once-in-a-lifetime chance to say goodbye.
These suggestions for scattering ceremonies offer families inspiration in building their own unique sendoff.
Campfire Scattering Ceremony Ideas
Many traditional campfire ceremonies follow the natural course of the fire. After all, a bonfire is not unlike life itself. In the beginning, they are outspoken. Toward the end, they become quieter, with a gentle warming glow.
In a campfire scattering ceremony, the host may encourage each participant to gather around the fire. At the beginning, they can read poetry about a campfire, and ask everyone to contribute a log to the fire as they read. The crackling flames symbolize the amazing fire of life, and how it must eventually end for everyone.
For many people, it is comforting to think that their loved ones are looking down at them from above. Scattering ceremonies that emphasize an upward movement offer a symbolic representation of this belief. Memorial hosts who have the time and inclination may arrange to release butterflies at the ceremony.
Butterflies are a symbol of transformation from one’s earthly body and rebirth into timeless beauty. At such a ceremony, people can bring an appropriate scattering urn and describe how their loved one transformed their lives. When the butterflies are released into a warm garden, people might choose to cast the ashes one at a time into the space.
Scattering Ashes at the Beach
The ocean tide is truly timeless, but not unchanging. When the tide is timid, it may release surprising gifts from its depths. High tide reflects the power of the ocean current. Families have many options for scattering or burying ashes on the beach.
Ceremony attendees may play music or read poems about the transient nature of life, as represented so powerfully by the water.
Afterward, some people like to do what is known as “trenching.” This process involves creating a shallow crevice for the ashes. Then, once the tide rises, the ashes are carried gently out to sea. Others opt to place the ashes in a biodegradable urn, like a Peaceful Petal® Water Burial Urn. This type of urn will float on the water briefly before descending below the surface.
Launching Ashes into the Sky
Lots of loved ones adored speed or time in the air during their lives. They might appreciate one last opportunity to have their earthly remains float through the wind.
Scattering ashes by plane is a popular option that many families choose. A scattering ceremony may need to begin on the ground, with stories or scriptures recounting the changing winds of life. During the scattering, as participants observe from the ground, memorial hosts may opt to play music appropriate to them. Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” and “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas are friendly choices.
At the conclusion, attendees may take a moment of silence, listening to the sound of the wind spreading the remains far and wide.
Returning Ashes to the Earth
For hundreds of years, millions of people have participated in burial ceremonies that commit a loved one’s final remains to the ground. Cremation opens up choices other than a traditional burial, many families want to use the ashes to contribute to the environment.
Scattering ashes in a garden is popular. In part, this is because the remains could contribute to the healthy growth of flowers and trees. Before the ceremony begins, people might separate a small amount of the ashes into packets containing wildflower seeds.
The host or another person can rake the ground that is to be seeded, as a symbol of preparing the earth for a loved one’s permanent resting place. As a way to signify the experience, they may recite the scripture from Genesis that prompted the popular line from the English Burial Service:
“Earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust."
Each person may then distribute their packet of ashes and wildflower seeds into the prepared soil. As they do, they could participate in the ancient art of raking a person’s remains into the ground. At the end, the host may choose to give them a scattering tube that they can use to scatter ashes into their own gardens.
This keepsake serves as a reminder that their memories will follow them wherever they go. Offering a loved one a beautiful final rest and memorial in the form of a scattering ceremony is often the last gift that a family can give.
Scattering can happen almost anywhere, as long as the person in charge of the land approves. These scattering ceremony ideas help friends and family create an opportunity to gather, grieve, and provide a loving resting place.
Our Gift To You
If you enjoyed these scattering ashes ideas you are welcome to download our FREE eBook, Stories from Funeral Celebrants. In this book you will find a wonderful collection of stories shared from some of America's best celebrants.