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How to Successfully Plan A Memorable Ash-Scattering Ceremony

Published: August 23, 2021

As the popularity of cremation has increased over the last few decades, more and more people have felt the need to include a meaningful ritual alongside it. A traditional funeral with the body present isn’t all that common when it comes to cremation. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a memorial service that serves the same purpose, celebrating your deceased loved one.

One way to remember your loved one after cremation is to hold an ash-scattering ceremony. There are many ways you can go about doing this, and there’s bound to be one that’s a perfect fit for the person you’re honoring. It can be a small, private gathering or a standing-room-only celebration of life. And it can take place anywhere from a backyard to a national forest, international waters, or aboard an airplane. The sky’s the limit!

Here’s a quick checklist to help you plan an ash-scattering ceremony for a loved one:

Step 1: Decide on a ceremony location

One of the first things that you need to consider before planning out the details of the ash-scattering ceremony is the location or the venue where the ceremony would take place. This first step is crucial so you’ll know beforehand what legalities you’ll need to comply with to hold the ceremony there successfully.

Step 2: Choose the type of ash-scattering ceremony you want

There are numerous ceremony types to choose from, but here are three of the most common services:

Casting Ceremony

This type of ash-scattering ceremony is the most popular of the three and is often portrayed on film.

In this type of service, the decedent’s family and/or closest friends cast the ashes into the air and across a particular land area or body of water. The act of casting itself is pretty symbolic and can represent the act of letting go and ‘releasing’ your loved one to a special place.

Important to note: If you decide to do a casting ceremony for your loved one, make sure to first identify the direction of the wind. We’ve all seen those comical incidents on the big screen.

Water Ceremony

In this ash-scattering service, the friends and family of the deceased spread the ashes across a body of water. This could either be done on a lake, sea, or river. Rather than cast the ashes to the wind, the remains are usually transferred to a water-soluble urn which is then set afloat across the body of water chosen for the ceremony. The urn will then gradually dissolve, releasing the contents into the water.

This can also be done by releasing the ashes directly onto the water's surface.

Note: Make sure to consult with local agencies before holding a water ceremony as this often requires obtaining special permits to make the event possible.

Raking Ceremony

Third and last on our list is the raking ceremony. Although not as popular as the previous types of ash-scattering ceremonies discussed, this ceremony is becoming increasingly practiced right here in the United States.

In this type of event, family and friends of the deceased can simply scatter the remains on a garden plot or land dedicated for this purpose. After which, the ashes are gently raked across the soil to ensure that they’re dispersed. Once this is done, the attendees can take turns in talking about the best memories they’ve had with the deceased.

Eternal Reefs

An Eternal Reef combines a cremation urn, ash scattering and burial at sea into one meaningful, permanent environmental tribute to life. An Eternal Reef is a designed reef made of environmentally-safe cast concrete placed on the ocean floor as a permanent memorial of a life well lived.

Instead of tossing the ashes or letting them sink, Eternal Reefs create a coral reef with your loved one’s remains inside and then drop it in locations that are in need of reefs. Your loved one can become a coral reef to help the ocean life while creating a permanent living legacy. A great way to memorialize the passing of a loved one.

Step 3: Comply with the legalities required

As mentioned above, the documents/permits required for an ash-scattering ceremony may vary from place to place and greatly depend on the type of ceremony you’re planning to hold.

However, it would help to keep in mind that written permission is necessary if you’re planning to scatter ashes on private property.

If you’re scattering the ashes on public spaces, make sure to speak with the local agency or officers in charge of the matter to ensure that you will not be breaking any ordinances or regulations. A good rule of the thumb to remember is to scatter the remains at least 100 yards away from public roads.

If you’re scattering the ashes on a body of water, such as is the case with water ceremonies, make sure that you check the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules that have been set in place regarding the matter. You also need to double-check with the local government as some areas ban this act altogether.

Need help planning?

To understand your options better, feel free to speak with a funeral director who can help you decide which type of service is best for you.

Live in Pennsylvania? Feel free to reach out to us at Roupp Funeral Home! We’d be more than happy to be of assistance to your ash-scattering ceremony planning. Just send us an email at or call us at 1-570-966-2402.

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