Ash Scattering Ceremonies
Scattering ashes involves releasing them outdoors where they decompose and become one with nature. These types of ash scattering ceremonies have become quite popular, and we have planned many memorable services of this kind.
Where Should I Scatter Ashes?
Many families choose to scatter their loved one’s ashes at a location that reminds them of their loved one or at a place that their loved one enjoyed going to. Parks, beaches, and waterways are common locations for scattering ashes. Below are some great ideas for locations on scattering ashes.
A golf course can be beautiful and is perfect for those who loved the game.
A waterway can be perfect for those who loved to fish or enjoyed sailing.
For many families their cottage is a perfect getaway and acts as a sanctuary.
Regulations On Where You Can Scatter
Choose a spot that is special to your loved one, a place where you bonded with your loved one, or somewhere that just reminds you of him or her. It is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
However, there are laws and regulations on where you can scatter ashes. Before finalizing a spot, make sure you are allowed to scatter ashes at that spot. Below, we provide some general guidelines on where you cannot spread your loved one’s ashes, and some other things you need to keep in mind.
As a first step, with the help from local agencies we will outline the exact bi-laws for ash scattering in your specific location.
1. Get Permission for Scattering on Private Property
For private property that you own, you are able to scatter without permission or without any issue. For property owned by other individuals or parties, you must obtain permission before scattering. To avoid any legal trouble, get signed and dated written permission from the property owner before scattering.
2. Sports Venues & Amusement Parks
Sports venues and amusement parks have thousands of visitors every year, but people need to remember that these locations are not public spaces. You can ask for permission to scatter ashes at these venues but often these requests are declined. If you scatter without permission, these venues will likely call the police and the ashes will be removed.
3. Public Spaces
For some public places such as local parks, several cities require you to obtain a scattering permit. For uncontrolled public lands, often there are no regulations or restrictions, but we have to use our best judgement. Under any situation, do not spread ashes within 100 yards of any public trails or roads.
4. Scattering Ashes in National Parks
National parks are beautiful and make for amazing locations to scatter ashes. Many National Parks grant permission to have scattering ash ceremonies, but often there are stipulations. Make sure you speak with the chief park ranger, get written permission, and clearly understand any specific rules. Similar to scattering ashes in public spaces, stay away from trails or developed areas that receive a lot of regular foot traffic.
5. Scattering Ashes in Waterways
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), scattering ashes at sea or over oceans is permitted but there are a couple of rules. The scattering must occur from boat or plane at least 3 nautical miles from the coastline. Furthermore, after finishing the scattering you must notify the EPA within 30 days.
The scattering of ashes over inland waters such as rivers, ponds, and lakes is not subject to the federal regulations we discussed above. We will work with your local environmental agency, mortuary board, or city office to learn about the specific laws that apply to each body of water.
6. Being Considerate of Others & the Community
Even if you are legally allowed to scatter ashes in a spot, please be mindful and considerate of others. Avoid any location that receives heavy foot traffic. Think of your own family. You would not want to be out walking with your family only to discover someone’s ashes. Spread the ashes in a place where they can lie and rest in peace.
Types of Ash Scattering Ceremonies
When people first think about scattering ashes, often what comes to mind is the tossing and dispersing of cremation ashes into the air. This type of ash scattering is called a casting ceremony. People find that the casting ceremony helps symbolize the freeing or letting go of their loved one’s spirit.
We have organized many different versions of a casting ceremony. Some families choose to keep it simple and have one family member scatter the ashes whereas others have each family member release some of the ashes. You can personalize it any manner that you want. For example, families have been known to have a symbolic toast where the ashes are divided up and put into cups for each guest. Then a toast can be said, and everyone can release the ashes in unison.
Also remember to first determine the direction of the wind. It is important to release the ashes downwind so attendees are not in the path of the ashes.
A trenching ceremony is another popular ash scattering ceremony. A trench or hole is dug into the ground and the ashes are scattered inside. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the family covers the trench or hole.
Trenching ceremonies are ideal for those who loved to garden or loved nature. We have had many trenching ceremonies where the trench is dug under a tree or in a flower bed.
Like a casting ceremony, you can get more creative. For example, we have seen trenches dug in the shape of a heart and trenches where the initials of a loved one are spelled out.
A slight variation on the trenching ceremony is a ringing ceremony. A trench is dug in a circle around a tree, flower, or something else of significance. Some families choose to create a memorial at the center of the ring with candles, a picture of the deceased, or some type of memento like a favorite jersey.
Sky or Aerial Ceremony
Aerial ash scattering has been quickly growing in popularity. For this type of scattering ceremony, we will work with a private company that will fly your loved one’s ashes into the sky and release them. Aerial scattering can be done by plane, helicopter, hot air balloon, or even by a hang glider.
One negative about this type of ceremony is that you are often not allowed to fly in the plane with your loved one’s ashes. With some companies, you can pay an additional fee to fly along but the number of attendees and space will be limited.
Since families are usually unable to be involved in the scattering portion of the service, many families will organize a small ceremony with music, prayers, and speeches prior to the plane taking off. On a clear day, aerial ash scattering can be viewed from the ground. In addition, the company flying the aircraft will usually take photos of the scattering that families can take home as a keepsake.
As opposed to casting ashes over water, we can organize what’s referred to as a water ceremony which sees the cremation ashes put into a water-soluble urn. The urn will be placed in the water, it will float for a couple minutes before it begins to sink and dissolve. To conclude the ceremony, guests will often toss flowers, petals, or wreaths into the water as one final tribute. However, ensure the flowers or wreaths can easily decompose.
A raking ceremony often takes place in large gardens or in flower beds. The ashes are dispersed evenly across a section of soil. Often, we setup the ceremony so that each family takes turns raking the ashes into the soil and as they do so they share a memory of the deceased with the other guests.
Scattering gardens are becoming very popular across North America. Many cemeteries have built beautiful scattering gardens where families can spread their loved one’s ashes alongside other members of the community. These garden areas grow beautiful trees and flowers, have a solemn and tranquil setting, have seating areas for quiet reflection, and are surrounded by plaques and markers.