How to Fill an Urn

The loss of a loved one can be full of challenging moments, and one of these may be how to handle his or her cremated remains or ‘ashes’. Here are some suggestions to make filling an urn a little easier for you.

Helpful Info

  1. The ashes will come from the crematorium with a metal ID tag inside a plastic bag within a temporary container--typically a cardboard or plastic box. It is a good idea to keep the tag with the ashes when you transfer them from the temporary container into a cremation urn.
  2. Make sure you have the correct sized urn to hold the ashes. Each pound prior to cremation is equal to a cubic inch of ashes-- when selecting an urn for someone who weighed 190 pounds, you will need an urn with a capacity of 190 cubic inches or larger. The video Choosing an Urn in Four Simple Steps may be helpful.
  3. Ask a funeral professional or trusted friend or relative to handle the transfer of ashes for you. It can be a very emotional experience. Ask for help if you need it.

Methods of Filling An Urn

There are three methods for transferring the ashes into an urn after cremation:

  1. Transfer the entire bag from the temporary container into the urn.
  2. Pour the cremated remains from the plastic bag directly into an urn for ashes. You will have to remove the bag from the temporary container. Remembering to keep the metal ID tag with the remains.
  3. Pour ashes from the plastic bag into a new plastic bag inside the urn.

Step by Step Guide to Filling an Urn

A) Gather these helpful tools

  • A sheet of newspaper or a towel to lay under the urn for catching any spilled ashes (which can then be easily placed back in the urn).
  • A large funnel or piece of paper to create a custom-sized funnel.
  • A mask and gloves (optional). Though cremated remains are non-toxic, you may wish to use a mask as some of the particles are fine and wear gloves to keep your hands clean.
  • Scissors
  • If you plan to seal the urn, you’ll need glue appropriate for the material of the urn.

B) Choose your method of filling (see above).

C) Transfer the ashes:

  1. Lay out your newspaper or towel on a flat surface.
  2. Put on the mask and gloves.
  3. Place urn on covered surface with funnel within reach.
  4. Remove the lid from the urn.
  5. Begin by opening the temporary container and removing the plastic bag holding the ashes (keeping the metal ID tag with the ashes).
  6. If you choose to transfer the entire bag, simply open the cremation urn and maneuver the bag with the contents. You may have to move the bag around a bit (or open it) so it fits into the urn. Alternatively, if you wish to place the ashes directly into the cremation urn, place the funnel inside the opening of the urn. Next, cut across a corner of the bag containing the remains--creating an opening through which you can slowly pour the cremated remains into the funnel. (Don’t worry if some spills, this is why you covered the surface so you can easily scoop up spilled ash and return it to the urn.) As the urn fills, lift the funnel slightly upwards to create more room for ashes.
  7. Once you have placed all of the ashes into the urn, replace the lid or threaded closure.

D) Seal the urn if you wish.

Follow these steps to seal a metal adult or keepsake urn:

  1. Clean the lip of the urn and lid with a soft cloth to remove any debris.
  2. Place several small dots of glue on the (opening) rim of the urn base and lid. (most urns will work with superglue--check the glue guideline)
  3. Quickly replace lid and screw tightly to ensure seal.
  4. Wipe away any excess glue before it dries.

This method can also work for sealing a ceramic urn for ashes or wood cremation urn. You may need to adjust the type of glue depending on the material of the cremation urn.

The Buying Guides and Memorial Ideas categories on Stardust Memorials blog are full of additional resources to help you navigate the process of choosing a cremation urn and planning a meaningful memorial service.