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Comprehensive Guide to Ash Scattering Ceremonies

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Ash Scattering Ceremonies are a relatively unknown aspect of the cremation and burial process. With the growing popularity of cremation, more people are looking for alternative ways to commemorate the lives of their loved ones. At Rest Ashured, we offer ash scattering options that include gorgeous mountain views, tree dedications with memorial stones, and burial at sea in the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina, Topsail Island, North Carolina, or Virginia Beach.

We help people honor their loved ones in a variety of ways, and wanted to share some of those ways with you. There is no right or wrong way to memorialize a loved one, so look through these ideas below—or come up with your own—because when it comes time to say goodbye, each journey is its own.

What is an Ash Scattering Ceremony?

An Ash Scattering Ceremony is a ritual held to honor someone’s life after their death and cremation. It is very similar to what’s held at a funeral, but not confined to a church or funeral home, and can be held any time after the cremation. More often than not, these ceremonies are held by the families, whereas funeral services are run by the funeral directors themselves.

For some families, they choose to have a typical memorial service and keep the ashes in an urn, versus scattering them. For them, this urn is a permanent home for their loved one. But for others, it is only a temporary home until they find just the right spot to scatter the ashes. Often, people feel they need some time before they are able to let go.

Scatter Gardens

A family may wish to plan and memorialize their loved one on their own, or they may wish to consult a funeral home to help with the ceremony. The types of memorials and ceremonies for ash scattering are only limited to one’s imagination, although most will probably fall into the ceremony types described below. Regardless of the type of ceremony, some form of scatter garden is often included.

Scatter gardens are designated places where ashes can be scattered without legal or environmental risks. (People often don’t realize that states have different laws and regulations for ash scattering.). Scatter gardens can accommodate just about any type of ash scattering ceremony. Some are manicured floral gardens with areas for trenching, raking, or ringing of the ashes. Others offer a rock garden for scattering, but in a more natural/rustic setting. Rest Ashured Ash Scattering Services offers such a place with beautiful mountain views, as well.

Types of Ash Scattering Ceremonies

Casting Ceremony

When people first think about scattering ashes, often what comes to mind is the tossing and releasing of cremation ash into the air, called a casting ceremony. Many people feel that this symbolizes the freeing or letting go of their loved one’s spirit.  It can involve music, memories, and verses. While there are many places in which to cast, cremation ash must be scattered carefully. Because of the uncontrollable nature of this type of scattering, many choose other options.

Trenching Ceremony

Trenching ceremonies are ideal for those who loved to garden or loved nature. Often the trench is dug under a tree or in a flower bed. Others may choose to dig a trench into a special shape, such as the loved one’s initials. After the trenching is finished, family and friends can take turns scattering the ashes inside the trench, as they eulogize their loved one with fond memories, recited verses, etc. After everyone is finished, the ashes are covered with the displaced dirt or mulch.

Ringing ceremony

Many families, especially those who have planted a tree in remembrance of their loved one, choose a ringing ceremony.

This is a slight variation of the trenching ceremony, where a circle is dug around a tree, flower, or some permanent structure of significance. The ashes can be scattered directly on the ground around the tree or shrub, before being covered with the displaced earth. Many see this as a symbol of the circle of life. Rest Ashured offers tree dedications, and will plant a tree for the cremation ash to rest beneath.

Raking Ceremony

At some point during this ceremony, the family pours the ashes evenly across a section of soil, then rakes the ashes into the soil, usually at the conclusion of the ceremony. Often, each family member takes turns raking the ashes into the soil, and as they do so, they share a special memory, prayer or verse.

Sky or Aerial Ceremony

For this type of ash scattering ceremony, you will probably need to work with a private company that will release the ashes during flight. Aerial scattering can be done by plane, helicopter, hot air balloon, or even by a hang glider. Often family and friends will hold a private ceremony on the ground, where they can view the scattering.

Scattering Ashes at Sea Ceremony

Woman scattering ashes on the water

Scattering ashes over the water, often called “Burial at Sea,”  is usually done by boat or at the water’s edge in a floating ceremony. Because the EPA requires that cremation ash be scattered 3 nautical miles offshore, families have fewer options with this ceremony. They can either charter a captained boat to take the family out to have an attended ash-scattering ceremony, or they can hire a boat captain to scatter the ashes for them. The latter option is less expensive, and is often chosen in conjunction with a beachside ceremony. Rest Ashured Ash Scattering Services offers attended and unattended options.

Lighting candles and casting flowers, petals or wreaths on the water along with the ashes, are lovely choices to enhance the event.

Floating Ceremony

In this ceremony, as opposed to scattering ashes over open water, the cremation ash is put into a water-soluble urn. These urns can be simple or ornate, according to your taste. After, or as a part of, the memorial, the urn is placed in the water. The urn floats for a couple minutes before it begins to sink and dissolve. To conclude the ceremony, guests will often toss live flowers, petals, or wreaths into the water as one final tribute.

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