If you are planning an ash scattering ceremony, here are a few key issues and tips to keep in mind:
- You must have permission to scatter ashes. The owner of the property where you are scattering the remains must provide permission for the ceremony (ideally in writing), and you may need further authorization from health and government officials. This is true even if you are planning on scattering the remains out at sea or on your own property.
- Seasonal scatterings are often best. An avid gardener might be best laid to rest during the spring, just as his or her favorite flower patch is beginning to bloom. Someone who loved boating in the summer might prefer if you wait until the warm season to provide a water ceremony. The holidays are also a great time for scattering ceremonies, since so many families are gathered during this time.
- An ash scattering ceremony is often more personal than a traditional memorial service. Just as many people only invite select family and friends to a ceremony at the burial site, so too do people restrict the number of individuals present at the scattering. For some people (especially grieving spouses or adult children saying goodbye to their parents), being able to do this alone is an important step. Don’t feel pressured to invite anyone you don’t want present—you can always have a more traditional memorial service later.
- Wind plays a role. There are few things worse than planning on scattering ashes over a cliff or onto the water only to be thwarted by wind blowing in the opposite direction. Take wind activity into account, or, if you’re doing a water scattering, opt for a water-soluble urn that can be dropped into the water.
- Personalize the experience with a ring or raking ceremony. In a ring ceremony, the ashes are placed in a ring around beloved objects, and the attendees can all participate in saying a few words or placing items in the ring. In a raking ceremony, each participant helps to place the ashes on the ground and rake them into the ground. This kind of hands-on ceremony can be very healing for the newly bereaved.
- Place a memorial at the site. One of the things many people don’t like about ash scattering ceremonies is that there is no permanent marker (like a headstone) that makes it easy to visit the deceased. As long as you have permission, feel free to place a traditional headstone, handmade marker, bench, or even a tree sapling at the site to provide a place for visitation and reflection.