How To Plan An Ash Scattering Ceremony

Family looking over a lake.


As cremation becomes a common choice for families, it is important to embrace the new rituals that come with this process. The ash scattering ceremony, unique to cremation, is a meaningful and poignant way to honor and memorialize your loved one. As traditional funerals have brought comfort to families for generations, the ash scattering ceremony is a new way to remember your loved one and bring comfort to those mourning their loss.


Below, we have provided guidance on how to plan an ash scattering ceremony.


A Scattering Ceremony Can Be Simple or Traditional

Like any kind of funeral service, the scattering ceremony should be something that brings you and your family comfort. This means that your loved one’s scattering ceremony can be as simple or as traditional or elaborate as you need it to be. It can stand alone as the only service you hold for your loved one, or it can follow traditional funeral services, such as a viewing. What matters most is that it is a reflection of your loved one’s personality and wishes, and that it brings you and your community together in remembrance.


If you want to keep the ceremony uncomplicated, then planning can be as straightforward as choosing the location and letting your guests know when to be there. You can ask your guests to share stories about your loved one, or to read passages or scriptures that were important to them.


A scattering ceremony can also resemble a traditional funeral service. It can be led by clergy, and have many of the same amenities, such as chairs, tables, and catering.


Your loved one’s wishes and personality, together with the needs of your family, should guide you during the planning process.


Choose A Meaningful Time and Place

If your loved one told you where they would like their ashes to be scattered, then you will need to focus on the logistics of contacting your family and friends, and making sure everyone knows where to go, and when.


But if your loved one didn’t specify a location, then you will need to reflect on your loved one to decide where the best place to scatter their ashes will be. Was there a particular place your loved one cherished above all, like a favorite vacation spot, public park, or family land? Or was there a type of landscape that your loved one preferred, like the mountains, or the beach?


You can also choose to scatter in more than one location. If, for example, several family members have treasured memories of spending time with your loved one in one place, but you have another place in mind, you can divide up your loved one’s ashes and do two scattering ceremonies. This way, everyone has the chance to have this important final connection with your loved one.


Massachusetts and Cape Cod offer many beautiful places in which to scatter ashes. Some areas to consider are:

  • Nickerson State Park
  • Myles Standish State Forest
  • The Appalachian Trail
  • 3 nautical miles out from any beach, such as the Cape Cod National Seashore


There are many more options in our beautiful state, including some nontraditional ones: Gillette Stadium will accommodate ash scattering, as long as you contact them and set an appointment beforehand.


While Massachusetts law states that ashes can be scattered anywhere that it isn’t illegal to do so, it’s important to keep in mind that many public lands have rules and regulations regarding ash scattering, and you should always check city and country regulations first. Additionally, scattering on beaches or in tidal pools is not permitted by federal law, and New England states prohibit scattering in inland waters. When you scatter, remember to do so away from waterways, trails, and any other commonly used areas.


Cremation Funeral Services Are Flexible

One of the advantages of choosing cremation for your loved one is that this process affords your family time and flexibility. If, for example, your loved one expressed a wish to be scattered somewhere that is inaccessible during winter, you can wait until spring or summer to hold a scattering ceremony.


This flexibility also gives you more time to grieve and plan. If you feel you need to sit with your grief for a time before planning a scattering ceremony, you can. Likewise, if your family is dispersed around the country, or even around the world, this flexibility gives you the opportunity to take the time you need to get ahold of everyone and make plans that ensure everyone can be there to mourn together.


At all of our funeral home locations in Massachusetts – Falmouth, West Falmouth, Mashpee, Martha's Vineyard, Wareham, Harwich, Yarmouth, Marstons Mills, Nantucket, Bridgewater, and East Bridgewater – we are here to help support and guide our community during their times of need. If you have any questions about cremation services, or are in need of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always available.

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