Revealed: The Weird And Wonderful Things People Have Done With Ashes

The traditional funeral has been laid to rest, giving rise to some truly unique tributes.
Set of colored antique vases. Vector illustration. Pottery ceramic, pot object crockery
S-S-S via Getty Images
Set of colored antique vases. Vector illustration. Pottery ceramic, pot object crockery

For decades, ashes have been held in ornate urns on top of mantelpieces or scattered across places of beauty – but times are changing. When it comes to honouring the memories of loved ones, Brits aren’t afraid to get creative.

A new survey from funeral director Co-op revealed the top 10 most unique ashes tributes. With cremations now making up 82% of Co-op’s funerals, there has been a shift in the way people scatter or keep their loved ones’ ashes, the report found.

In the last year, there’s been a 21% rise in the number of people choosing to put ashes into jewellery keepsakes, with the most popular choices being rings, paperweights and pendants, Co-op said.

The results are based on a poll of 4,000 UK adults via YouGov, as well as insights from its funeral directors, who have collectively conducted half a million funerals in the last five years.

So, what are the 10 most unique ashes tributes?

1. Inside the furnace of a steam train.

2. Inside a firework.

3. Creating a tattoo (with the ash included in the ink).

4. Scattering during a skydive.

5. Sent up over the sea inside a balloon.

6. Putting them in a model aeroplane.

7. Taking them around the world.

8. Putting them inside a car so they can always travel with them.

9. Keeping them inside a rucksack so they could be carried everywhere.

10. Scattering at a US baseball ground.

The findings form part of Co-op’s 2019 Funeral Trends report, which showed a decline in tradition and a rise in celebrating individuality. Just one in 10 people said they would want a traditional religious funeral and a further two fifths see funerals becoming more informal in the future. Some are opting to forgo the ceremony altogether and instead believe the wake holds more value.

Requests for alternative hearses have also risen by a fifth in the past three years, Co-op said. Some of the most unique vehicles they’ve seen include an Only Fools and Horses hearse, a canal boat, a milk float, a tandem bicycle and a lorry.

People have also been opting to place weird and wonderful items inside their coffins – from a Chinese takeaway to a false leg and, *sighs*, a mobile phone. One person requested that they be buried with an Argos catalogue alongside them, while another wanted their trusty dustpan and brush.

More than 80% of Co-op’s funeral directors have reported an increase in families asking mourners not to wear black at services. In the last year, nine out of 10 of Co-op’s employees have conducted funerals where mourners wore bright colours, and 85% have arranged funerals where guests wore the deceased’s favourite hue.

“The funeral sector is rapidly changing,” said Samantha Tyrer, managing director of Co-op Funeralcare. “Whilst 16.5 million of us still feel uncomfortable talking about death, we’re clear on what we want and in the majority cases, it’s no longer a traditional funeral service.”

Tyrer also urged people to make their funeral wishes known to loved ones. “Our funerals represent the unique life an individual has lived,” she added. “The choices are endless and so it’s absolutely crucial that people make their wishes known to ensure they’re not missed.”