This is the seventh edition of state-by-state rules related to storing and scattering ashes of a loved one and focuses on the state of Virginia. This beautiful state stretches from the Appalachian Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay, with an extensive Atlantic coastline. It is home to the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet and is known as the ‘birthplace of the nation’.
Funeral directors in Virginia and other states receive frequent questions about the rules and regulations related to scattering the ashes of a loved one or pet. This commonly includes whether or not it is permitted, where can it be done, and what can be used to scatter? In this state guide we highlight important information related to storing and scattering ashes in the state of Virginia, helping families memorialize a loved one in a dignified and legal way. Over the next few weeks we’ll be releasing additional state guides to scattering ashes so be sure to check back soon!
Regulations: Scattering Ashes in Virginia
There are no state laws in Virginia that restrict where you can keep or scatter the ashes of a person (or pet). Ashes can be kept in a crypt, grave, urn, or other container of your choosing. If you’re looking to scatter the ashes of a loved one, there are virtually endless options available to you in the state.
Even though there are no state-wide laws in Virginia related to storing or scattering cremated ashes, some cities and counties may have their own local restrictions. It’s always recommended to check with local government offices in the area where you plan on scattering.
Places to Scatter Ashes in Virginia
Many people choose to scatter the ashes of a loved one at a place with special meaning to them or their family, or another beautiful location outdoors. Memorial services are also becoming more and more common with scattering. This can be done before, during, or after the scattering is performed and can make for a memorable event that honors and reflects on a loved one who passed.
Below we’ve highlighted a few of the more common places where people scatter ashes in Virginia:
- In the Ocean – With Virginia’s long coastline and the large presence of current and retired US Navy personnel, scattering ashes at sea is a popular option in the state. There are many boating companies that offer this and most also have special services catering to members of the U.S. Navy or other military branch. Just a few things to keep in mind when doing a scattering at sea: federal law requires that ashes are scattered at least three nautical miles from shore and it’s necessary to inform the U.S. EPA within 30 days of doing a scattering at sea (most boating services can help with this).
- Public Land – Virginia is home to some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes - if you plan on scattering on public land, it’s always recommended to check if any local city or county regulations exist (and ask for permission when necessary).
- Federal Land – Regulations related to scattering cremated ashes in National Parks or on other federal land can typically be found with a quick internet search. Many of the National Parks do allow scattering in designated areas and with a permit. It’s important to use common sense when scattering and choose a place that’s away from hiking trails and roads.
- Private Property – the yard of a current or childhood home is one of the most common places people scatter a loved one’s ashes. Similar to most other states, in Virginia you’re allowed to scatter a loved one’s ashes on property that you own, or on the property of another person or organization with their permission.
- Scattering Gardens - many memorial parks, cemeteries, and churches in Virginia now have a place on their property designated for scattering ashes (this is typically referred to as a ‘scattering garden’). If this is something of interest, a quick internet search can typically find one in your area.
- From an Airplane – In Virginia, along with most other states, there are no laws restricting scattering ashes out of an airplane. Ashes are harmless and are no issues releasing them from the sky. Just be sure to hang on to the urn or other container holding the ashes - federal aviation law restricts dropping any object from the sky that could harm people or property.
How to Scatter Ashes?
With more and more people electing to be cremated (vs. burial) and an increased interest in scattering ashes of loved ones, many new urns have recently been introduced that are designed to scatter. Below we’ve highlighted some of the most common ones.
With its vast coastline, water burials continue to be a popular choice of people in Virginia.
One of the leading options for performing a water burial is the Eco Water Urn. This special patent pending biodegradable urn is constructed only from recycled plant materials (no glues or chemicals) and floats upright in the water (similar to a buoy) for up to a few minutes before it gracefully breaks apart and scatters the ashes in water. The Eco Water Urn comes in a sleek bamboo case, which makes for a perfect way to safely transport the urn to that special location for scattering.
Another option for water burials that’s getting a lot of interest is the new Flow, the Ice Urn. This unique patented urn is made entirely from ice and floats gracefully on top of the water before it melts and spreads a loved one’s ashes.
There are two main types of scattering urns – the Eco Scattering Urn made entirely from bamboo and urns made from paper.
Eco Scattering Urn
The patented Eco Scattering Urn is constructed from bamboo, a sustainable and fast-growing resource. This unique urn has quickly become a leading scattering urn of choice for funeral homes nationwide and makes for a beautiful and dignified memorial for a loved one. Starting at $49, it's an affordable option for most families.
The bamboo Eco Scattering Urn also has a unique closing mechanism on top of the urn that provides families with the ability to securely transport cremated ashes to that special place and also scatter with ease and control. This special urn can be engraved by the factory with your loved one’s information for a nominal fee.
Paper Scattering Urns
There are a number of low-cost scattering urns on the market manufactured from paper that have a nature scene or other design printed on the outside of the urn. These are fairly easy to use after they’re loaded with the ashes. During the loading process, it is necessary to glue the inner piece in place, which can be a challenge for some people.
More Than One Memorial
With the large number of new memorial options now available for people who choose cremation, many families can’t just decide on one and elect to have multiple memorials for a loved one. In addition, family members who live in different areas sometimes each want their own memorial. In these situations, many families will choose to scatter a portion of the ashes, then use the remaining ashes in a Living Urn tree burial pod, in a piece of jewelry or stone, or have them included in a beautiful glass piece.