Following the loss of a loved one, we often wonder how to pre-plan a memorial that perfectly represents their unique personality and impact. As friends send flowers and offer condolences, it’s easy to wonder how the pre-arrangements should be made to best honor your departed loved one.

While traditional burial services and memorial services at funeral homes may be popular options, these fall short in their accessibility and ability to be one-of-a-kind. If your family knows that your loved one didn’t want a traditional funeral, then these funeral alternatives may be a thoughtful way to honor their impact and legacy.

Technological and scientific innovations have paved the way for unconventional ways of burial that leave you with meaningful keepsakes to comfort you in your time of need. The last few years have given way to new ideas including eco-friendly burial options and heartfelt funeral alternatives. Let’s take a look at some of the most creative funeral alternatives for loved ones who didn’t want a traditional funeral.

Elderly couple holding each other on a walk in autumn.

Bio Urn FAQs

Bio urns are a thoughtful alternative to traditional funerals for loved ones who cared deeply about the environment. Bio urns create an eco-friendly burial experience for families hoping to create new life from loss. 

What Are Bio Urns?

Biodegradable urns are created to plant a tree by mixing your loved one’s ashes with the necessary nutrients for a tree to grow. Bio urns contain a seed and fertilizer that are created to merge well with cremated remains. The seed draws out nutrients from the soil and ashes as it grows. 

Why Plant a Tree?

Planting a tree that incorporates the ashes of a loved one is an eco-friendly burial alternative that will last for decades to come. Biodegradable urns will decompose into the earth, leaving the soil and ash mixture to nurture the tree seed. 

This burial option is a beautiful way to create life from death. Trees are known to represent life and growth, and your family’s memorial tree will be a lasting testimonial to the life of your remarkable loved one. 

Large tree in the middle of a foggy field.

Space Burial

Space burial is perhaps the most unique of all traditional funeral alternatives. Emerging in 1992, space burial creates a one-of-a-kind funeral experience for loved ones with an affinity for outer space. 

What Is Space Burial? 

Space burial is a unique funeral alternative that sends a portion of your loved one’s ashes or a DNA sample into space. Space burial offers families the option to have ashes orbit the earth, be sent to the moon, or sent deeper into space. 

In 1992, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was the first person to experience a space burial. His ashes were sent into space, orbited the Earth, and returned to Earth. 

Companies have offered space burial to the public as a funeral alternative since 1997. Families may choose this burial option for a family member who was known to be a space enthusiast. Space burial thoughtfully celebrates loved ones whose lives were characterized by adventure. 

Most companies that perform space burials will provide families with a video documenting their loved one’s journey into space. Some options will return ashes to earth while others will release ashes into space.


Aquamation is a fairly recent innovation, most closely related to traditional flame-based cremation services. Aquamation is also referred to as water cremation. In this process, a loved one’s body is dissolved into a solution of 95% water and 5% alkali solution. Aquamation is meant to replicate the process by which the body decomposes in the Earth. 

Aquamation was first used in the early 1880s as a way of decomposing animal bodies. Aquamation took animal remains and turned them into fertilizer for the soil. This process was not used for human cremation until 1993, and it remains a thoughtful way to lay both remarkable loved ones and beloved pets to rest. 

Why Aquamation?

Many families choose aquamation over crematory burial because it is a more eco-friendly option. Aquamation uses 90% less energy than traditional cremation and has 1/10 its carbon footprint. Aquamation also does not emit any harmful chemicals into the air the way that traditional cremation does. 

Memorial Diamonds

Memorial diamonds are a beautiful and functional alternative to burial. Memorial diamonds uniquely represent the life of your loved ones because they are created from the carbon in their ashes

Scientists began exploring the idea of lab-created diamonds when it was discovered that diamonds were made from pure carbon. When exposed to heat and pressure that mimics the environment found in the Earth’s mantle where diamonds are naturally formed, entirely authentic diamonds could be created. These lab-created diamonds paved the way for memorial diamonds

Memorial diamonds are created from small amounts of carbon found in cremated remains or hair. Through a process of carbon purification, carbon is separated from all other elements in cremated remains. The purified carbon is then exposed to high levels of heat and pressure to form a diamond.

Black memorial diamond.

Why Choose Memorial Diamonds?

Many people opt to turn their loved one’s ashes into memorial diamonds because of their breathtaking beauty. Diamonds are unique, just like your loved one. They bring vibrancy and sparkle to a room and serve as an ever-present reminder of your loved one’s warmth. 

Memorial diamonds can be made into rings or necklaces. Wearing your loved one’s memorial diamond allows you to keep your beloved’s memory close to you and share their story with people you encounter for years to come. Memorial diamonds make wonderful and meaningful gifts for caregivers or family members experiencing grief. 

The Eterneva Diamond

At Eterneva, we believe that creating diamonds from ashes is the perfect way to celebrate remarkable lives, and we want to be on this journey with you! It all starts with a welcome kit, and after that, you receive frequent emails and video updates so you always know where your loved one is throughout every step of the diamond-making process

Eterneva diamonds help bring brightness and meaning to loss. These portable memorials allow family members to carry their loved ones with them through milestones and everyday life. And, because diamonds truly last forever, your Eterneva diamond can be passed down from generation to generation to keep your loved one’s story alive. 

Each diamond is customized for cut, color, and carat; and can be engraved with an inscription that is unique to your loved one such as a name, date, or meaningful quote. When you create a diamond from your loved one's ashes or hair, you're ensuring that they are remembered and honored in the most remarkable way! 

Scattering Ceremonies

Ash-scattering ceremonies are another popular alternative to traditional funerals and graveside services. Scattering ceremonies are popular because they provide flexibility to families during difficult times. Scattering ceremonies can also be personalized to fulfill your loved one’s wishes, ranging from trenching ceremonies to aerial scattering.

Trenching Ceremony

A trenching ceremony refers to a ceremony in which ashes are buried and covered. Families can choose to bury ashes directly in the ground or bury ashes in a biodegradable urn. 

Many people choose to dig personalized holes in the shape of a heart or their loved one’s initials. This trench may be dug at the home of your lost loved one or at a close relative’s home. Families may also choose to bury ashes at a location significant to their loved ones.

The trenching ceremony often consists of family members sharing memories and kind words about their loved ones. 

Water Ceremony

During a water ceremony, ashes are typically placed in a water-soluble urn that floats temporarily and then dissolves in the water. Water ceremonies are perfect for family members who loved spending time on or near the water. 

Casting Ceremony

Casting ceremonies are associated with the idea of letting go. During a casting ceremony, family members will release their loved one’s ashes into the air. 

Family members typically choose to release their loved one’s ashes in a location that is meaningful to their family. Casting ceremonies will typically consist of a time for reading eulogies and sharing memories. Releasing the ashes will occur at the conclusion of the ceremony, not unlike a burial following a traditional funeral service. 

Aerial Ceremony

Scattering ashes from a plane is also an option for ash-scattering ceremonies. Families can coordinate with companies that release ashes from an airplane. During aerial ceremonies, families will perform the ceremony on the ground and watch as their loved one’s ashes are released above. 

Coral Reefs

Another unique burial option is turning your loved one’s ashes into a coral reef. This reef burial is another alternative to traditional burial that promotes the flourishing of our environment. Reef burial was born from the mind of a diver who wanted to use the ashes of his father-in-law to promote coral reef growth. It’s a heartfelt way to honor a loved one with a passion for the sea, the environment, or marine life.

During reef burial, ashes are combined with concrete and poured into molds to create concrete reef balls. These reef balls are designed to last up to 500 years in the water. While reef balls serve multiple purposes, they are known to aid in the development of declining species. Reef balls are known for their role in rehabilitating the environment.

Scuba diver swimming near coral reefs.

Why Choose Reef Burial?

Similar to planting trees from ashes, reef burials create life from death. Coral reefs are continuously being destroyed due to things like pollution and tourism. Reef burials are a way of preserving marine life and aiding in its flourishing.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to funeral alternatives, there are many options for families to choose from. Funeral alternatives are a thoughtful option for individuals who requested not to have a traditional funeral or for families looking to honor their loved one’s unique passions. 

With so many creative options, families can choose a funeral alternative that best represents their incredible loved one. 


Funeral Alternatives of Washington | Legacy

The Positive Impacts of Reef Balls – Shark Research & Conservation Program (SRC) | University of Miami

What Is Aquamation? Desmond Tutu Chooses Eco-Friendly Cremation Alternative | IFLScience