The Appropriate Etiquette for a Beach Funeral Service

If you're having a beach funeral service, be mindful of the public setting.
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Generally, beach funerals include the family and friends of the deceased gathering on the shore, reading a eulogy, sharing stories about the person who has passed, and in some cases scattering his or her ashes over the sand and into the water. Beach funeral etiquette remains close to traditional funeral practices, such as remaining silent during the eulogy, remaining respectful of the deceased, and offering sympathy to family and friends. However, due to the gathering for collective mourning in what is often a public space and the possible scattering of ashes, certain measures must be taken to guarantee respect for all.

1 Practices of a Beach Funeral

Beach funerals may be officiated by a priest, rabbi or other spiritual leader, depending on faith, though they can also be led by a close family member in a secular or informal fashion. If scattering ashes into the sand or water, they should be contained in an urn until it's time to spread disperse them. The scattering itself can be done by one or multiple people.

2 Beach Funeral Etiquette

Rather than scattering ashes, some people choose to engage in "beaching," in which the ashes of the deceased are buried in the sand. They then wait for the tide to rise and wash the ashes back out to sea. However, this causes problems at public beaches. If others are around, etiquette mandates that these services be held at twilight, where chances of others having contact with the ashes in the sand or in the water are lower. Similarly, if scattering ashes, it is generally understood that this should be done on a secluded beach, far from contact with those not part of the service or at a time when few people are around.

3 Other Measures to Take

If scattering ashes, check with the local authorities for health, safety and privacy regulations. Scattering cremated human remains into the air or sea means other people will come in contact with them. Certain parks or beaches allow the scattering of ashes, while others do not. It is imperative to contact local park services, city officials or funeral homes, as they will know the local regulations.

4 The Ways to Scatter Ashes

"Casting" the ashes means throwing them into the wind. You can also "rake" the ashes, which means mixing the ashes into the sand and raking them over. When throwing ashes into the water, use a biodegradable bag or urn. Otherwise, the wind may blow them opposite from where the mourners would like them to go, which can be upsetting. It is also important to remember that cremated ashes usually contain larger pieces, not merely small ashes. Keep these pieces in the urn.

Jessica Hoffman is an art critic and social scholar. She is currently preparing a book on outsider art, and completing a Ph.D in the social sciences, focusing on critical cultural theory and indigenous issues.