What Can You Put in a Coffin?

What you can – and can’t – place inside someone’s coffin before their funeral, cremation or burial

Last updated: 2 August 2019

old letters flowers and photos

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

It’s not unusual to put a meaningful personal item in someone’s coffin, or dress them for their funeral in a favourite piece of clothing.

Sometimes known as grave goods, placing significant items in someone’s coffin is a tradition that dates back thousands of years, throughout many cultures.

Although you can put virtually anything – within reason – in someone’s casket, or on on top of their coffin for their viewing or funeral, it’s worth being aware that some items may have to be removed before a cremation or green burial.

In cases where an object has to be removed from a coffin before the cremation, the funeral director will advise you and return these items to you.

Here’s what can – and can’t – be put in a coffin for cremation or a burial.

What can you put in a coffin for burial?

You can usually place any objects inside, or on, a coffin that’s going to be buried in a traditional grave, mausoleum or vault. Author Roald Dahl, for instance, was buried with favourite items including snooker cues, chocolate and a bottle of Bergundy. We have a whole article about celebrities grave goods that you'll find interesting if you're looking for more information on the subject.

You can also dress the deceased how you wish for a traditional burial, including with any accessories you choose.

Can you put photos in a coffin?

Photos are one of the most popular items to place inside a coffin. With the exception of green burials, these can be buried and, in many cases, cremated with the person.

Other popular examples of what to put in a casket include flowers, letters, books and, when a baby or child has died, a teddy or other soft toys.

What can you put in a coffin for cremation?

Items such as wooden rosary beads, flowers, soft toys and written messages can be placed inside someone’s coffin for cremation.

Jewellery items can also be cremated, but cannot be recovered after a cremation has happened. If you want to keep items of sentimental value placed in the coffin, be sure to let your funeral director know, so these can be recovered before the cremation and returned to you.

What can you not place in a coffin for cremation?

You can’t put combustible items into a coffin that is going to be cremated. This may include tokens such as bottles of spirits. If someone has a pacemaker fitted, this is also removed prior to the funeral.

Clothes, accessories and shoes made from materials including treated leather, latex, and vinyl cannot be cremated, as these can release harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

If it’s your wish for someone to be dressed a certain way for their funeral, these items can be returned to you after the funeral service, or may be donated to charity.

Coffins and caskets are double-checked for items that may combust or harm the environment, before they are cremated.

What can you put in a coffin for green burial?

Natural burial grounds have strict rules over what can – or can’t – be placed in a coffin.

Items, including the clothes that someone is buried in, should be made of natural materials or fibres and be biodegradable.

Some people choose to paint or decorate the coffin for a green burial, and place flowers or written messages inside the casket.

Items which are not permitted in natural burial grounds include clothes or accessories made from man-made fibres and non-biodegradable fittings on the coffin itself.

What can you put in a coffin?

The following items can be placed in a coffin, or on top of a casket, for most traditional funerals

Photos

  • Photos of family, personal milestones and celebrations are a popular choice to place inside a loved one’s casket.

Letters

  • What can I put in my grandma or grandpa’s coffin? Farewell notes written by family to the person who has died are often placed inside a coffin. Old love letters might also be included.

Religious tokens

  • For some people, it’s a comfort to bury a loved one with a Bible or religious scripture in their coffin, or include items such as Rosary beads.

Jewellery

  • What can I put in my Mum’s coffin? Although precious metals do not survive the cremation process, many people choose for their loved one to wear a wedding ring, or other significant item of jewellery for their funeral or burial.

Teddies and toys

  • When a child or baby has died, it can be greatly meaningful to place a favourite soft toy or snuggle blanket with them in their coffin, as well as cuddly tributes on your child’s grave.

Cremation ashes

  • Some people want to be buried or scattered with cremated ashes of a close member of the family, perhaps a spouse, parent or sibling. Cremation ashes can be placed in a coffin before cremation, or combined in a double sized urn after the funeral. Some people even choose to be buried with a pet’s cremation ashes. We have a full guide to choosing an urn if you're looking for more information.

Flowers

  • From a special bouquet to a selection of your loved one’s favourite blooms, floral tributes are an enduring token of love to place inside someone’s coffin.