Browse Final Arrangements Guide for more articles like this.

5 things to know when choosing a headstone

Gravestones can be as varied as the personalities they represent. Check cemetery regulations before deciding on materials, styles and size.

Granite and bronze headstones top the list of favored materials for grave-side monuments, says the International Southern Cemetery Gravestone Association. Both are attractive, but also durable and easy to maintain. In fact, some cemeteries only allow grave markers made of either of these two materials, so it's best to check before taking the first step in planning a fitting final tribute.

With cemetery regulations in hand, the next steps include important decisions on materials, inscriptions and symbols.

1. Materials

Besides granite and bronze, other materials available are marble, slate, sandstone, bronze, limestone and fieldstone. A variety of colors are available, and several are great for detailed inscriptions and carvings. Marble and any of the non-granite stones will erode over time, however, blurring details, so that should be considered when choosing elaborate carvings and fonts.

2. Gravestone types

The traditional rectangular tombstone is only one of several styles that have become popular in cemeteries. Varieties include installing a capped stone, tablet, plaque, block or sculptured cross. Steles, which are tall sculpted reliefs, are often used, as are mounted pedestals and nameplates. You can even include a vase.

3. Names to include

Should this particular headstone include a companion or spouse? Decide early what type of headstone you are buying and how you want to honor both people involved.

4. Symbolic carvings

With today's technology, epitaphs can include more than just symbols, letters and numbers. A gravestone can be etched with a picture of a loved one as well. When choosing any symbols or photos that will become a permanent piece of the stone, be sure to research the meaning of each to make sure the symbol is appropriate for the person being honored.

5. Information on the marker

Most headstones include the full name and dates of birth and death. When going over information with the monument dealer, be sure you have the correct spelling of all names and the exact dates. Epitaphs can be as simple as "loving father, husband, uncle" or can be more elaborate, such as a favorite quote, Bible verse or description. Be sure the epitaph chosen truly reflects the personality and life of the loved one.

Also, even if remains are cremated, a marker may be necessary. Cremated remains can be interred in a columbarium with a marker or buried with a traditional gravestone.

Consult one of the local monument dealers in this guide. Local shops always have the best information about the rules and regulations of nearby cemeteries. After choosing a funeral director, a venue for service and the burial plot, the local monument provider should be next on the list.

Find more articles like this in Final Arrangements Guide

There are 9 comments.

Cindy Tesler —
Thanks for pointing out that the traditional rectangular tombstone is only one of several styles that have become popular in cemeteries. You also said that you could think about the headstone and determine if you are wanting to include a companion or spouse on it. I think it's important to choose a headstone company that comes with great reviews from friends and family members.
siaosi —
I would like to know what needs to be put on a grave stone. I would like to know what kind of things need to go on a head stone. I would like to get and have the right symbolic carvings.
olivia nelson —
I like your comment on choosing the type and style of a headstone. I would imagine that you would want to consider whatever style your loved one wished. My husband's father recently passed away so when it comes to finding a headstone he should probably look for one in the style his father would have preferred.
Jay Jorgenson —
I used to work on irrigation at my local cemetery and I was able to examine lots of really cool headstones. I think that something to consider is symbolic carving. I saw lots of things that had significant value to those who had passed. Things that had to do with movies, video games, and sports. They made the headstones look really good and unique to the person!
Finn Stewart —
My grandpa passed away last week and now we are trying to plan a great funeral that will help everyone remember the amazing life he led. I want to make sure we have a special headstone that allows others to know how amazing he was. Your tip about etching the gravestone with a picture of the loved one is a really great idea. I want people to be able to know what he looked like when they visit his grave, so this will be really special. Thanks!
olivia nelson —
I appreciate your advice on how marble and nongranite headstones will erode over time. I would imagine that getting a material that can stand the test of time would probably be desirable to remember someone properly. My husband lost his mom last week so when he's going through the headstone buying process he should probably get one with material that will not erode.
Jessie Harrison —
I'm taking it upon myself to find my own gravestone. It's not that I'm going to die anytime soon, it just to get it out of the way. Plus, I'd like to have a say in what goes above my head when I die. Thanks for some of the things that should be included what carvings to add. I love to add a symbolic symbol showing how much I loved music and life. Thanks for your help.
Gregory Willard —
This is a very helpful article on headstones. I really like the fact that today's technology make it so you can put more on your tombstone. I know that I won't see my own grave, but it would be nice to have it look nice for everyone else.
Bryce Trout —
So I found this article very helpful. Having to buy a gravestone is one of those things that you hope you don't need, but you are happy to know what you are doing. I especially liked the information that there are more materials than just granite like I had always thought. Like I said I hope I don't need this information anytime soon but I am happy that I have it! Thank you for posting.

Leave a reply