Things to Consider when Purchasing
a Grave Marker or Headstone
Do you need to arrange for a
memorial grave marker, headstone or monument and are not sure where to
start? The information outlined below aims to provide a simple, basic
guide to assist you.
One of the most important things
to consider in purchasing a grave marker is the cemetery regulations.
Cemeteries regulate the headstones placed on graves within their grounds.
Cemetery Rules and Regulations, as they are known, outline certain requirements
such as size, material, and type of headstone. Before you order
a headstone for your loved one, you should check the requirements of the
cemetery where your loved one will be interred. They can, and are known
to, refuse any headstone that does not meet their requirements. Check
all their regulations carefully to make sure you know exactly what IS and
ISN’T permitted before consulting a headstone supplier. Being that
headstones, grave markers and monuments are often installed some time after
the funeral and burial, to allow for any ground settlement, this does allow
you to ensure you have time to consult with both the cemetery and your
grave marker supplier, to have your headstone prepared.
Note: Many reputable
& established local masonry suppliers will be fully familiar with the
requirements at their local cemeteries.
How soon can a Grave Marker
be sited on a Grave?
For centuries the custom of
siting a grave marker has usually been the final detail in burying a loved
one. For family it serves as a focal point when visiting the grave, and
can provide a sense of closure, in immortalizing the memory of your loved
one. How do you know the right time to place a headstone marker on the
grave? While no protocol has been set in stone (pun intended) here are
some things to consider.
Cemetery Requirements (as mentioned
above, cemeteries will have strict rules on how soon a marker can be laid).
Religious Customs – some cultures
traditionally have a ‘unveiling’ of a grave marker. In Jewish tradition
this can be as long as one year after the deceased has been buried.
Types of Monument Suppliers
Headstones and Grave Markers
can be purchased from a number of different monument suppliers. Historically,
the funeral home or cemetery would sell you a headstone as part of your
funeral package, and they would make all the necessary arrangements.
Alternatively, you could deal direct with local stone masons to make your
own arrangements. Many monument businesses are usually located close
to cemeteries. More recently the Internet has revolutionized the
monument business, and it is now possible to purchase a headstone direct
from an online supplier. In many cases these suppliers are established
monument businesses. A major trade off of Internet based monument suppliers
is the lack of an actual showroom. However, this is often made up by the
lower prices they can offer you. If the cost of a grave marker is a concern
within your funeral expenses, then purchasing a grave marker from an online
store can save you money. In addition to offering significant discounts
on the cemetery price of a monument, they can also offer 24/7access and
this means you can browse the selection of monuments at your own time and
leisure. Often this allows for the family to consult together in
the period of time following a bereavement, especially when family are
separated by distance, and make decisions via an online grave marker supplier.
main types of grave markers:
Monuments (which stand upright), Slants (which are more wedge-shaped),
Markers (which are typically flat) and Benches (which are designed to offer
seating also). Also bear in mind that you can chose either a single
or companion grave marker. As many loved ones chose to be buried
together, it can often save money on a grave marker by purchasing a companion
headstone. Some people can consider this a little macabre to have
a companion headstone selected when one party still remains alive, but
it is certainly a much more affordable option in the long-run!
Choosing a Headstone or Grave
Choosing a memorial headstone
for a family member can be a difficult task. What type of memorial
marker is appropriate? Once you know the cemetery regulations, this
will help you to make your decision. Many headstones are adorned
not only with the name and dates of the deceased, but also with some befitting
symbolism. You may be called upon to make a decision about what is
most appropriate for your loved one. It may be that you choose something
that reflects an important aspect of their life or interests – something
they are remembered for. Or you may just choose one of the many common
symbolic themes such as angels, doves, candle, cross, lilies, palms at
Generally these days you
can chose from granite, marble and bronze as the material from which a
headstone is manufactured. There are typically four
Selecting Headstone Epitaphs
Once you have decided upon the
type of headstone and the design andsymbolism, you will need to think carefully
about what you wish to be carved or written as an epitaph on the grave
marker. It is common to have the full name and dates of birth and
death. What else is added is down to personal choice of the family,
and just how ‘personalized’ you wish the headstone to be. It is wise
to carefully plan this out, and your monument supplier will usually help
you with this as part of their service. We have noted below some
typical, and some amusing epitaphs.
Other accessories for grave
Adding a plaque or sculpture
can enhance a grave marker or monument, and bronze decals have become more
popular. In the case of veterans, bronze military decals are often
an important part of the design of a grave marker. The practice of
adding images and photographs to grave markers has increased in the United
States, particularly now it is possible to add ceramic full-color photographs.
Many people also chose to add a vase to their grave marker in order that
there is a permanent feature for floral tributes.
Furthermore, lighting should
be considered as an accessory feature for your grave marker. Candles
have long symbolized remembrance in our culture, and with solar energy,
it is now possible to permanently enhance a monument with solar crosses,
angels, peace lights and cemetery lights.
Grave markers and headstones
in the 21st century
The technology and modernity
of our society has moved into the monument industry as well these days,
and if you so chose, you can now enhance a headstone with a number of ‘techie’
features such as:
3D Memorial Mask Grave Markers
– with advanced technology a three dimensional, solid life image portrait
is created and mounted on your headstone. This technique is totally
non-invasive and creates a ‘living’ 3D memorial image.
Video-Enhanced Grave Marker
(otherwise known as a VEGM or Vidstone) – as the moving image has so become
a cornerstone of our culture and often used as part of the memorial process,
so it was inevitable that it would become a feature of a permanent memorial
grave marker. The idea of a VEGM is that the grave marker has a weather-proofed
solar-powered video and LCD monitor to facilitate playback and recording,
initiated by a remote control. At present the costs for this kind
of technology do not make it cost-effective for most, with estimated costs
starting anywhere around $1,000 for the technology alone.
Interactive Headstones – still
largely in the conception stages, but before long we will be able to use
our ‘smart’ phones to interact with chips implanted in grave markers in
order to access a full obituary of the person interred on our handheld
Can I Pre-order a Grave Marker
Yes, pre-need purchasing of
a monument or grave marker has become more popular based on common sense
and economical need. A memorial headstone is a significant means
by which we create a lasting tribute to our life, and yet it can also be
one of the major costs of end-of-life expenses. As costs for materials
can keep rising, pre-purchasing a grave marker can conserve your estate
now, and save loved ones from the worry of such an expense at the time
Many couples who desire to
be buried together can pre-plan the selection of their burial plot and
grave marker. This not only enables loved ones to decide together
what they want, it takes that pressure from their children and family.
As a grave marker will not normally
be laid on a grave immediately, do not feel under pressure to rush the
process of arranging a marker. It is, obviously, more important to
ensure you end up with a time-preserved, elegant and befitting memorial
tribute for generations to come.
What is the typical cost
of a headstone, grave marker or monument?
As with all purchases, costs
can vary significantly, and are largely dependent on your specific requirements.
What type of grave marker you select, what material, plaques, and accessories
you chose all affect the overall cost, and it would be very difficult to
quote an average price. We would wholeheartedly recommend that you
do compare prices and consult with more than one monument supplier to ensure
the price quoted is equitable. We have known small flat granite grave
markers to start from as little as $95.00, but at the same time the cost
of a granite monument can run into thousands of dollars.
Cremation and the Memorial Marker
We are undergoing a major revolution
in the funeral industry at present. The rise in cremation is taking
the industry by storm, and seriously affecting the funeral industries profits,
as cremation presents a more affordable disposition option.
A reduction in burials has
a knock-on effect for many other industries aside from the funeral home
business. Cemeteries and grave marker companies are faced with challenges
as there is a decline in the demand for burial plots and headstones.
Many cemeteries are adapting
by installing more columbarium space to accommodate interred cremated remains
in cremation urns, or simply adding a ‘scattering garden’ to their existing
A full-size memorial marker
is no longer required when a family chose to inter a cremation urn in a
columbarium or other memorial space. However, there is a growing
market for memorial plaques, memorial garden rocks, memorial statues, memorial
benches and other memorial paraphernalia that can be sited in tribute to
a loved one who has been cremated.
With more people opting for
cremation, and either scattering or the interment of a small cremation
urn, the size and variety of grave markers, is likely to completely change.
This also presents greater scope for families to purchase memorial markers
online. A small plaque or memorial rock may not require installation
in the same way that a full-size headstone does, enabling families to buy
online and arrange the siting of their marker themselves.
cemetery, and find out if they
can conduct on-site engraving. Although the cost for on-site engraving
can vary between companies, in our experience the price is usually around
$125 - $150.
Mobile headstone engraving or
On-site engraving, or on-site
inscription, is where a monument dealer will visit the cemetery and conduct
any inscriptions to a memorial marker without the need for removing the
headstone. This can be a cost-saving way to either add an inscription
to a grave marker, or even amend an existing epitaph.
Unfortunately many cemeteries
are not too pleased that families can now opt to purchase a grave marker
elsewhere, and are therefore not always very cooperative when it comes
to making amendments or changes to a grave marker that they did not sell
in the first place.
If you require changes to
the inscription on a headstone, it is probably advisable to consult a local
monument company within 50 miles of the
your marker appears to be damaged
due to a deterioration of materials, then you can contact your grave marker
supplier. Most suppliers offer a lifetime guarantee against wear
and tear caused by the elements, and will arrange to repair or replace
your headstone if it has rusted, faded or cracked due to nature’s elements.
Can I insure my memorial grave
marker against damage?
We have been asked this question
a number of times by families. Some families spend thousands of dollars
on a headstone, and want to ensure it is in some way covered against any
damage, be it accidental or vandalism. The good news is that ‘yes’
you can insure your grave marker. Many home insurance policies will
now include accidental damage coverage on a memorial marker of up to $5,000.
In 2000 the Insurance Service Organization made a recommendation that insurance
companies should offer this coverage. However, not all do, so you
should check this with your home owner’s insurance company. Damage
to a grave marker is more often caused by a cemeteries own ground maintenance
than by any malicious activity. If you notice damage to a grave marker
you can firstly check with the cemetery and their perpetual care coverage.
All cemeteries build in ‘perpetual care’ into their cemetery costs, as
this is what enables them to maintain their grounds. If
Knowing that your home owner’s
policy can cover your family memorial markers can give some peace of mind
about the costs to replace an elaborate or heritage marker.
What size does a grave marker
need to be?
The standard size for a grave
marker typically depends upon the grave plot. There are general standard
sizes for single, double or infant plots. A standard size for a single
grave is 24” by 12”, although 28” by 16” is used for more elaborate single
headstones or double depth graves where 2 names need to be inscribed on
For a companion grave marker
that sits centered over 2 side by side graves, the typical dimensions are
36” by 18” or 44” by 14”.
A headstone for an infant
grave plot or a cremation urn interment plot is generally standardized
at 16” by 8”.
These sizes are just general
standard dimensions, but you should check with your cemetery what regulations
they have about memorial markers before purchasing a grave marker.
The cremated remains of
my mother are to be buried in a cemetery in North E. Missouri. Most
of the monument companies in that area state that the remains have to be
put into a cement vault that is to be dug and poured, set and then the
remains put in and then sealed before monument is placed on top.
One of the family members wants to just dig a hole and put the remains
in and them place the monument on top after it is filled in. Is there
any special law concerning burial of cremated remains in Missouri?
It is generally the
cemetery that has regulations about what you can do. So if you are
burying in a cemetery grounds you will have to follow their rules.
They nearly always request that a burial liner be used to maintain the
integrity of the ground and prevent subsidence. Placing a stone monument
on top of a hole that has no concrete liner could result in the monument
collapsing into the earth over time. You need to check with
the regulations of your cemetery. But I would expect that the monument
company is correct as they will be familiar with the rules of the local
cemeteries they serve.
Can a name be printed
on a grave stone before burial?
Yes I believe so. Some
people even choose to have a partner headstone done (for husband and wife)
and have both names printed on it when it is installed for the first death.
They just leave the dates off and add these later!
What is the standard depth
of an engraved headstone?
While I can't speak for every
company, I can let you know how we inscribe. For years we maintained
a number of government contracts inscribing markers for our US Veterans
in 13 of our National Cemeteries. There were strict regulations that
needed to be met, one in particular was an inscription depth of approximately
1/4". We continued using this standard depth on the markers that
we sell to the public. There are times that an area of very detailed
artwork may need to be inscribed slightly shallower to prevent the risk
of damaging small, raised pieces of granite, but anything else should be
very near 1/4". If you have any further questions, or if there is
anything else at all that I can help with, please don't hesitate to ask.
Thank you. Hunter Collins [Affordable Markers]
When a bronze memorial
is bought in advance, is it inscribed at that time or at the time of death?
Hello. I believe you can
choose either. You can have it inscribed at the time of purchase, or choose
to have it inscribed at the time of installation.
The Headstone, Tombstone
and Grave Marker Industry today in the U.S
Placing a permanent, time-withstanding
memorial marker at the site of a tomb or grave has a long tradition.
It is believed Tombstones originate from a long-held Jewish custom whereby
visitors to a tomb or grave place stones at the head of the grave.
Headstones original from an ancient tradition relating to death, where
it was a common-held belief that in order for the dead to remain in the
grave, large piles of rocks (or cairns) must be placed above the grave.
Today the terms Headstone,
Grave Marker and Tombstone are largely taken in common language to mean
a permanent memorial marker at the site of a burial. However, it
was not always so, and a tombstone or headstone was traditionally the stone
lid for a coffin. Whereas the ‘gravestone’ or Grave Marker was the
stone set upon the gravesite as a visible ‘marker’. Gravestones were originally
made out of marble, sandstone and even wood at different times, however
these materials often proved unable to withstand the tests of time.
A tombstone today is usually
constructed in an entirely different style than previous generations, and
grave markers are now quite elaborate and ornate. Tombstones of yesteryear
were typically up-right pieces of sculpted stone that had engraved information
about the people whose graves they marked. Yet most of today's tombstones
are smaller, simpler, plaque-like pieces made of bronze, granite, or a
combination of the two, and they are displayed directly on the ground at
the head of graves. Large up-right tombstones are less common these days,
as time has shown that they have a tendency to deteriorate and fall over
as years pass. Tombstones that are installed at ground level are designed
to weather the elements much longer.
Although the style and design
of Grave Markers has changed over the years, they still remain a central
memorial custom. Today’s Headstones and Grave Markers are generally
made from granite and bronze. A bronze plaque, or plate, is typically
decorated with a memorial design and the name and dates of the deceased.
This plate is then inlaid to a granite marker and placed at the gravesite
in the cemetery. The costs and legislation relating to Grave Markers and
Headstones has also impacted upon how design and style has changed over
the years. These days cemeteries have strict rules that govern what
markers can be placed, and all markers need to be installed by a qualified
masonry professional. Many cemeteries have guidelines for grave marker
sizes, and can refuse to allow a headstone memorial to be sited if it does
not conform to these guidelines.
Traditionally a grave marker
or headstone would be ordered direct through the funeral home or cemetery,
or a local stone mason. In modern culture it is possible to purchase
a grave marker independently and arrange to have it sited. Many established
stone masonry and memorial companies offer this service, and you can even
order a headstone online these days and often at a significant discount.
Over the centuries, grave
markers and headstones have greatly changed - for the better. Early
grave markers were actually stones and boulders that were placed on graves
for a strange and superstitious purpose. It was believed they were
needed to keep the dead from rising from their graves. The
weight of the markers was meant to keep them from climbing out from beneath
the heavy rocks.
Eventually, grave markers
were instead used to memorialize the person buried there. Early grave
markers were made from rough stone or wood and did not last long over time
due to exposure to wind, rain and snow. In Europe and in old New
England, carvings on headstones were used to frighten the living to maintain
a life of righteousness by images of a horrible damnation. Carvings
on these monuments were usually skeletons, angels of death and winged skulls.
However, changes for the
better began in the Victorian era. Headstones and grave markers in
American cemeteries were now ornamental. Beautifully carved statues
and mausoleums were made by companies that were formed specifically for
this purpose. Italian immigrants who had studied carving in Milan
were hired to do the intricate carving that had become so popular.
Carvings on headstones now
were used to make a statement about the lives of the deceased. Images
such as flowers, especially roses and lilies, represented purity and love.
The willow tree, urns and columns are just a few examples of the changes
in funeral art. Cemeteries had become places that appeared park-like
and tranquil instead of creating fear in the mourners.
There are several different
names for grave markers: cemetery headstones, grave headstones, memorial
headstones, granite headstones, bronze markers, affordable headstones,
discount headstones, upright headstones to name but a few.
A number of headstones and
grave markers were inscribed with amusing or thought-provoking epitaphs.
The following can be found at Benjamin Franklin’s grave site:
“The body of B. Franklin,
Like the Cover of an old
Its Contents turn out
And Stript of its Lettering
Lies here, Food for Worms
For, it will as he believed
appear once more
In a new and more elegant
corrected and improved
By the Author.”
Some amusing epitaphs:
In a New Mexico cemetery
- “Here lies Johnny Yeast, pardon me for not rising”.
In a cemetery in Nova Scotia
- “Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102, The Good Die Young.”
A man who died in an accident
- buried in a Pennsylvania cemetery - “Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake,
Stepped on the gas instead of the brake.”
In Silver City, Nevada -
“Here lies Butch, We planted him raw, He was quick on the trigger, But
slow on the draw.”
A lawyer in England - “Sir
John Strange, Here lies an honest lawyer, And that is Strange.”
In Boot Hill Cemetery in
Tombstone, Arizona - “Here lies Lester Moore, Four slugs from a .44, No
Les No More.”
In a Georgia cemetery - “I
told you I was sick.”
Some epitaphs of celebrities:
“That’s All Folks, The Man
of 1,000 Voices, Mel Blanc”
(He did the voices of Bugs
Bunny, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck and countless other Disney cartoon
“She Did It The Hard Way
- Bette Davis”
“My Jesus Mercy, Alphonse
(The notorious gangster
“A Star on Earth - A Star
in Heaven, Karen Carpenter”
(Singer who died in her
30's of anorexia)
“A Gentle Man and a Gentleman,
(Heavyweight boxing champion)
“Called Back, Emily Dickinson”
And strangely, this is all
that appears on the headstone of famous funnyman W.C. Fields “1880-1946".
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
Benefits & Services
Last Revised: 07-21-2016