How to Select a Headstone in 2024

Selecting a headstone for our loved one who passed away is not easy, but this article will guide you through the process. Choosing a headstone for our loved ones is an essential step in the healing process after death.

When selecting a headstone, there are several things you need to consider. Understanding the cemetery rules, setting a budget, selecting the appropriate materials and design, and locating a reputable supplier will make selecting a headstone less stressful.

This guide will take you through every step and help you make an informed decision to make things easier.


What Is A Headstone?

A headstone, also called a tombstone, gravestone, or grave marker, is a monument placed at the head of the grave to make the location where the deceased is buried.

A headstone will memorialize your loved one for many years to come. The design should mirror the deceased’s personality and how they lived their lives.

To select a headstone, you need to consider the shape, design, and material of the headstone. Also, consider the type of finish, the inscription you’d like to apply, and your budget. The price of a headstone depends on the choices you make.

Types Of Headstones

These are the common types of headstones:

  1. Flat headstones (flat markers or grass markers) are flat tablets made of stone, concrete, or bronze set flat in the ground. This traditional headstone is available in various colors, finishes, sizes, and materials. The inscription can be placed on the stone or the plaque attached to the stone.
  2. Raised-top flat marker (bevel markers, rear desk tablet, or sloped) is a block of stone or concrete raised to a slant from the rear or sloping front face.
  3. Upright headstone – is the most traditional headstone design. It is fixed to the ground with a concrete base, usually made from granite, marble, or limestone. It typically measures 45 inches tall, 30 inches wide, and 6 inches deep.
  4. Kerbed headstone – is a full-length monument that lies flat across the ground and is often used together with an upright headstone.

Selecting the type of headstone will largely depend on your personal preference and budget.

Headstone Materials

Before choosing the shape, design the finish of the headstone, you should first select the type of stone that the headstone will be made of.

Here are the popular materials of the headstone:

  • Granite is the most flexible and adaptable stone. It is available in different colors and finishes and is proven to last. Due to its wide availability, granite has become increasingly affordable and is now one of the cheapest options.
  • Marble is a bright material that contains unique blue and grey veins. It is often selected for aesthetic reasons because it is beautiful and smooth material. However, it is not permitted on all burial grounds because it weathers easily; it lacks strength and longevity.
  • Limestone remains a popular option. It is a traditional stone that weathers drastically over time. Limestone is not as durable as marble or granite. The soft material makes it vulnerable to environmental decay.
  • Bronze is an incredibly durable material that naturally darkens over time and requires little maintenance. It is one of the most expensive options.
  • Stainless steel – this is a newer type of headstone. Stainless is a sturdy material that is less susceptible to weathering than most stone materials.

Each material has its advantages and disadvantages, and you have to think carefully about what material is best suited to your situation.

To select a headstone, you need to consider the material’s durability because not durable material will erode and become damaged over a short period and require additional expenditures for repairs.

Headstone Finish

The headstone finish refers to the way the headstone appears. Headstones can be finished in a variety of ways:

  • Polished finish – headstones are smooth and shiny but highly reflective. It is best for the showing of granite. The polished finish will require regular cleaning and maintenance. It could also look out of place in older graveyards.
  • Part-polished finish – is only smooth and shiny in the inscription and base area, and the rest is either sanded, sawn, blasted, or rubbed. It emphasizes the inscription and the parts of the headstone you want to be emphasized.
  • Pitched or rock pitch finish – the stone is rough and natural, often used on the edges. The stone is hand-chiseled to have this effect. This pitched rough finish gives the headstone an aged look that helps it to fit into traditional cemeteries.
  • Honed (eggshell or sawn) finish – the stone is smooth but unpolished; this type of finish is often used for the sides of the headstone. The honed finish is smooth but not reflective.
  • Other finishes – steeled, frosted, and axed, these types of finished are less common. These alternative finishes are acquired by using different chisels, ax, flaming, and sandblasting techniques.

Headstone Design

The headstone design includes the shape and finish of the stone. Here are the most common headstone designs:

  • Cross-shaped headstone
  • Book-shaped headstone
  • Heart-shaped headstone
  • Serpentine-shaped headstone
  • Tear-shaped headstone
  • Half ogee-shaped headstone

Headstone Inscriptions

Selecting inscriptions that will appear on the headstone involves careful thought in drafting the wording and the style of engravings. If your loved one left no guidance regarding the headstone inscriptions, make it personal and try to capture the essential things about the deceased.

You can use poetry, religious texts, or words that can console others in times of grief. Think long and hard before deciding on the inscription once it’s engraved; there’s no turning back.

Style and Designs of a Headstone Inscriptions:

The style of the headstone inscription is vital because it plays a significant role in creating the look of the headstone. The inscription style will make it unique and differentiate your loved one’s tombstone from the rest.

There are four elements of headstone inscriptions:

  • The font or the lettering
  • The type of engraving in the stone
  • The use of symbols
  • The use of photo

The wording of the Headstone Inscription

Choosing the right wording in the headstone is essential for these reasons:

  • It reflects the personality or something important about the deceased
  • It is the farewell message from you and your family
  • It is a message that your loved one wishes to convey
  • It is a reminder about your loved one for those who visit the grave in years to come.

Things to include in the inscriptions:

  • Full name of the deceased
  • Date of birth and death
  • An epitaph or a short message in memory of your loved one.

Selecting the wording for the epitaph may not be easy. To get it right, take your time, and ask family and friends for suggestions.

Here are some epitaph examples you can use:

  • Too well loved ever to be forgotten
  • Sadly, missed by your loving family.
  • Remembered with love and respect
  • An inspiration to us all.
  • What we keep in memory is ours, unchanged forever
  • A real fighter until the end.
  • His strength and spirit will live with us forever.
  • Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal
  • God has her in his keeping. We have her in our hearts.
  • She asked for so little but gave so much.
  • Deeply mourned, fondly loved
  • Life’s work well done

Engraving Styles for the Headstone Inscription

There are various engraving styles used for the headstone inscription. The inscription style you choose must depend on the type of stone, fonts, cemetery regulations, and budget.

Ask your stonemason if the engraving style you want requires more maintenance than others.

  1. Incised lettering is standard engraving, which is best for granite, marble, and sandstone headstones.
  2. V-cut lettering – uses hammer and chisel to give the letters a deep “V” cut. This is best for marble, granite, sandstone, and slate.
  3. Embossed lettering – the background of the letters is sandblasted, which leaves the letters to appear raised against the background.
  4. Lead letter inscriptions – letter outlines are carved into the stone, and then lead is beaten into the outlines to fill the letters.
  5. Raised lead letter inscriptions – raised lead letters have lead letters that stand out from the stone.
  6. Headstone symbols and photos – religious symbols and pictures can also be engraved on the headstone.

Cost of Headstone Inscription

Estimating the exact cost of the inscription on a headstone can be difficult because stonemasons have different charging methods.

Some stonemasons charge for the headstone but do not charge extra for the inscription. Others charge by the number of lines of wording on the stone; others charge by the number of letters.

Some stonemasons provide several letters for free and charge extra for additional letters.

Here are the factors that may affect the cost of a headstone inscription:

  • Number of letters
  • Type of engraving
  • Lettering material
  • Use of paint or gold leaf
  • Any additional symbols or photos

Selecting A Headstone

The process of headstone selection can involve a lot of decisions:

  1. Selecting the material for the headstone
  2. Selecting the finish
  3. Selecting the inscription
  4. Selecting the epitaph
  5. Selecting a supplier

Here are the steps you need to take to select a headstone:


Every cemetery maintains its regulations about the headstone’s type, material, and size. Try asking the cemetery manager to know the rules on the kind of headstone you should use.

Some cemeteries have certain restrictions on the size, they may prohibit a large headstone, or the cemetery may require specific materials to maintain a style consistent with existing headstones. Before deciding on the headstone to use, touch base with the cemetery manager first.


Ask the cemetery manager if they provide headstone installation services. If they do, ask about the installation fee. Some cemeteries will tell you they do not allow headstones from outside providers. In this case, ask to see the by-laws of the cemetery.

If the cemetery does not provide installation services, you can pay a local headstone installer to install it for you. Ask your family and friends if they know a monument installer in your area. If they don’t know any monument installer, use the internet to get a local installer.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will provide a free headstone for his grave if your loved one is an eligible veteran. Call the VA to inquire about the headstone installation.


Purchasing a headstone can be expensive. Set a budget before you go to a monument provider. The headstone can cost between $1,500 and $2,000 on average. Determine if your deceased loved one had set aside an amount for a tombstone in his prepaid funeral plan.


Walk-through cemeteries to be able to get an idea of the size, shapes, design, and materials of headstones. Browse the internet to understand better what kind of headstone you need. Take some photos or print photos from the internet to show to the cemetery and monument dealer.


There are different types of headstones, including upright, flat, raised-top flat, or kerbed. Decide the type of gravestone to order from the headstone supplier, depending on the cemetery requirement and your budget.


Select a material that is durable and can last a long time. You can go for granite for price, durability, and adaptability. Granite is usually the price scale, and it has different colors.

Avoid using limestones because it will easily weather over time, affecting the readability of the inscriptions on the stone.


To select a headstone, the appearance and durability of the headstone will be affected by the type of headstone finish you choose. Some cemeteries do not allow polished tombstones because it is reflective. Partially polished pitched and honed headstones are good choices and can be durable for longer.


Consider the headstone size when selecting an epitaph and the font size for the inscription. A small tombstone will not be put in the whole Bible verse you want to inscribe. The font to be used for the epitaph and personal information about the deceased, such as the name, birth date, and date of death, should also be considered for the readability and overall look of a headstone.

You can also include images like a religious icon, flowers, animals, or a photo of your loved one on the headstone. These images and icons should celebrate your loved one’s personality, religious affiliation, and accomplishments.


Select a headstone and purchase it from funeral homes, cemeteries, monument dealers, and online. Explore your options and make sure the supplier will meet your requirements.

Compare prices as cemeteries tend to be the most expensive, followed by monument dealers and funeral homes. Online dealers can be the cheapest.

Talk to families and friends to get referrals for a supplier in your area. Check for the company’s dependability and integrity. If you’re buying online, don’t forget to read the customers’ reviews.


After you choose the design, size, and materials, pay the supplier for the deposit. Ask for proof or a headstone draft for your approval and your family.

Be sure to check the draft. If you do not approve of the draft, request another version. Most headstone suppliers will supply you with the draft before they make the final product.

We hope you’ve found this guide to headstones useful. Check out our other articles on funeral planning.

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Additional Selecting A Headstone Questions & Answers

What is the purpose of a headstone?

The purpose of a headstone is to identify the person buried in the graveyard or cemetery.

What is the difference between a gravestone and a headstone?

Gravestone or tombstone is a large stone slab that covered the grave. A headstone is a piece of rock or other materials that are placed on the ground that identifies the individual buried on the ground.

What is the difference between a headstone and a grave marker?

A headstone is typically a piece of rock that’s placed standing on the ground to identify the deceased. A grave marker on the other hand, is a slab of rock that sits flat on the ground. It also serves as a memorial and identifier of the individual buried in the ground.

What’s the difference between a headstone and a monument?

The difference between a headstone and a monument lies in their size. A headstone is smaller, while a monument is bigger and more ornate. A monument comes in different sizes and shapes. It is often three-dimensional and and could be saints, angels, or animals.

How long do you have to wait before putting a headstone on a grave?

There is no exact rule on how long you need to wait before putting a headstone but the rule of thumb is to wait at least six months or longer. This time allowance allows the soil to settle and the climate on the site to make the headstone more stable.

How soon can a headstone be placed on a grave?

A headstone can be placed on the grave 6 to 12 months after the burial to allow soil settlement. The climate, the time of year, and family tradition should also be considered before putting a headstone on the grave.

How long does it take to put a headstone on a grave?

It typically takes three to four weeks for the headstone installer to create a headstone and install it at the top of the grave. The creation and installation of a headstone will also depend on soil settlement, the climate, the weather, and the time of the year.

Are grave markers at the head or foot?

Headstones are typically placed at the head of the grave to identify the person on the grave. This tradition is rooted in the Christian tradition where a marker is placed on the head while the feet point east.

Why are headstones at the feet?

Some headstones are placed at the feet to make it easier for the visiting families to identify their loved one’s graves because all the graves look the same. Headstones with flat grave markers are placed at the feet so their loved ones will not be distracted when they visit.

Which direction should a headstone face?

The headstones are typically facing east to meet the new day. This tradition is rooted in Christianity, where headstones face east to represent the second coming of Christ, where he will be coming from the east.

What type of headstone lasts the longest?

The longest-lasting headstone is quartzite with laser engraving. Quartzite is the hardest material that can withstand all climates. It can last for many centuries, regardless of the weather.

What is the best material for a gravestone?

The best material for a gravestone that will last for a long time is either granite or bronze. Granite and bronze are both durable materials that can last. Another less expensive alternative is a field boulder; it will hold up to the elements though will not last as long as granite or bronze.

Does granite last longer than marble?

The biggest difference between granite and marble is durability. Granite is harder than marble and will last longer. Marble is softer, and that’s why it deteriorates faster than granite. Marble will easily chip, crack, and erode under extreme climates.

Do you get a gravestone if you are cremated?

Yes, you can still have a gravestone if you are cremated. Your family can keep some of your ashes and bury them in a cemetery where they can have a memorial to visit.

You can opt to have a cremation memorial. It is a smaller headstone with flat tablets where you can keep the urn.

What is a cremation headstone?

Cremation headstones are memorials or structures designed to hold cremation urns or ashes. It can be a monument, columbarium, or niches that are hollow or can be removed to place the urn or ashes.

Do cemeteries have rules about headstones?

Yes, every cemetery has its own rules about headstones. Cemeteries can set the standard on type, size, materials, and adornments that could be put on the headstones.

Who puts a headstone on a grave?

Only the person named on the deed can put a headstone on a grave. A deed of grant is a legal document showing the sale or transfer of property from one person to another. A deed shows the ownership of a grave plot. Only the grave plot owner can install a headstone on the grave.

Can you put a headstone on a grave without the deeds?

No, only the grave plot owner whose name is on the deed can put a headstone on the grave. If your name is not on the deed, the registered grave owner can have it removed.

How long does it take for a tombstone to be made?

It usually takes three to four weeks for the monument installer to create a tombstone and install it on the grave.

How long does it take to get a tombstone?

Creating a tombstone or headstone typically takes several weeks to over a month. Add a couple of weeks for shipping and installation.

Why do headstones take so long to make?

Headstone takes a long time to make because of different factors such as size, shape, adornments, and inscriptions. Unique shapes and larger size takes longer to craft than small ones.

Can I make a headstone myself?

Yes, you can create a headstone yourself. If you want to do it yourself, ask the cemetery director about their rules before crafting your own headstone.

How deep are headstones buried?

There are no exact rules on how deep the headstone should be buried in the grave. Every state has its own rules, but most graves today are dug four feet deep.

How much does a headstone weigh?

Most upright headstones in marble or granite weigh approximately 230 pounds. Flat bronze headstones typically weigh 18 pounds.

How long do wooden grave markers last?

Wooden grave markers typically last 30 years. For this reason, most grave markers are made of stone because it lasts longer.

How do I purchase a headstone?

You can purchase a headstone from cemeteries, funeral homes, memorial providers, or monument makers. You can also buy from online providers.

When should you buy a headstone?

You should buy a headstone six months or longer after the burial. The gap time will allow the soil to settle. Also, consider the weather, the climate, and the time of the year.

How much does it cost to buy a headstone?

The average cost of a regular flat headstone is around $1,000. Upright, bigger, and more detailed headstones can cost more. Expect to pay between $1,000 and $3,000.

What is the average price of a grave headstone?

The average cost of the grave headstone is around $1,000. The cost could go higher depending on the headstone’s size, shape, material, and design.

How much does it cost to engrave a date on a headstone?

Engraving a name, birth date, death, and other inscriptions can cost around $500. Prices go up depending on the number of characters and size.

Is it cheaper to buy a headstone online?

Yes, it is usually cheaper to buy headstones online. Check online providers for wider selections.

What is the cheapest price for a headstone?

You can buy a headstone for as cheaper as $500; you just need to compare prices from multiple headstone providers.

How much does it cost to put a picture on a headstone?

A picture on the headstone can cost between $100 to $350. The price could go up depending on the shape and size of the headstone.

How much does a granite tombstone cost?

The flat grave markers made of granite can cost around $1,000. Small memorials can cost $300 up, while an upright headstone can cost $1,200 and up, depending on the materials and the size of the tombstone.

How much is a black granite headstone?

A single upright black granite headstone could cost around $1,950. A double upright black granite headstone starts at $2,500.

How do you save money on a tombstone?

The best way to save money on a tombstone is to shop online. Check consumer reviews. Compare providers and buy from those who offer the best price and service.

How are flat grave markers installed?

Mark the outline of the grave and dig out the area appropriate for the marker. Place the marker on the hole and level the dirt you removed, or fill it with sand and cement to ensure the marker stays in place.


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