How to Select a Headstone in 2023
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.
FOR EASIER NAVIGATION:
- What Is A Headstone?
- Types Of Headstones
- Headstone Materials
- Headstone Finish
- Headstone Design
- Headstone Inscriptions
- Selecting A Headstone
- Additional Selecting A Headstone Questions & Answers
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- Incised lettering is standard engraving, which is best for granite, marble, and sandstone headstones.
- V-cut lettering – uses hammer and chisel to give the letters a deep “V” cut. This is best for marble, granite, sandstone, and slate.
- Embossed lettering – the background of the letters is sandblasted, which leaves the letters to appear raised against the background.
- Lead letter inscriptions – letter outlines are carved into the stone, and then lead is beaten into the outlines to fill the letters.
- Raised lead letter inscriptions – raised lead letters have lead letters that stand out from the stone.
- 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:
- Selecting the material for the headstone
- Selecting the finish
- Selecting the inscription
- Selecting the epitaph
- Selecting a supplier
Here are the steps you need to take to select a headstone:
STEP 1: CONSULT THE MEMORIAL PARK OR CEMETERY ABOUT HEADSTONE REGULATIONS
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.
STEP 2: ASK FOR THE CEMETERY’S INSTALLATION SERVICES
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.
STEP 3: SET A BUDGET
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.
STEP 4: GET YOURSELF FAMILIAR WITH HEADSTONE DESIGN AND MATERIALS
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.
STEP 5: DECIDE ON THE KIND OF HEADSTONE YOU NEED
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.
STEP 6: SELECT THE HEADSTONE MATERIAL
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.
STEP 7: SELECT HEADSTONE FINISH
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.
STEP 8: SELECT INSCRIPTIONS
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.
STEP 9: SELECT HEADSTONE SUPPLIER
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.
STEP 10: ASK FOR THE DRAFT
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.
- What to do when a loved one dies
- Funeral plan
- Funeral expenses people overlooked
- How to choose a Funeral Home
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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.
Thanks for mentioning that granite is one of the most durable and cost-effective materials used for headstones. Before my grandfather passed away last week as a result of his age, he mentioned that he would like a headstone that would last for a long time. Maybe a granite headstone would be the best way to ensure that he is remembered.
Darrien – We are glad you found this information helpful!
Thanks for explaining that granite is a good option for headstones because it provides durability at a good price. My aunt passed away last week, and my family and I are in the process of choosing a memorial for her. I think colored granite has a really nice look to it, so I'm glad to hear that it offers other benefits as well.
Eileen – We are sorry for the loss of your aunt. The granite was a great choice for your aunt!
Thanks for stating to avoid using materials that will easily weather over time. My best friend's dog passed away, and he wants to get a headstone. I'll help him find a place where he will be able to customize the marker.
Eli – We are glad that you found our article helpful!
Its good that you point out a headstone is a good way to memorialize a loved one who has passed on. My brother died recently, and I want to get a custom engraved headstone for his grave. I'm going to look for a good maker of engraved headstones in my area.
Jacob – We are glad that you found our article helpful!
I love that you say to include a short saying that means something to your loved one. My sister and I are trying to plan our grandmother's memorial service and her headstone. We are not quite sure how this whole process works, but we will have to look for services that can help us get her the perfect headstone.
Greta – We are glad you found our article helpful. You can get a free copy of our Funeral & Estate Planning Guide by visiting this page – https://funeralfunds.com/planning-guide/
Thank you for explaining the different types of headstone materials. My mother is trying to preplan her funeral and she's at the point where she needs to pick out her headstone. I'll be sure to help her by explaining the different options she has.
Skylar – We are glad you found our article helpful. If you need help with a final expense life insurance policy, you can get a free quote by visiting this page – https://funeralfunds.com/free-quote/
I loved how you mentioned that the most adaptable stone is granite! My grandma recently passed away, and my sister and I are wanting to find the perfect headstone for her grave, and we wanted to know what material would be best. I really appreciate you helping me learn more about how to select a headstone.
Kate – Thank you for sharing that our article was helpful in finding the best material for your beloved grandmother's headstone.
I'm glad that you mention figuring out the design, material, and other features you want before choosing a supplier so that you can figure out if they'll be able to meet your requirements.
Erika- Thank you for sharing your comments.
Wow, it's great to know that granite is versatile in color and is very durable but still manages to be a cheap material for headstones. My husband and I are planning on getting a memorial made for our dog that passed away. She was buried in my garden where she used to play a lot.
Alice – What a wonderful way to celebrate the memory of your loving pet!
Kristofer Van Wagner
I like that you reminded us that the inscription on the headstone should be thought out carefully, including the style of the engraving. My grandfather is terminally ill and he suggested his children draft a few inscriptions so that he can choose which of it that he would like engraved on his headstone. Because my grandfather loves poetry, I am going to suggest to my mom to quote a poet.
Kristofer – Poetry sounds like a lovely tribute to your grandfather!
I didn't realize that cemeteries have different rules for which types of headstones they allow. My grandmother recently passed away, and we are searching for the right headstone for her that displays her taste the best. We will have to ask the cemetery manager which options they allow there.
Shaylee – Thank you for your comments! We are glad you found our article helpful.
Thanks for your tips in choosing the right headstone monument for a loved one. My grandma passed away a few days ago so while everyone in the family is grieving, I’ve decided to take charge of the things that need to be done for funeral. Considering its price and its adaptability, I think I’ll go with the granite material.
Victoria – Our condolences for the loss of your grandmother! We are comforted knowing that our article motivated you to get your grandmother's final arrangements completed.
Thanks for informing me that we can a grave marker or headstone made with bronze material so we wouldn't have to worry about its maintenance or if it will deteriorate over time due to weather conditions. My nana recently died and the family was planning to use limestone for the headstone, but a relative said that it decays easily. Perhaps I should tell my mom to have a custom grave marker mad out of bronze so my nana would have a durable headstone. Thanks for this!
Levi – You're welcome!
Thanks for explaining that we should select the headstone's material before deciding on an inscription and epitaph. I want to help my family find a custom engraved headstone for my aunt who passed away from lung cancer over the weekend. I'm glad I read your article and got a better picture of what steps we'll need to take when making decisions about the headstone soon.
Rebecca – We are sorry for the loss of your aunt. We are happy you found our article helpful. Wishing you peace and healing in the days ahead.
I just lost my youngest daughter in a car accident. I would like to get her a beautiful headstone. I loved the tip about marble beating aesthetic and bright.
Eve – We are sorry for your loss, and are happy this was helpful for you in your time of need.
I'm looking for Headstones designs and overall ideas for my near future reference. Thanks for giving such great ideas and also sharing this fact. Great work for the team!
Mac – We are glad you found this article helpful!
Thanks for pointing out that considering the durability of the material would be important to ensure that they won't erode and get damaged easily. I should ask professionals if natural stone headstones would be a good option for us. It's for the grave of my grandfather who just passed away peacefully in his sleep earlier this day.
I want to make sure that I get the right headstone for me. It makes sense that I would want to choose one ahead of time. I'll be sure to take some time to choose a headstone design that has everything I want on it.
Families can choose from flat markers or upright headstones, the only difference between the two is its line of sight.
Aorangi & Harding Memorials
Funeral Funds' guide on how to select a headstone was a valuable resource. The article provided a clear and concise overview of the different types of headstones available and the factors to consider when choosing one. As someone who has never had to make this decision before, I found the information extremely helpful and informative.