To select a headstone for our loved one who passed away is not an easy thing to do, but this article will guide you through the process. Choosing a headstone for our loved one is an essential step in the healing process after a death occurs. A headstone helps us in acknowledging they are gone and help us memorialize their life for many years to come.
When we decide on burial as the last internment, we need to give some thought about selecting and installing a headstone. You should also consider your options if we are planning for cremation. A permanent memorialization is significant whether our loved one is buried or cremated.
By selecting a lasting memorial for our loved one, you will provide a peaceful place for family members and friends to go and reflect for many years to come.
When selecting a headstone, there are several things you need to consider. First and foremost, it is crucial to know the cemetery rules and regulations for headstones. Having this information at hand will ensure that we will be able to order the right headstone for our loved one.
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.
To make things easier, this guide will take you through every step and help you make an informed decision.
WHAT IS A HEADSTONE?
A headstone, also called 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 personality and the way they lived their life.
To select a headstone, you need to consider the shape, design, and material of the headstone. Also, consider the type of finish and the inscription you’d like to apply, as well as your budget. The price of a headstone depends on the choices you make.
TYPES OF HEADSTONE
These are the common types of headstones:
- Flat headstones (flat marker or grass marker) a flat tablet made of stone, concrete, or bronze that is set flat in the ground. This traditional headstone is available in a variety of 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 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 becomes 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 will naturally darken 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 compared with 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 durability because not durable material will erode and become damaged over a short period and will require your additional expenditure 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 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 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 wished 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 should choose must depend on the type of stone, fonts, any cemetery regulations, and your budget.
Ask your stonemason if the engraving style you want requires more maintenance than others.
- Incised lettering – this 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 that leaves the letters to appear raised against the background.
- Lead letter inscriptions – letter outlines are carved into the stone, and then lead are beaten into the outlines so that it fills 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 methods of charging.
Some stonemasons charge for the headstone but 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 a number of letters for free and charge extra for additional letters.
Here are the factors that may affect the cost of headstone inscription:
- Number of letters
- Type of engraving
- Lettering material
- Use of paint or gold leaf
- Any additional symbols or photos
HOW TO SELECT A HEADSTONE
The process of selecting a headstone 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 CEMETERY ABOUT HEADSTONE REGULATIONS
Every cemetery has its regulations about the type, material, and size of the headstone. Try calling the cemetery manager to know the restrictions 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 cemetery will tell you headstones from outside sources are not allowed. In this case, ask them to show you their by-laws.
If the cemetery does not provide installation services, you can pay a local monument 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 yellow pages or internet to locate a local installer.
If your loved one is an eligible veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs will provide a free headstone for his grave. 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 visit a monument dealer. The average cost of a headstone is between $1,500 and $2,000. Determine if your loved one set aside an amount for a tombstone in his prepaid funeral plan.
STEP 4: FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH HEADSTONE MATERIALS AND DESIGN
Walk-through cemeteries to get an idea of the size, shapes, design, and materials of headstoned. Browse the internet to get a better idea of what kind of headstone you want. Take some photos or print photos from the internet to show to the cemetery and monument dealer.
STEP 5: DECIDE ON THE TYPE OF HEADSTONE YOU WANT
There are different types of headstones, including upright, flat, raised-top flat, and 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
The material you should select must be durable to last a long time. You can choose granite for durability, adaptability, and price. Granite is generally on the lower end of the price scale, and it comes in many colors.
Avoid using limestones because it will easily weather over time, and it may affect the readability of the inscriptions on the stone.
STEP 7: SELECT HEADSTONE FINISH
The type of finish you will select for the headstone will affect its appearance and durability over time. Some cemeteries do not allow polished headstones because of its reflectiveness. Partially polished pitched and honed headstones are good choices and can be durable for the long-term.
STEP 8: SELECT INSCRIPTIONS
Consider the size of the headstone when choosing an epitaph and the font size for inscription. A small headstone will not fit the entire bible verse you want to inscribe. The font to be used for the epitaph and information about your loved one, such as the name, birth date, and date of death should also be considered for the readability and overall design of a headstone.
You can also include some images like a religious icon, flowers, animals, or a photo of your loved one on the headstone. These images can reflect your loved one’s personality, accomplishments, and religious affiliation.
STEP 9: SELECT HEADSTONE SUPPLIER
Headstones can be purchased 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 the 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 PROOFS
Once you decided on the design, size, and materials, pay the supplier for deposit. Ask for proof of the headstone for your approval and your family.
Make sure to check for the draft. If you don’t like the draft, ask for another rendering. Most suppliers will provide you with the proof before they make the final product.
We hope you’ve found this guide to headstone 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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