Choosing a Grave Memorial for Your Loved One

When the time comes to choose a grave memorial for a loved one, you may find yourself wondering where to start. And in fact, your search shouldn’t begin by browsing through a catalog or visiting a showroom; the first step in selecting a grave marker is to talk to the staff at the cemetery where your loved one is laid to rest.

Before You Shop for a Grave Stone

Most cemeteries have strict rules regarding the kinds of tombstone they will accept, and those rules vary greatly, not only from cemetery to cemetery, but sometimes even from section to section within the same cemetery. Before you set out to choose a memorial stone, ask the cemetery staff for a copy of the rules regarding grave markers for the section of the cemetery where your loved one is buried.

Next, be sure to discuss your options with other family members who will have input into the decision. Talk about preferences regarding color, size, and style, and don’t forget to discuss the cost. Knowing your budget and where the money will come from before you make your purchase will help you avoid misunderstandings and overspending.

Know Your Options When Choosing a Grave Monument

Following are some of the choices you’ll be asked to make in selecting a grave marker. This is merely an overview, however. As with all funeral goods and services, personalization of grave markers is becoming more and more popular; if you don’t see the perfect monument for your loved one, you can always consider ordering a stone to your specifications.

Types of Memorial Stone

Known for their extreme strength and ability to endure the elements, granite and bronze are the two materials most often used in the construction of grave monuments.

Granite is an incredibly hard stone with a long tradition of use in grave markers. Modern engraving methods have made it easier for artisans to work with granite, which comes in a variety of colors ranging from gray and black to shades of pink, rose, and red. Bronze, on the other hand, is favored by many for its durability, water resistance, and beautiful natural finish, which can be preserved by  applying a clear protective coating.

Memorial Design and Shape

In general, there are three basic styles of memorials:

  • Upright. An upright grave marker is actually two pieces, with a vertical slab sitting atop a base.
  • Slant. A slant tombstone usually stands from 16 to 18 inches tall with a backward-sloping face.
  • Flat. A flat monument is a marker that lays flush with the ground.

Beyond these typical shapes and sizes, the design elements of a tombstone are limited only by your imagination and personal preference. You will find burial markers bearing a variety of symbols, from religious to fraternal to nature themes. You can also order a personalized gravestone with a laser-etched portrait of the deceased or some other image that has special significance.

Keep in mind, though, that custom-made tombstones can be expensive. There are only a handful of stoneworkers left in the U.S who make custom headstones, and most of their creations start at around $3,500. Depending on the artist, the size of the memorial, the type of stone used, and the extent and detail of decorative work and inscriptions, the cost can rise into tens of thousands of dollars.

Choosing an Appropriate Memorial Inscription

Most grave markers bear at least a short inscription that includes the name of the deceased and the years of birth and death. Some markers also include an epitaph, which is a saying that represents the personality, philosophy, or faith of the deceased. The epitaph can be a famous quote, an original verse or statement, or a line or two from a favorite poem or song.

Again, your choice in an inscription is simply a matter of personal preference and what you think will best represent your loved one. Many people even write their own epitaphs before they die.

Your Thoughts on Memorials

What is the most unusual grave marker you’ve ever seen? Do you have any thoughts on what kind of a memorial you’d like for yourself? Religious or irreverent? Profound or humorous? Or does it matter to you at all?


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