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A headstone (also sometimes referred to as a gravestone, tombstone, monument or grave marker), is a slab of stone placed at the head of a grave, typically inscribed with the name, date of birth and death, and sometimes a personal message about the person who is buried there.
This article will discuss some important considerations to keep in mind when selecting and purchasing a headstone, such as where to purchase, when to purchase, and things to consider when choosing the right one for your loved one or yourself. You can also view examples of some headstones at the bottom of this article to see how much the average headstone costs when purchased online.
Coordinating with the Cemetery
First, you should check with the cemetery where your loved one will be buried, because depending on the state, there may be specific cemetery regulations or cemetery specific requirements that need to be followed.
The gravestone will have to be shipped and unloaded by the cemetery as they are usually very heavy and require heavy equipment (this may not be the case for a grave marker, depending on its size) for the installation. You will also need to coordinate delivery between the headstone producer and the cemetery. Depending on the production method and headstone design, it may take some time to manufacture and ship. The funeral home will be able to help you with coordination or be your point of contact if your loved one will be buried in a cemetery adjoined to the funeral home itself.
Choosing the Headstone
There are many types of headstones for graves. There are two main factors to consider when selecting the right one: the material from which it is made (e.g., granite marble, concrete, stainless steel, sandstone, limestone, or bronze) and the presentation of the stone (e.g., monument, upright headstone, grave marker, or memorial plaque).
When choosing the material for the headstone you should consider the aesthetics and the durability of the material. Granite headstones are known for their longevity and durability when exposed to the elements – this may be especially important in areas with harsh winters. Stainless steel gravestones are more modern and sleek looking, while bronze grave markers are durable, low-maintenance and have a more classic look to them.
Once you have decided on the type and material of the headstone, you can decide on the design and the inscription. The inscription can be as simple as a name, date of birth, and date of death, or it can have a saying or a picture – there is an endless number of ways to personalize and create the most fitting tribute for yourself or your loved one. It is usually a good idea to check with family members to see if they have any ideas or knew of any specific wishes of the deceased.
Buying the Gravestone
Depending on whether you are buying your headstone or grave marker from a third-party or from the cemetery yourself, you will want to check and see if there are any special offers or sales. Sometimes cemeteries offer a choice of different headstones, but you should check with various online options to become more familiar with general pricing and offers. See online options.
It is unlikely the headstone will be ready for the burial, due to the time it takes to decide on and purchase of the headstone, the inscription and design work, as well as shipping and installation. For this reason, you can wait until after the funeral to browse and order a headstone (see our Funeral Planning Checklist for more information).
Recently, natural burials have become more popular, with small grave markers or no headstone or monument at all. If this is the type of burial your loved one has left instructions for then you may forgo the headstone completely or you may plant a tree as the grave marker as another option.
Remember, choosing a gravestone should be like any other part of planning a funeral for a loved one or a friend, it should reflect the memory and legacy of the person who is to be remembered. It is also one of the few funeral planning tasks that have some flexibility with timing, so it may help to know that it can be left until after the funeral takes place to order.