All You Need To Know About Headstones and Grave Markers

When a body is buried in a cemetery, some form of marker—commonly referred to as a "headstone"—is often placed at the head of the grave to identify who is buried there. The marker usually states the name of the person who died and the dates of birth and death, and may include other personal information, images, or a quote, called an epitaph.

Types of headstones

Headstones come in a number of styles, including:

  • Flat markers, sometimes called “grass markers,” which lie flat on the ground at the head of the grave, flush with the grass
  • Bevel markers, usually about 8 inches thick, which lie flat on the ground at the head of the grave and rise above the grass
  • Slant markers, sometimes called “pillow stones,” usually about 18 inches tall, which sit flat on the ground with the front of the stone angled back, creating a wedge shape
  • Monuments, commonly referred to as “headstones,” which are tablets standing upright out of the ground.
  • Ledgers, which are usually about 8 inches thick, lie flat on the ground and cover the entire grave. Ledgers may be engraved and used as the headstone itself, or they may also include a monument at the head of the grave.

Headstone features

Most headstones are generally made of either granite or bronze, or a combination of the two. Granite ranges in color from grays to pinks to black and browns. Engraving is often available in a variety of typefaces and styles. Monument headstones come in many different shapes and styles, ranging from more traditional rectangles to elaborate sculptures. Flat markers may be entirely flat or have built-in flower vases.

To learn about green headstones, see our article Green Headstones and Grave Markers.

Where to purchase headstones

Headstones can be purchased from cemeteries, funeral homes, third-party retailers, or online retailers. Remember that because cemeteries are not covered by the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, the cemetery may not accept a headstone purchased elsewhere or may charge a fee for bringing in or installing a headstone you purchased somewhere else.

Cost

The price of headstones is generally calculated by weight; therefore, the larger the headstone, the more expensive it will be. The price of a headstone usually does not include any “additional features,” including engraving or adding a custom features, including a photo or image. If you are purchasing a headstone from a third-party or online retailer, the cost of shipping the headstone may also be quite high, as shipping costs are commonly calculated by weight.

Cemetery rules and requirements

Every cemetery has rules around the types of headstones it allows, including rules regarding headstone style, size, and features. Before shopping for a headstone, find out what the rules are at the cemetery you are working with.  In addition, many cemeteries have relationships with headstone vendors that they will require you to work with. These requirements will inform your purchasing decisions.

To learn more about cemeteries, see our article Cemeteries.

Personal advocacy

Many cemeteries prefer that you purchase a headstone from them directly, or from one of their approved vendors. If you will be purchasing a headstone from a third-party or online retailer, make sure the cemetery will allow you to do so, and look into any fees the cemetery might charge for bringing in or installing a headstone you purchased elsewhere.

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