Secrets of Truth: How to select a Headstone in 2021 (truth w/ prices)

How to Select a Headstone

Commonly with a loved one, most people choose cremation or a burial. Regardless of the type of disposition you decide on, having a permanent memorial place for your loved ones is important. 

It is somewhere your family can visit to pray and reflect on the deceased for a long time to come.

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That is why headstones are an important funeral element. While thinking about whether you want an interment or inurnment, you also need to give some thought as to what type of headstone you’ll need. 

Selecting one for a loved one is not the easiest thing to do, it is, however, essential. It is an important step in the healing process.

By picking a headstone, you’ll be acknowledging that your loved one is gone. It helps you come to terms with that reality. Additionally, you will also be memorializing their lives and creating a peaceful place where you can come and reminisce for many years.

While picking a headstone, however, you need to also consider the rules of the cemetery. That way, whichever headstone you pick will not be violating the rules. The information will also ensure you order the right headstone for your loved one.

There’s a lot that goes into selecting the right headstone. Aside from considering cemetery rules, you also need to set a budget. 

On top of that, you also need to decide what material or design you prefer as well as a reputable supplier. All this can be stressful, especially if you’re still grieving. This post, however, entails a detailed guide that offers the information you need to pick the perfect headstone for you.

What Is A Headstone?

It also goes by the names of grave markers, gravestones as well as tombstones. It is a slab placed at the head of the grave. It is also a monumental piece that memorializes a loved one and marks the grave where their grave is.

Headstones can come in different shapes and sizes. They also come made of different materials. It can also be upright or slanted, shaped into a bench, flat bevel, or wing, among many others. A headstone also contains some information written on it. 

The information includes the name of the loved ones along with their birth and death though. Some families opt to include information like the rest of the family members that died over time. 

Aside from personal and familial information, some headstones also have epitaphs. These can be a quote or scripture.

A headstone is important in memorializing a loved one. For this reason, the one you choose should reflect the personality of the deceased. 

That’s in the inscription on the headstone, as well as the shape and size. Also, you need to ensure that the material used is tough, durable to last any weather conditions. You should also pick one that is within your budget.

Types of Headstones

Headstones come in many shapes and designs; the following are the common categories when it comes to types of headstones:

Flat Headstones.

Also called grass markers or flat gravestone markers. These types of headstones are designed to lay flat on the ground and are the simplest designs. 

They are commonly made of bronze or concrete. The information of the deceased is either written on the headstone directly or a plaque attached to the headstone.

Upright Headstone.

This is considered to be the most traditional design when it comes to headstones. It is a slab that stands upright on a concrete base that fixes it to the ground. 

The headstone is normally made of limestone, granite or marble. The standard size is 45″ x 30″ x 6″. The information is normally engraved directly on the stones.

Kerbed Headstones. 

Kerbed Headstones

Also known as full-length markers or ledger markers. It is a combination of an upright headstone and a larger version of a flat headstone. The design of these headstones may differ. 

However, headstones are commonly full-length monuments with an upright slab. The information of the deceased can be engraved on the Kerbed headstone or the upright slab.

Raised-top Flat Markers.

This is a kind of flat marker, also known as bevel markers or the sloped tablet. It’s a block made to slant in its rear and sloping at the front face. Information about the deceased is written on the makers.

Headstone Materials

Before anything, the first thing to consider is the type of material the headstone is made out of. Each type of material comes with its benefits and downsides. So, you need to carefully select which one best meets your needs.

While picking the material, you should think about durability. It is important to pick a material that’s durable enough to last for a long time despite any weather conditions. Otherwise, you would have to keep repairing the headstone, which can be costly. The following are some of the common materials you can choose from:


This is a naturally exquisite stone that’s normally simply polished and shaped after being unearthed. It has also become increasingly cheap and is one of the cheapest options for material today. Granite is also flexible and highly adaptable in that it is resistant to environmental conditions. 

That means its resistant to factors like acid rain pollution, as well as high and low temperatures. However, the downside to using granite is the maintenance. Over time it builds a white film over it that can be difficult to polish but proper polishing should restore its shine.


A copper alloy that’s normally used in making several things including jewelry. It’s great for adding details to the headstone as well. It’s a durable metal that is resistant to different weather conditions. It forms a patina over time that makes it naturally darken. 

If you don’t mind the vintage feel the patina brings then bronze won’t require a lot of maintenance. If you do need it polished, it may require a lot of elbow grease and chemicals. Another downside is it’s the most expensive option.


This is a popular choice when it comes to headstone because the material is very easy to carve into whatever design you need. Its biggest downside is that it is the least durable option. It’s highly prone to weather decay and will chip away over time.


Most people opt for marble because of its aesthetic appeal. It polishes easily and can be cut and carved easily as well. Like limestone it is not durable. 

Exposure to moisture leads to its erosion, a process known as sugaring. This blurs all the details and carvings on the stone over time leaving a harsh granular crystalline appearance. For this reason, some cemeteries do not allow marble headstones.


This is a great option if you’re looking for an affordable and durable material for the headstone. It can also be molded and shaped into any desired form or design. However, it is susceptible to mold and mildew. For this reason, it would require constant maintenance in terms of cleaning.


This is a naturally occurring rock that’s commonly used as a building material. It’s easily available in local fields. Handling it is also simple since it only needs to be washed and decorated with your desired carvings or markings.

Stainless Steel.

This is a more recent option when it comes to headstones. It’s not the most affordable option but it is among the most durable. It is resistant to corrosion and various weather conditions.

Headstone Finish

A headstone finish refers to the way it finally looks after all the shaping carving and polishing are done. There are various types of finishing you can choose from based on your preference. The following are common examples:

Honed Finish.

Also known as a sawn or eggshell finish, it’s an unpolished but smooth finish. Despite being smooth it is non-reflective. This type of finishing is commonly used on the sides of the headstone.

Part-polished Finish.

As the name suggests this type of finishing means only parts of the headstone are polished, that is the inscriptions and base area. This is done to emphasize the inscriptions. The rest of the headstone is either rubbed, sanded, blasted, or sawn for a smooth non-reflective finish. 

Polished Finish.

This type of finish means that the entire headstone is polished giving it a smooth and reflective appearance. However, it’s the best type of finish for granite stones it requires a lot of maintenance in terms of constant cleaning and polishing. 

It may also not be the best option in an old cemetery since it may look out of place.

Pitched Finish.

Also referred to as rock-pitched finish. It’s the perfect finish if you’re looking for an aged or vintage appearance. This type of finish requires the stone to be hand chiseled and is often used on the sides of the headstones. It’s also a great option if it is going to be placed in an old cemetery. 

Other Finishing.

Aside from the common ones listed above, other finishing includes, steeled, axed, and frosted. They are acquired through sanding, axing, flaming or chiseling techniques.  

Headstone Design

The design of a headstone mostly has to do with the shape as well as the type of finishing. It also includes any intricate details or carvings you may choose to include as decorations. The type of design you choose can vary and depends mostly on your preference and creative imagination. 

It could be something that reflects the personality of the deceased. It could also be something symbolic. There are some common designs for you to choose from in case you’re at a loss:

  • Tear-shaped headstone
  • Cross-shaped headstone
  • Serpentine-shaped headstone
  • Half ogee-shaped headstone
  • Book-shaped headstone
  • Heart-shaped headstone
  • Angel-shaped headstone
  • Dove-shaped headstone

Headstone Inscriptions

Headstone Inscriptions

Inscriptions involve the wordings engraved on the headstone. They require a lot of thought, especially because they contribute significantly to the final appearance of the headstone. At times the deceased may have left instructions as to what inscriptions should be made on the headstone. If no instructions were left, then as the family, you can decide on what it should be. 

Pick something that reflects on who the deceased was, or the life he/she lived, or their personality. Anything that captures the essentials of who the deceased was.

Some people use religious texts, others use poetry or quotes. You can also use words of encouragement, that will bring consolation to whoever reads it, or whoever is grieving. 

Whatever you decide on, ensure you’ve thought through it thoroughly, since the inscriptions are permanent and can’t be changed once done.

Style and Designs of a Headstone Inscriptions:

The style and design of the inscription are important because it adds to the final appearance of the headstone. It is what differentiates your loved one’s headstone from the rest in the cemetery. 

As such, there are four elements to consider when picking the style and design of the inscription. The elements are, font or the lettering, type of engraving in the stone, and whether to use symbols or a photo

The Wording of Headstone Inscription

It’s important to find the write wordings to include as the inscription on your headstone. The words should reflect something essential about the deceased. It could also be words of consolation or encouragement for the grieving family when they come to visit. 

If the deceased left any instructions, the wordings could represent their last words to the family and loved ones. The last words could also serve as a reminder of the deceased. Essential information to include is the full names of the deceased, the date of birth and death as well as an epitaph.

An Epitaph is a short message written in memory of the deceased. These are the hardest wordings to come up with. It’s difficult to get the right wordings that capture the entirety of a person or their lives. 

So, you can take your time and even ask for suggestions from family and friends, to ensure you get it right. Some great suggestions to inspire you are:

  • Deeply mourned, fondly loved
  • Too well loved ever to be forgotten
  • What we keep in memory is ours unchanged forever.
  • It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
  • Sadly, missed by your loving family.
  • Remembered with love and respect.
  • Life’s work well done
  • An inspiration to us all.
  • His strength and spirit will live with us forever.
  • God has her in his keeping. We have her in our hearts.
  • At peace in God’s hands.
  • A real fighter until the end.
  • Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal
  • She asked for so little but gave so much.

You could also use scriptures or a stanza in a poem if the deceased was a poetry lover. Short quotes are also applicable if they have a message of encouragement or if it was the deceased’s favorite quote.

Engraving Styles for the Headstone Inscription

Once you have chosen the right wordings to include as the inscription, you now need to decide on the engraving style to be used. However, there are several options to choose from they are dependent on various factors. 

For starters, the material of the stone and font type matters, since some fonts may not pair well with the type of stone you choose. Another determining factor is the cemetery’s regulations as well as your budget since different styles have different prices. 

It is also recommended that you consult with your stonemason to pick a font that will require the least maintenance.

The following are some examples when it comes to engraving styles, that you can pick from:

V-cut lettering. This style is suitable for engraving on marbles, slate, granite, and sandstones. It uses a chisel and hammer to create a deep v-cut for the letterings, hence its name. 

The cuts can be left natural or can be filled with 23-carat gold leaf or enamel paint. The gold leaf lasts longer but is more expensive.

Incised lettering. This is considered the standard engraving style, especially for marble, granite, and sandstone. The technique used is normally sandblasting. Like the v-cut lettering, the cut can be filled with enamel paint or gold leaf. 

Embossed lettering. For this type of style, the background is usually sandblasted so the letters appear raised. Sometimes it is referred to as raised lead lettering, which is a type of engraving style whereby the lead letters are raised to stand out.

Lead lettering. In this style, you first need to outline the letters before beating lead into the outline. The lead fills the letterings causing the letters to lie flush against the stone. 

It’s an expensive engraving style but works well with marble stones.

Symbols and photos are other options aside from letters that can be engraved into the stone. They could be photos of the deceased or religious symbols like the cross.

Cost of Headstone Inscription

It’s difficult to estimate the exact cost of inscription since every stonemason has a different way of charging. Some charge per letter, while others charge per the number of lines. 

You might also be lucky to find a stonemason who only charges for the headstone and not the inscription. Others may have a maximum number of letters they do for free but charge for any additional letters.

The best way to estimate the cost of the lettering is by considering the different factors like:

  • Type of engraving
  • Lettering material
  • The number of letters
  • Use of paint or gold leaf
  • Any additional symbols or photos

Selecting A Headstone.

The following are some of the steps that can guide you when selecting a headstone for a loved one:

Step 1: Consult the Memorial Park or Cemetery About Headstone Regulations

Each cemetery has its own rules on the type, size, and material of a headstone. Some have a limit in size or require a specific material. Ensure you consult with the cemetery manager first before making any decisions.

Step 2: Ask for The Cemetery’s Installation Services

Some cemeteries do not allow headstones from external providers, and so provide the headstone and installation service at a fee. Ensure you ask to see the cemetery’s by-laws in this case. Others may provide the headstone but not the installation service. 

In such a case, you would have to hire an outside headstone installer. Eligible veterans on the other hand get a free headstone from the Veteran Affairs department, so ensure you contact them for further details, if a loved one was a veteran.

Step 3: Set A Budget

Headstones can be costly, with an average price of between $1,500-$2,000. You should have a clear idea of what you want and how much you can afford to set aside for the headstone. It also helps to find out if the deceased left some money aside for the headstone.

Step 4: Get Yourself Familiar with Headstone Design and Materials

Gather as much information as you can about the different sizes, designs, and materials of headstones. You can even print out photos to share with headstone dealers so they have a clearer idea of what you want. That way you can also get an accurate quotation.

Step 5: Decide on The Kind Headstone You Need

Once you have all the necessary information, you can decide on a suitable headstone. This will be based on your budget and the regulations of the cemetery. It could also be dependent on the deceased’s last wishes.

Step 6: Select the Headstone Material

When making a selection, make durability a priority for the material. It should be a material that lasts for a long time. Granite is the best option for durability and affordability. It is also flexible.

Step 7: Select Headstone Finish

While choosing the type of finishing you’d like for the headstone, keep in mind that the appearance and durability will be affected. Also, keep in mind the cemetery’s regulations since some don’t allow polished reflective headstones.

Step 8: Select Inscriptions

When selecting the inscriptions there are a lot of factors to consider. Think about the wordings you would like to include, the font style, and the font size. Ensure that the inscriptions are readable. Also do not forget to include the name, date of birth, and date of death of the deceased.

Step 9: Select Headstone Supplier

Ensure you choose a reputable supplier aside from one that is affordable. Comparing your options will help you decide on the best dealer to go with. If the cemetery allows headstones from outside, then online dealers are the best option. You could also ask family and friends for referrals.

Step 10: Ask for The Draft

Once everything has been settled ensure you ask for the draft. This will allow you to see how the headstone will come out. That way you can make changes before the final piece is made. Once the final headstone has been created, you cannot make any changes. 


Picking a headstone may appear to be a complicated process, but it is an essential one nonetheless. It offers you and your family a peaceful place to visit and reflect on your loved one. It also helps with the healing process as you come to terms with the reality of the loss. Ensure you take your time to gather all the necessary information to make the right choice that is within your budget.