Memorial Stones and Grave Markers: A Guide to Cemetery Markers
After a loved one has died and has been cremated or buried, one of the final tasks a family may need to do is to choose a cemetery marker or memorial stone to mark their grave in a cemetery.
This choice can be simple or surprisingly complex, depending on what type of grave marker is selected. Here is a rundown of everything you need to know about headstones, tombstones, funeral markers, cremation memorial stones, and even mausoleums. In this article, we cover all of the options, costs, and other considerations.
Cemetery marker basics
Cemetery markers bear the name of the deceased, their date of birth, and date of death. They often include additional personal information like photographs, information about their life, and an epitaph -- a quote or words written to memorialize the deceased. They can be as simple as a simple flat stone placed on a grave, an engraved cremation stone, or as elaborate as a mausoleum. For most people, a gravestone - sometimes called a headstone - is all that is needed. And because most people (over 70 percent) choose cremation as their final disposition, a memorial stone may be the preferred way to mark the location of their remains.
Types of funeral markers and gravestones
Funeral stones come in various styles and shapes and are often stylized to identify a cultural or family plot. Here is a breakdown.
Flat markers or grass markers
These cemetery markers lie flat on the ground at the head of the grave and sit level with the grass.
Bevel markers are stone tablets roughly 8 inches thick. These lie flush on the ground at the head of the grave. They stand higher than the grass so that they are easy to find. Bevel markers are angled upward and can vary in length.
Slant markers or pillow stones
Slant markers, or pillow stones, sit about 18 inches tall and lie flush on the ground, and the front of the stone is angled back in a wedge shape and can be accompanied with accents like stone vases for flowers.
Monuments -- colloquially known as headstones -- are the traditional stone tablets standing upright out of the ground with inscriptions on the face of the stone marker.
Ledger stone, box stone, or table stone
Ledgers, usually about 8 inches (20 cm) thick, lie flat on the ground and cover the entire grave. Ledger stones have been used for centuries to mark graves. Often you'll see these stones laid into the floor of a cathedral or a church to mark the burial spot of a prominent person.
Engraved ledgers are often used as the headstone itself and may include a monument at the head of the grave.
A box stone or chest marker is a type of memorial shaped like a box that sits on the ground over the grave. A table stone or pedestal marker is an elevated ledger stone mounted on legs like a table. Both types have gone out of fashion. But you will still see these types of memorials marking graves of people who died in the 18th Century or earlier.
Cemeteries will sometimes discourage memorial stones that are elevated and not flush with the ground because they can complicate lawn care.
Crypts or mausoleums
The most elaborate grave marker or memorial might be a crypt or a private mausoleum. A crypt is a room or vault that is a sealed space in a building for placing a casket or coffin. Public mausoleums are sometimes available. Or, for the most discerning, a private mausoleum can be arranged. These monuments can be grandiose or straightforward and can contain multiple crypts for family members. Some are standalone buildings erected in a cemetery.
Headstones are usually carved from granite, bronze, or a combination of both. Headstones can vary in colour from deep blacks and grays to shades of brown and pink.
A gravestone maker may have already added decorative engraving for these markers. However, they will have a space on the stone for a custom inscription.
With all this variety, it's easy to imagine how costs can scale up from traditional rectangles to elaborate sculptures and works of art. Even flat markers can be accentuated with built-in vases and elaborate scrollwork for an additional fee.
Where To Purchase Headstones
Headstones are commonly purchased from cemeteries and funeral homes but are also available from third-party retailers, both online and in-store. You can even buy etched grave markers and related products from Amazon.
In Canada, buying your own stone that will be installed at a loved one's grave can vary depending on the cemetery. Some cemeteries may not allow purchasing a stone elsewhere or charge a fee for bringing a headstone you purchased somewhere else.
Cemetery Rules and Requirements
Cemeteries will have rules and guidelines around the types of headstones it allows, covering everything from the headstone's style, size, and added features if any.
Before you shop for a memorialization monument, it's always a good idea to determine these guidelines with your cemetery in advance. Additionally, plenty of cemeteries have business relationships with headstone vendors that they require you to buy from.
Cremation memorial stones
If your loved one has been cremated, you may be in the market for cremation monuments, cremation headstones, a columbarium, niches, or memorials. These are any kind of structures uniquely created to hold one or more cremation urns for ashes.
Some cremation monuments or headstones are produced with a hollow section and panel that can be removed so that you can place an urn inside. These cremation monuments can be designed to your taste or preference.
Cremation memorial stones come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are large, noticeable monuments, while others are designed to blend into nature.
These can come in the form of a natural, hollowed-out boulder containing the cremation ashes or a cremation urn. Read more here in our blog on how to bury cremated remains.
An increasing number of people choose this route instead of scattering their loved one's ashes. Having a location or a place that holds a special meaning tied to their loved one that they can visit is an attractive option for many. If you choose to go this route, your provider will ensure that the urn you select will be kept safe, protected, and dry in the monument. If you need help choosing an urn, make sure to check out our blog on how to buy an urn.
Price of Head Stones and Grave Markers
Headstone costs are generally calculated by weight, material, colour - anything you can imagine. The larger the gravestone, the more expensive it will be.
Here is a rundown of prices you are likely to encounter when buying a cemetery marker:
- Engraved Plaques: $150 to $500
- Flat Grave Markers: $800 to $6,000.
- Pillow Headstones: $1,800 to $10,000
- Upright Headstones: $1,000 to $25,000 or more, depending on size.
- Crypts and Private Mausoleums: Crypts in public mausoleums can cost $8,000 to $10,000 or more. Private family mausoleums containing multiple crypts can start at around $250,000 and run into millions.
Prices usually don't include additional features like custom flourishes, engraving, or adding photos or an image. Depending on what you're looking for, these costs can quickly add up when you factor in shipping, installation, and maintenance.
Additionally, many cemeteries prefer purchasing a headstone directly from them or an approved vendor.
It's essential to determine whether the cemetery will allow you to buy from a third-party retailer and investigate whether the cemetery will charge you additional fees for installing a headstone you purchased privately.
Get Help From Eirene's Experts
If you're interested in learning more, check out the Eirene blog for tips and info that can help you navigate end-of-life planning with ease. You can also ask us for advice about grave markers or cremation memorial stones. Click here to contact us.