If you are arranging a burial for a loved one, one of the things you might be considering is a headstone for their grave. The deceased might have already chosen a headstone, but if you have to do it yourself, the decision can be difficult. When designing and choosing a headstone, you will need to consider the shape and design of the headstone, the material from which it is made, the type of finish applied to the headstone and any inscription you’d like to have applied, as well as your available budget. Here we will guide you through each of these steps to choosing a headstone.
What is a Headstone?
A headstone is a stone marker placed at the head of a grave in a cemetery. After the mound of earth on top of the grave settles, usually several months after the burial, the headstone becomes the main way of marking the person’s grave. Masons carve headstones from several different types of hard stone and install them above the grave.
As well as the person’s name and life-dates, headstones are usually inscribed with an epitaph reflecting on what they meant to their family. Some cemeteries have very specific regulations about headstones. So, check with the cemetery about their requirements before making a decision.
What are the Types of Headstone?
There are several different types of headstone and cremation memorials that you can choose from, depending on personal preference and budget. We have outlined the most common below.
Upright Headstones or Lawn Memorials
Upright headstones are the most traditional, usually stand at around 45 inches tall and are supported by a thick concrete base. They can also be described as a ‘lawn memorial.’ The simplest designs for this type of headstone are rectangles with square, rounded, or ogee tops, which can be carved with designs, such as crosses, roses, angels, books or hearts.
Kerbed headstones are full length designs that lie flat across the ground and are often used in conjunction with an upright headstone. This is the largest and most elaborate headstone design. The front of the memorial includes a stone kerb that outlines a rectangle above the grave that can be filled with natural or coloured chippings, or soil for a flowerbed. The additional area allows for the incorporation of more extensive carvings in the design.
Flat Headstones or Memorial Ledgers
Flat headstones come in a large variety of shapes, sizes and designs and can either be laid flat or at a slight angle. They are also referred to as a memorial ledger. The surface area of the stone is much larger than either a lawn memorial or kerb set and can feature a longer inscription.
What are the Different Headstone Materials and Finishes?
Headstones are normally carved from granite or marble. Granite is the most hardwearing of these materials, but is, therefore, the most difficult to carve, which reduces the scope for designs and increases the price. Marble is very attractive, but dirt and wear can become quite noticeable. Other materials such as slate, bronze or limestone are also available
There are four main types of finish for a headstone:.
Polished – A smooth and shiny finish that will require some maintenance and could also look out of place in older graveyards.
Part-Polished – Only those parts of the gravestone you want emphasised, such as the inscription, are polished and a different finish is applied to the rest of the stone.
Honed or Eggshell – This finish is achieved by removing a layer of polish to leave the stone smooth but not shiny.
Pitched – This rough finish gives the headstone a more aged look that can help it fit into more traditional churchyards.
The range of materials and finishes you can choose from depends on the type and model of the headstone as many designs are only available in specific materials.
What Should the Headstone Inscription be?
Choosing the wording for the epitaph on a headstone is perhaps the most important decision. Some popular inscriptions for a traditional epitaph include:
Only after you’ve finalised your inscription should you select your headstone design. All headstones can be personalised to suit your needs in a variety of ways.
There are various ways to include images on headstones. You can even have designs etched using laser technology. However, some will still provide traditional hand-carved services as well. Images can also be attached using ceramics. This is recommended if you’d like a full colour photograph.
The font of the inscription will impact the entire design. Traditionally either a roman, old english or a script-like font is used. Italics are usually reserved for bible passages, quotes and poetry, while bolder text (usually capitalized) is used for names and dates.
Headstones are available in virtually any colour, but the most common are grey, black, white, red and blue.
Contours and Mouldings
The contours and mouldings refer to the general shape of the headstone head and base, and could influence other design elements such as the lettering and finish.
What is the Cost of a Headstone?
The cost of a headstone varies significantly, depending on several factors, such as the type and size of stone, detail in the design, and the number of characters in the inscription. On average, flat headstones cost around £400, upright headstone between £800-£1,200 and kerbed headstones about £2,000. The cost of inscribing and installing the headstone is usually included in the price of it.