What You Need to Know Before Buying a Gravestone


Posted on August 30, 2018 by

Immortalizing your loved one in an elegant and beautiful headstone—or even a monument—may be one of your top priorities, but you’ll want to be careful about which headstone, grave marker, or monument you commission. Many cemeteries regulate what kinds of headstones they will install on their property, so the preliminary step in creating the perfect memorial for your loved one is to contact your cemetery to learn about their rules.

We’ll walk you through the different types of headstones and monuments you can get, and common restrictions cemeteries might place on them.

The Different Types of Gravestones

Upright Headstones

A classic and common choice, the upright gravestone is usually made out of stone like marble or granite.

Slanted Headstones

The slanted gravestone, or the slant marker, rises out of the ground at an angle instead of straight up. Like upright gravestones, slanted gravestones are also often made of marble or granite.

Ledger Marker

The ledger marker is a rectangular headstone that lays flat over the whole grave and can often be paired with an upright or slanted gravestone, or even a monument.

Flat Headstones

Also called flush or flat markers, these headstones are installed into the ground and lay flush with it. They come in a wide variety of materials, including bronze, and are considerably less expensive than many other types of headstones.

Companion Headstones

A single headstone can be designed for two people or more, an extremely common and meaningful headstone option for couples or for a family plot.


Monuments are a more lavish cousin of the headstone, carved into figures of angels or crosses. They can be the same size as an upright headstone or as short as a ledger marker. Any type of headstone can be made into a custom monument.

Gravestone Materials

Granite Headstones

Granite is one of the most durable stones out there, and can keep your loved one’s headstone intact for centuries. It comes in a wide variety of colors, and is the least expensive and most common headstone material.

Bronze Headstones

Nearly as common as their granite alternatives, bronze headstones are slightly more expensive, but are easier to maintain, more easily decorated with complex and fine designs, and just as resistant to harsh weather. They usually come in the form of flat grave markers.

Marble Headstones

Polished marble is beautiful, but is vulnerable to damp conditions. You will not want to place marble headstones in swampy climates. Because of the stone’s fragility, inscriptions made in marble are also likely to erode over time.

Limestone Headstones

Like granite, limestone is easy to customize and carve. But much like marble, limestone cannot handle severe weather, and inscriptions are likely to fade away after many years.

Stainless Steel Headstones

Stainless steel gravestones are growing in popularity, desirable for their durability and sleek, modern appearance. Like bronze, they can feature intricate designs.

Common Cemetery Restrictions on Gravestones

Often the local memorialist, someone who makes headstones and gravestones, is familiar with the local cemeteries and their requirements. They are a great resource when deciding on the perfect monument for yourself or your loved one. Click here to find a local headstone or monument company. 

Questions you will want to ask...

  • Does your cemetery have minimum and maximum dimensions for gravestones?

  • Do they require all their gravestones to have uniform dimensions?

  • What style of headstone do they permit? Some cemeteries do not allow upright headstones, while others require them.

  • Does your cemetery have any material restrictions? Some churchyards, for example, require all gravestones to be made from granite or limestone.

  • Are there coloring restrictions? Some colors of marble and bronze are forbidden, especially if they disrupt the uniformity of the cemetery’s other headstones.

  • Does the cemetery have any specific requirements? Some cemeteries require gravestones to be made in a certain style and material.

  • Are you allowed to place vases for flowers alongside your loved one’s grave?

Note: Most cemeteries charge an installation fee, and you’ll need to fill out authorization paperwork for headstone placement.

Now that you know what your cemetery does and does not permit, you’re ready to begin designing your loved one’s perfect headstone. For more of our educational articles, click here. We also have comprehensive casket, urn, and flower guides.

Pictures obtained from Cycadia Monument Company, Sterling Monument CompanyBras and Mattos Monument Company, and Amazon. All pictures link to the source website. 

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