Choosing memorial masonry

Choosing memorial masonry, or a headstone as it is more commonly referred to, is an important decision requiring careful thought and planning.  It is a memorial to your loved one that will last for decades, maybe even centuries to come and it is important to get it right. It can be an emotional and difficult task and there are a lot of things to consider.

However, there are few things to remember

  1. Take your time – A headstone doesn’t have to be decided on straight away. Your funeral director will arrange for a temporary marker to be placed on the grave.  This is usually a wooden cross with an engraved plate with your loved one’s names and dates.  There is no time limit on how long this can remain.

In fact, in most cemeteries the ground needs to settle before a headstone can be installed, usually between 6 and 12 months, so you have plenty of time. Some people take many years to decide on the right tribute.  It is going to be there for a long time so there’s no need to rush it.

  • Check cemetery regulations.  Many cemeteries have regulations around size, style and materials.  The design will need to be approved in advance and there may be objections, so it is best to check in advance to avoid unnecessary upset. Church yards in particular, can have specific rules about wording.  Although epitaphs and inscriptions do not need to be religious, they may want them to keep to a traditional style.
  • Do your research. It sounds strange, but take a walk in some cemeteries and look at other people’s headstones.  You can get some ideas, or at least have more knowledge of what different stone looks like. You will get a good idea of what you don’t want, and what may look out of place in the surroundings.
  • Consult with others. Headstones can often create difficult feelings, particularly if family members have differing views. Talk to the stonemason as often several elements can be accommodated and compromises can be found, rather than trying to decide everything yourself in advance. Bear in mind that the headstone will mean different things to different people and is a valuable part of grieving.
  • Choose a material.  The material is often a good place to start.  Headstones can be made of a variety of materials including marble, granite and slate, and come in a variety of colours from bright white, greys, pinks and through to solid black.  Some stone is more durable, whilst some weather more significantly.  Granite is incredibly hard wearing but can therefore be more difficult to carve. Marble is beautiful but can wear easily.  There are also a variety of finishes to choose, from highly polished to rustic. Think about style and budget.
  • Consider the size.  Headstones can come in all sizes, from tall uprights stones to a flat, pillow style memorial.  This will largely depend on the surroundings, as well as your taste and budget. It is another good reason to look around the cemetery and see what others have chosen.
  • Think about the design.  The design of headstones can vary dramatically.  They can be very plain, with little detail or with intricate carvings.  Square, simply curved or ornate are all options so think about what suits your loved one best. It’s possible to include designs that reflect their passions and interests such as golf clubs, particular flower details or an emblem or badge. New technology also means that photographs are an option, so you could include a portrait if you wish.
  • The inscription is often the most difficult part to get right.  Take your time.  It is usual to include the name, dates of birth and death.  It can be a shortened version of their name if they were known by that. It is typical to include some words on the front and it is also possible to include words on the back.  Some examples …

A wonderful husband, father and grandfather

Forever in our hearts

Loved and remembered.

You can say as little or as much as you want to, providing it complies with any restrictions.  Very often less is more, but some people find it impossible to put a life into a few short words.

  • Work with a reputable company.  You can take a look at our memorial masonry offerings on our website, or you can approach an independent stonemason. If you choose to do that, ask to see some of their work (and visit in person if you can) and ensure they have good reviews from previous customers.  You can even ask the cemetery if they have a good experience of them.
  1. Honour the process. Choosing and installing a headstone can be an emotional time, especially as it takes place a certain time after the burial. Make sure you take care of yourself and seek support when and where you need to. Done in the right way, with kindness and support, it can be a healing process, as well as a difficult one.

If you would like any help or guidance on choosing a headstone, please get in touch with your local branch and we would be happy to help.