A headstone’s purpose is to memorialise a loved one’s passing and a way to pay tribute for many years to come. Usually, the family and friends will ensure that the headstone design reflects the deceased’s personal tastes and should represent the way in which they lived their life.
It is also a possibility that the person that has died might have already chosen, or even purchased a headstone, but if you have to do it yourself, the decision can be challenging. Making this decision can evoke a lot of feelings and raise a lot of questions. Probably the first question you will have will be ‘Where do I start?’
The range of models, designs, sizes and prices can seem never-ending, and a headstone can bring home the reality of the loved ones passing before you have fully started the healing process. However, once the headstone has been, it can be a helpful focal point to reflect on their lives and the memories you have with them.
Types of Headstone?
A headstone, gravestone or tombstone is a stone or slate marker placed at the head of a grave in a cemetery. In addition to the person’s name and life dates, headstones are usually inscribed with an epitaph reflecting on what this person meant to the friends and family they left behind.
The two main types of headstones are upright headstones and flat headstones. The upright headstone is the most traditional choice and sits upright at the head of a grave. Flat headstones can either be flush with the ground or raised to a slant from the rear. Both come in a variety of colours, finishes, sizes and materials. There is also the option of adding a kerbed headstone or ledge marker which provide more room for personalized expression. These can be combined with slant and bevel markers in addition to traditional upright headstones. Other alternative memorial options include cremation benches or cremation memorials.
The material of the headstone is a very important element to consider as it can affect your placement options and the visual properties of the design. Additionally, the durability of the material can significantly impact longevity – the more durable the material, the less maintenance and repairs it will need over time.
Headstones are normally carved from granite or marble, which are available in a variety of colours. Granite is the most hardwearing of these materials, due to its wide availability it’s also the cheapest. Many churchyards will only permit granite headstones as they prefer to retain the traditional aesthetic properties of the premises so it is certainly worth inquiring if you would like another material. Marble is very visually appealing as it is always given a finely rubbed finish to make it look and feel smooth. However, dirt and wear can become quite noticeable after just a short amount of time.
Other less common choices include Nabresina (a type of limestone that has a beige hue. Similarly to marble, it is finely rubbed to create a smooth finish), Portland (also a limestone, grey in colour and will become discoloured over time) and Bronze (which are becoming increasingly popular due to their resilience). Limestone headstones aren’t as durable as granite, white marble or bronze but are usually permitted in churchyards.
The finish on the headstone is also variable. Normally the front of the stone is polished to highlight the inscription, but the top and sides can be kept ‘rustic’ for a softer, more natural appearance if desired. Some examples of headstone finishes include:
Making a decision on the wording you would like to include for the epitaph on a headstone is perhaps the most important decision to make before ordering it. It is important to know what you would like to say before ordering the headstone to ensure the inscriptions will fit. Some popular inscriptions for a traditional epitaph include:
- Gone, but not forgotten.
- In loving memory of…
- Forever in our hearts.
- Always in our hearts.
- Entered into rest.
- Rest in peace.
- A wonderful husband, father and grandfather
You can also choose something completely unique to the person and have something that reflects their personality.
As a rule, stonemasons will have a catalogue of typefaces and colours available to choose from for the inscription. The inscription will be carved or painted onto the headstones.
Choosing a Headstone
Choosing a reputable company when it comes to designing a headstone is essential. You’ll want to put your trust in stonemasons who have had years of experience in creating headstones and working closely with people to design something that will match or go beyond their expectations. If you live in South Wales you can choose South Wales Monuments for bespoke memorials.