Image by Scott Rodgerson


This article is about "How to buy a headstone." When a loved one has passed away we are left with a terrible void in our lives. One way for us to commemorate the one we so dearly miss is by designing and placing an appropriate headstone for that person. Sometimes, after losing a loved one, the task of headstone selection may seem to be overwhelming. This short article attempts to make the task of buying a headstone a simple one.

Know your cemetery.

Many cemeteries have their own set of regulations. A single lot may have different regulations than a family lot. These regulations put restrictions on the size of your headstone. These size restrictions will play a part in the selection of your design. Your local headstone company should be able to help you with this. Cemeteries are in business to make a profit and it is possible that they will lead you to believe that you must buy your headstone through them. This is not true. You may buy your headstone from anyone. It is a federal law.

Contact a local headstone/monument company.

Look for a local monument company that is a member of the Monument Builders of North America or the American Institute of Commemorative Art. These members generally adhere to strict professional standards. Speaking to someone at a local headstone or monument company will help you to sort out many of the details. Write your questions down ahead of time. Ask them if they are familiar with your cemetery’s regulations and what types and sizes of headstones are allowed at that cemetery. Get the questions answered to your satisfaction. If you are in south/central New Jersey or the greater Philadelphia area, feel free to contact one of our Monuments of Distinction locations.

Visit a local headstone or monument dealer.

Or, ask them to visit you. Either way you should be certain that they are a legitimate dealer. A true headstone dealer will have an actual location and headstones on display. They can also show you pictures of headstones that they can provide and which will not break any regulations at your chosen cemetery.

Select the headstone material.

Granite memorial headstones are frequently used for cemetery memorials. Bronze headstones are also seen in cemeteries. Cemetery monuments may also be made of marble. Ask your headstone company to show you headstones made of these materials. Also ask about the relative prices. Different materials have different prices.

Select the type and size of the headstone.

Ask you headstone company representative which types and sizes of headstones your cemetery will allow. Choose from among those allowed. You can pick a shape at this time as well. Not all shapes may be available for all types and sizes of headstones.

Choose what you want to be displayed on the headstone.

A headstone is a lasting symbol and a tribute to the life of the deceased person. It is important to choose something appropriate for the person the headstone is for. The inscription, symbols and/or pictures are included in this step. Each headstone type has a certain area in which your information can be displayed. There are size limitations. Tell your local headstone dealer’s representative your thoughts about what you want. He or she should be able to simplify the process for you.

Approve the final layout.

You want to see exactly what is going to be created. The paper with this information is called a proof. Look at the proof carefully. Be sure the information is correct and the design is how you want it to be. Allow four to six weeks for the proof.

Check the headstone.

As soon as the headstone is delivered check to make sure that your information and design is the way you approved it in the proof. Is the information correct? Is the design correct?

Have someone set the headstone for you.

Placing the headstone at the gravesite should be done by a professional. This is usually taken care of by the local headstone company or the cemetery. There may be a fee for this.

Buying a headstone can be complicated. Keep in mind the main points above and you will do well when you talk to your local headstone services company. Expect to pay between $500 and $3000 (or more) for a headstone. Adding ceramic pictures and complex designs can increase the cost. The entire process can take between 10 and 14 weeks to complete depending on the material and workmanship required.