Grave markers (historically called headstones or tombstones) are permanent tributes to loved ones. Purchased separately from cemetery property, there are several common types of markers in a variety of shapes and sizes. Each cemetery has its own policies on the type of grave markers allowed, and costs vary according to a number of factors, including material, size and customization.
Most people buy grave markers from a funeral home or cemetery, but they can also be purchased elsewhere and installed by your cemetery for a fee.
In this article you will learn:
- What is the purpose of grave markers?
- How much do grave markers cost?
- Where can I buy a grave marker?
- What questions should I ask when buying a grave marker?
- What are the types of grave markers and monuments?
- What are companion or family grave markers?
- What is the average cost of marker engraving?
- How much does it cost to install a grave marker?
- How long before a marker can be installed on a grave?
- What happens if there is a problem with a grave marker?
Grave markers help tell life stories
People have created ways to remember loved ones since ancient times. For many, it's important to leave a permanent remembrance that represents their legacy for the generations that follow. Graves and their markers serve as a place for children and loved ones to visit and remember dear relatives; they are also used as genealogical records for ancestry researchers. Available for both traditional full-body burial and buried cremated remains, unique, personalized memorials come in a variety of sizes and materials.
Where can I buy a grave marker?
A funeral or cemetery professional can guide you through the process of choosing a marker. There's no rush to make a decision and no rule on when a grave marker needs to be placed after a funeral. It's okay to take your time determining the best way to memorialize a loved one.
In most areas, you can buy grave markers from cemeteries, funeral homes, monument companies or online retailers.
Buying markers from a cemetery
Most buyers purchase their cemetery property and grave marker at the same time. Cemeteries will coordinate every detail of the purchase on your behalf, from getting a quote, ordering, design, delivery and installation. And the cemetery staff members are very knowledgeable about property requirements, so you know the style you order will be accepted in the cemetery section you have purchased.
Plus, when buying in advance, you can take advantage of monthly payment plans offered by the cemetery. And, in some cases, if the marker was purchased and engraved in advance, it can be delivered and installed more quickly at the time of need.
Buying markers from a funeral home
Some families choose to buy their grave markers from their funeral homes or combined funeral home and cemetery providers. In this case, the funeral director will coordinate all the details for you. You will still have a single point of contact from quote to delivery, although there may be a bit more processing and paperwork due to the pass-through cost. This is a good option when your cemetery property is small, private or does not provide a full-service offering for grave markers.
Buying markers from a monument company or online retailer
When you buy a grave marker directly from a monument company, you can shop for the best value or find choices that a funeral home or cemetery may not offer. This approach puts you in control of every detail. However, you will also be responsible for all of the coordination, from getting a quote, ordering, design, proofing, delivery and installation. Buyers are responsible for knowing the grave marker rules of the cemetery and purchasing the material and size of marker accepted at their preferred location, among other details.
If you decide to buy a grave marker at a stand-alone retailer, we recommend you ask the following questions:
- What type of markers and monuments are allowed in the cemetery?
- What size of marker or monument is allowed? Are the sizes standard or custom?
- What materials and colors are allowed? (Some cemeteries place restrictions on types of stone or require specific colors.)
- What are other restrictions enforced by the cemetery? (Some cemeteries have restrictions on polished stone. Ensure customizations like flower vases, edging or ceramics, and color photos are permitted if you're interested in those options.)
100% Service Guarantee
At Dignity Memorial, we strive to get every detail right the first time, every time. That's why we offer every family we serve a 100% service guarantee. Should any detail of our service not meet the expectations as promised in our agreement, we’ll do everything we can to make it right, up to refunding that portion of the service.
Types of grave markers
The two most popular types of grave markers are flat markers and upright monuments, though many people choose statues, benches or other types of specialty markers. Any of those choices can pay tribute to one person, two people (companion markers) or a whole family.
Today’s engraving and embossing technologies allow markers and other memorials to be personalized in limitless ways, from the traditional name and lifespan dates, to song lyrics or poetry, to nature scenes and even photography.
An individual or couple often chooses a flat marker because it fits in with the parklike aesthetic of their chosen cemetery. These elegant, minimalist memorials are not only beautiful, they tend to be less expensive than upright monuments. For a number of reasons, including ease of maintenance and property views, some cemeteries allow only flush markers and have restrictions on size, so your choice could be restricted to certain parameters. A cemetery might be called a memorial park when no upright markers are present.
Flush to the ground, with a flat top or beveled edges, flat grave markers are made of solid stone or stone topped with a bronze plaque. They come in a variety of colors and can be customized with words, photos, illustrations and more. Flat markers are placed at the head of a burial space or cover the entire burial plot, and come in single or companion styles.
When you order a flat marker you may have the option of adding a vase, which some memorial parks require if you want to leave flowers at the gravesite. When not filled with flowers, or during snowy winter months, the vase is often stored upside down in the marker.
Average costs for flush markers
Cost for a simple gray granite flush marker: $500
Cost for a flush bronze memorial or flush companion granite marker: $1,200 to $5,000
An erect stone slab with a stone base, an upright monument is much more prominent than a flat marker. They are what come to mind when you imagine a headstone or tombstone. Upright markers come in different sizes, colors and shapes, from simple rectangles or custom shapes like hearts, open books or crosses.
Upright monuments provide a large canvas for personalization. In addition to names and dates, they might include verses, etched photos or illustrations of things people loved. They are a good way to tell a story about a loved one—or to tell your own story if you are purchasing cemetery property in advance. When personalized with a loved one's likeness, symbols of faith, or images of sports gear, beloved pets or items that give a nod to signature hobbies, they can reveal a bit about personality and values. They can be immediate reminders to everyone who sees them how much the people they pay tribute to were loved and cherished.
In designs for individuals, couples or families, upright monuments make an impression. Though they are generally more expensive than flat markers, they are a popular choice for burials in cemeteries that allow them.
You will often find upright monuments allowed in spaces like hedge estates or walled estates (read more about types of cemetery property), where the cemetery maintains a consistent aesthetic that is easier to keep up in perpetuity.
Average starting costs for upright markers
Starting cost for upright markers: $1,500
Starting cost for companion and family markers: $3,500
Memorial benches, angel statuary, obelisks, crosses and other highly customized designs take permanent memorials to the next level. Uncommon shapes stand out in a cemetery, they draw attention and pique curiosity. Who doesn't want a closer look at a marker shaped like a dolphin leaping above the waves or a 15-foot polished black granite obelisk? Specialty markers are a unique offering for unique people.
Average starting costs for specialty markers
Starting cost for a wide selection of upright and specialty memorials: $5,000 to $15,000
What factors influence the cost of a grave marker?
A number of things influence cost:
Material. In general, bronze markers are more expensive than comparably sized stone markers, and granite markers are less expensive than marble markers. The price of the granite depends on where it comes from and how it's extracted from the earth. Though marble costs the most, many choose it for its polished appearance. Marble weathers more quickly, however, and requires more upkeep over the years.
Size. Generally, the larger the grave marker, the pricier it will be.
Customization. Bronze markers are embossed. Stone markers are carved, etched and engraved. Either way, the more detailed the marker, the higher the cost. Typically, engraving of a name, birth date and death date costs about $500. Prices go up from there. However, though many funeral homes, cemeteries and other sellers charge separately for engraving or embossing, Dignity Memorial marker prices include this service. A funeral director or cemetery associate can help you decide exactly what to put on a marker. Contact us for more information.
How much does it cost to install a grave marker?
Because of their weight and size, grave markers must be installed by professionals. Most cemeteries offer installation services, with starting prices ranging from $200 to $2,000, depending on the size of the monument and location of the cemetery.
How long does installation take?
Many grave markers are installed after a funeral takes place. From the time a final design is approved, production and delivery time on a grave marker can range from 10 weeks to six months or longer, depending on the complexity of the design and where the stone originates. Depending on your location and the time of year, the ground may need to thaw or settle for installation to take place.
During the time between a burial and the installation of the marker, the grave is marked by a temporary marker. A growing number of families are electing to buy and install markers before their time of need to avoid delays and more easily identify their final resting places.
What happens if there’s a problem?
When you order a marker from a Dignity Memorial provider, be sure to carefully check the order paperwork for errors such as a misspelled name or wrong date. If the marker doesn't arrive as you expected, we will do everything required to correct it. If a grave marker purchased from Dignity Memorial becomes damaged at one of our memorial parks, whether by natural events or maintenance activities, you need only call and request maintenance or repair.
In any case, with our Service Guarantee, if you are not 100% satisfied, we'll make every effort to to correct the situation immediately. Please contact us for customer care.
Create a lasting legacy
Many people don't realize the significance of choosing a final resting place. It is an important step in creating a family legacy, establishing a place of remembrance for future generations and paying tribute to a special life. Your Dignity Memorial professionals are here to help.
Get your free Buyer's Guide to Cemetery Property today.