Headstones, Markers & Monuments

A grave marker is a tiny window into a life and an important part of the historical record. A visit to a cemetery is a glimpse into the past. It's a walk through time by way of unique headstones and grave monuments. When you choose a headstone for yourself or a loved one, you're creating an enduring legacy in a place where friends and family will visit and remember for generations to come.



In this article you will learn about:


Typically used to mark a ground burial, a headstone, also called a gravestone, is a piece of polished or steeled granite. It sits at the head or foot of a grave space and can memorialize a single person or celebrate the lives of two or more people. Chosen for its durability, granite markers come in a range of colors, from gray to shades of black, brown, green, blue, pink or red.


Cemetery grounds at Ocean View Burial Park

Types of headstones

Headstones come in all shapes, sizes and designs, including:

  • Upright headstone: These headstones are the most traditional. An upright headstone is most often used for companions or a family, though it may be used for a single person.
  • Slanted headstone: Similar to an upright headstone, a slanted headstone's back edge sits higher than its front. Slanted headstones can memorialize either one or two loved ones.
  • Memorial bench: A memorial bench allows visitors to sit while they visit their loved one's grave. The bench seat can be the headstone itself or it might be situated to the side of the headstone. Some families skip the headstone and simply use a granite bench as a memorial, with the backrest of the bench displaying the loved one's information.
  • Wing headstone: As its name suggests, a wing headstone has two upright tablets joined in the middle by a pedestal that may hold a vase for flowers or a statue or symbol or some kind. This is a common choice for couples.

Regardless of the style, a headstone can be personalized with names, dates, symbols, illustrations and other details that help tell a unique life story.

Not all cemeteries accommodate a full range of headstones, markers and monuments. A cemetery may have size or design requirements. When you're shopping for cemetery property, be sure to ask about allowances and restrictions.

Grave markers

A grave marker, also referred to as a lawn-level memorial, typically has a lower profile than a headstone. This may be desirable in cemeteries where there is a park-like atmosphere. Grave markers may require less maintenance and are often less expensive. The minimalist look of grave markers in a cemetery offers better landscape views and a more uniform appearance. For these reasons, some modern cemeteries feature only grave markers. Some families prefer the simplicity of markers.

Types of grave markers

A grave marker may be smaller than a headstone, but it still allows for personalization. Available in a variety of colors, grave markers are typically made of granite or bronze or bronze on granite. Granite reliably withstands the elements. Bronze develops a beautiful patina over time. They also can be customized to display names, dates, faces, illustrations and other reflections of a person's life. There are two main types:

  • Flush grave markers. Flush, or "flat," markers are low to the ground. They are either set flush with the ground or raised a few inches. Designed for one person or two, flush grave markers tend to be rectangular and are usually about 4 inches thick.
  • Bevel grave markers. Like flush markers, bevel markers are close to the ground. However, the back of the headstone is raised slightly so there's a slant. Bevel grave markers are a bit thicker than flush grave markers.

Flush and bevel grave markers sit at the head or foot of a burial space. A marker might also cover an entire burial plot. That type of marker is called a grave ledger. You can also choose to include a vase with a marker—some cemeteries require vases.

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.

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Grave monuments

An upright granite monument is a truly stately memorial choice. Larger than a headstone or grave marker, an upright monument is a slab of polished or steeled granite that stands upright on a granite base. Like a headstone, it can memorialize a single person, companions or even a family. Upright monuments come in different sizes and colors and have plenty of space for personalization. Some simply feature a person's name and dates of life; others reflect a passion or personality in a heartfelt or even funny way.

Types of grave monuments

Large crosses and angel statues are a few common grave monument designs. But you can opt for any design you feel best reflects your loved one. If your loved one enjoyed collecting art, you might choose to memorialize their life with an abstract sculpture. If they loved horses, you could include a statue of a favorite breed. A large music note or a guitar can be a fun way to capture a music lover's personality. A variety of creative ideas can be incorporated into the design of a grave monument.

Gardens at Earthman Resthaven Cemetery

Markers and monuments for cremation

Most cemeteries also offer options to memorialize loved ones who are cremated. Cremation urns may be kept in public or private mausoleums. There may be areas of the cemetery dedicated for the scattering of ashes, such as beautifully landscaped gardens. A loved one's urn may also be placed in a columbarium or cremation niche. A cremation bench may hold a loved one's ashes or mark the place where ashes have been scattered or buried.

How long does it take to get a headstone, marker or monument?

Depending on the complexity of the design and the type of material, it can take anywhere from 6 to 24 months or more to get the grave monument. Headstones made of granite quarried domestically typically take less time. Domestic granite comes in black, pink, gray and mahogany. Imported granite comes in a wider variety of colors, such as different shades of black, gray, blue, red, rose, green or brown. But it often takes more time than domestic granite, and the timeline can be unpredictable due to global supply chain issues and shipping delays.

Families who don't want to wait a long time to see their loved one's cemetery memorial completed will usually opt for a headstone of domestic granite.

How much does a grave marker or monument cost?

The cost of grave monuments and markers can vary from a few hundred dollars to thousands, depending on what you choose. Flat markers range from $500 to $5,000 or more. Upright monuments can cost between $1,500 to $15,000 or more. Specialty markers and monuments may start at $15,000.

Plan ahead

It's common for a family to buy their headstones or grave markers at the same time they buy cemetery property. Buying cemetery property ahead of need allows you to pay for the property in installments and can help ensure that family members are buried together. When you plan ahead you protect against rising costs and keep your family from having to worry about money at an already stressful time. Plus, once a marker is paid for in full, it can be installed, relieving the additional stress of waiting on installation.

If you're interested in planning ahead, a Dignity Memorial® professional can answer your questions and walk you through your options. Contact us.