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A Complete Guide to Headstone Etiquette

Getting a headstone engraved is an incredibly important part of the burial process. As the saying goes, “once the headstone is engraved, it’s set in stone,” so knowing what you’d like engraved and having it planned out ahead of time is crucial. Here’s what to consider when having a headstone engraved.

What do you write on a headstone?

When it comes to headstone etiquette and what to write on a headstone, there are a few things to keep in mind. While you can certainly get really creative and think outside of the box, headstones serve a legitimate purpose other than marking the grave and looking nice. They serve as a record of dates and as the marker for where someone was buried. Including this information (such as their name, their date of birth and date of death) is important for record keeping. At the same time, headstones can be customized and personalized to fit the person who passed away. Some questions to consider when having a headstone made include:

  1. Did the deceased have any wishes or requirements regarding their headstone?
  2. Were there any types of designs they’d mentioned they liked or would have been partial to?
  3. Were they a private person or were they okay sharing biological information? (For example, if they were private, they may not have wanted their maiden name or nickname to be included on the headstone.)
  4. Were they religious? If so, did they have a favorite prayer or quote?
  5. Did they have a favorite book, poem, or phrase?

Where can I buy a headstone?

Headstones can be purchased through your funeral home or cemetery, through a manufacturer directly, or online. Purchasing a headstone online is an easy way to save hundreds of dollars in expenses and opens you up to a variety of options. It’s also a good idea to keep in mind that the engraving cost is sometimes included in the price of the headstone and sometimes isn’t.

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How do you put a maiden name on a tombstone?

If you’re interested in learning how to reflect a maiden name on a tombstone, there are a few questions you should consider before engraving. 1. Was the maiden name important to the person who passed away? 2. Is the maiden name a special tie to a legacy or heritage that was important to the deceased? 3. Is there space to include a maiden name on the headstone itself?

If you answered yes to these questions and would like a maiden name inscribed on the headstone, there are a few ways you can display it. When referring to the maiden name, many folks use ‘née’ which denotes the following name is a maiden name; you can also use brackets to denote a maiden name. Here are some examples for how you’d include a maiden name on a tombstone:

First Middle Last née Maiden
First Middle Last [Maiden]
First Last née Maiden
First Last [Maiden]

What is the order of names on gravestones?

When it comes to tombstone name etiquette the order of names is generally: First Middle Last nee Maiden name (if applicable). This can be altered to include nicknames as such: First (Nickname) Last or First (Nickname) Middle Last. You can also include the maiden name in brackets like so: First Middle Last [Maiden].

Who has the right to put a headstone on a grave?

You most often need what’s referred to as a “Grant Deed” to place a headstone on a grave. The grant deed is a legal document that proves ownership over the plot or gravesite. If you’re trying to place a headstone in a public or private cemetery, you’ll need this document in order to place the headstone on the grave. Without this piece of documentation, you won’t be able to place a headstone on a grave in a private or public cemetery.

Where is the headstone placed on a grave?

Generally, headstones are placed at the head of a grave (which is partially where they get their name). Headstones can come in many different styles, shapes and sizes and there are even headstones or grave markers that lay on top of the grave, spanning the entirety of the grave.

Headstone inscription etiquette

Headstone inscriptions usually follow a similar pattern in terms of ordering and information provided. While what you write on a headstone is up to you, there is standard information one would expect to find inscribed on a headstone.

The order of information

Typically, you’ll find a headstone has information displayed in the following way:

  1. Parting phrase (such as “In Loving Memory”), if desired
  2. Name
  3. Date of birth - date of death
  4. Epitaph

This information can be displayed differently of course, but this is how a typical gravestone inscription would read.

Common epitaphs

Many individuals and families choose to include epitaphs on the headstone of a loved one as a way of personalizing the headstone and memorializing the person that passed away. You can view a full list of epitaph ideas here, but for now here’s a shorter list of common epitaphs you’d see on a headstone.

In our hearts
In God’s Kingdom
Rest in peace
A life well lived
Until we meet again
An inspiration to all

Epitaphs also can be a quote from a favorite book, movie, poem, or song, a passage from the Bible or other religious text, a general thought, or reference to a prayer. Some people may also use the epitaph as a way to impart humor or a sense of levity by including a humorous or funny quote that represented their loved one well.

If you’re looking for a headstone that’s affordable and customizable, shopping online is an easy way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your money. Ever Loved offers headstones that range anywhere from grave markers to upright monuments. Starting at $119.95, you’re bound to find something that fits your needs in the marketplace.

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Last updated August 24, 2021
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