When it comes time to lay a loved one to rest, every decision can feel difficult. Being given the opportunity to immortalise your loved one through a memorial is a touching way to ensure their spirit lives on. But with that comes the weight of responsibility to ensure it is done most respectfully and appropriately. A headstone plays an important role, not just in the identification of a grave. It also acts as a talisman, ensuring the person you have lost is remembered for many years to come. It provides a marker where many feel at comfort talking with or sharing experiences with their lost friend. And it is, in its own right, a celebration of life.

At Wallace Stuart Ltd, we work closely with our families to provide the support they need during these difficult times. In this guide, we have laid out our advice and tips on how to go about researching and choosing the right headstone for your loved ones’ end of life celebration.

What Is A Headstone?

Also known as a gravestone, headstones are markers constructed from hard-wearing materials that sit at the head of a grave. They are generally manufactured from stone or slate and include an inscription engraved into the front. Alongside this, headstones also feature information about the person, including their full name, the dates of their life span and messages chosen by family members.

They are believed to date back as far as 3000 BC, however, with evolving technology, the style and look of these markers have evolved significantly. Older stones were constructed by hand using the skills and expertise of trained masons. While this gave them an exceptionally long life span, it also meant that repairs were costly and it became more challenging to find skilled professionals to carry them out. Not all religions rely on headstones, in the same way, however many people choose to use them as symbols of respect.

How To Begin Researching For A Headstone

When choosing a headstone, you should take into account factors including:

  • Budget
  • Different types of headstone
  • Materials used

How Much Are Headstones?

Much like anything in the modern world, the cost of a headstone depends on several factors. These include the material you use, the site you want it installed on, the length of the inscription and the intricacy of your chosen design. If you opt for a classic, traditional upright headstone, you should budget between £800 and £1200. If you want something more intricate, detailed and larger, prices can reach upwards of £2,000.

Many stone or slate headstones are still crafted by hand, meaning you’ll pay for additional labour if you choose a highly detailed design. This is also why longer inscriptions come with an added premium. Taller headstones require more excavation to ensure they sit firmly within the ground and they are heavier, so more labour intensive to carry. And, if you’re ordering from a mason who isn’t local to the gravesite, you will likely have to pay transportation fees too so take these into account.

Different Types Of Headstone?

Here in the UK, we have a range of ways to mark the location of the burial of a loved one. However, the four main types of headstones are upright headstones, flat headstones, kerbed headstones and DVT gravestones.

Upright Headstones

The most common and popular option out of the three, upright headstones are pretty self-explanatory. They are fixed into the ground using a concrete base and feature a stone body that sits upwards from the grave. This type of headstone is generally used on single plots and features the inscription on the front of the stone. There are many top options available, including:

  • Serpentine Top – the most popular
  • Rooftop
  • Oval top
  • Flat top
  • Corner rounds

Flat Headstones

As the name suggests, flat headstones feature a rectangular stone flag that sits flush to the ground or at a slight angle for drainage. Because they use less material, they are generally cheaper than upright options but also have less space for inscriptions and details too. These are commonly chosen for smaller gravesites or for people who would have liked something more subtle. They are not the best option if the design you want to create features paint or has smaller, more intricate lettering as this will likely wear away quickly.

Kerbed Headstones

These differ from the other two in our list because they cover the entire grave, instead of just sitting at the top. They sit flat on the ground and mark out the perimeter, featuring an upright headstone at the top end where inscriptions, photos and messages can be carved. These headstones allow family members and loved ones to fully personalise the grave, allowing for flowers to be planted and sculptures to be erected. They are considerably more expensive than the other two options so make sure to factor this into your budget too.

DVT Gravestones

Also known as desk vast tablets, these mini upright headstones are thicker and shorter. Often, they are carved to resemble books, with the inscriptions chosen written on the pages. Many feature flower vases built into the design, allowing the flowers to be changed regularly and providing a fixed space for them to be placed. These stones tend to have a cement or granite foundation to keep them in place.

The right gravestone is the one that feels most suitable for your loved one. If they were demure in life, you may wish to consider a flat headstone with a simple message. If they were lavish, kerbed headstones have a presence and provide additional solitude to some families. However, another consideration you will need to make is the type of material and finish you choose.

Materials And Finishes To Consider

Most gravestones are manufactured from either granite or marble. Both of these materials are very hard-wearing, with granite taking the lead here. However, because of this durability, granite is harder to carve and will cost more to turn into the design you want. Marble has a beautiful sheen to it but, because of its lighter and smoother finish, will likely become dirty and marked more easily. In some areas, slate can be used too but you will need to check with the burial site in question to understand what materials they allow. Natural burial sites, for example, commonly don’t permit permanent markets or restrict the use of headstones to ones made from stone quarried in this country.

The finish of a gravestone also impacts how it looks and wears. Polished finishes will help to enhance the look of inscriptions. However, they give a very specific look that may not feel in keeping if you’re looking for something natural and rustic.

How To Find The Right Headstone

The right headstone will fit in your budget and celebrate the life of a loved one perfectly. If you don’t have a lot of space for a long inscription, opt for their name and a few words – sometimes the less said, the better. Here at Wallace Stuart Ltd, we provide a lady-run funeral director service that helps you throughout the planning process. We’ll help you find the right headstone, as well as source suppliers that fit your budget and understand your requirements.

If you would like to speak to one of us, please do get in contact here today.