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Top 6 Headstone Etiquette You Should Know About

If a loved one has passed away, you might decide to have a headstone carved in their memory. This is a heartfelt memorial and a unique way to remember them and where they were laid to rest. However, it can be difficult if you don’t know how to go about it.

Here, we provide an overview of proper headstone etiquette.

1. Follow The Deceased’s Wishes

The deceased’s will or other end-of-life arrangements may have included detailed instructions for their headstone. For example, a couple could have left a will that specifies the kind of husband and wife headstone they’d like, plus any additional inscriptions or decorations for the gravestone.

However, many people pass away without communicating their final desires to their loved ones. When this happens, the next-of-kin (e.g., wife, husband, or kids) takes charge. Extended family members may also be consulted if these family members and loved ones aren’t available.

Ultimately, what matters is that you choose the headstone that best honors the life of your loved one.

Image of ancient gravestones in a cemetery

2. Know The Cemetery Rules

There are different headstone rules depending on the cemetery location. These cemetery restrictions frequently specify the acceptable types, dimensions, materials, features, and ornaments of headstones. Before going grave marker shopping, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the regulations of your preferred burial site.

3. Use Meaningful Epitaphs

To personalize the headstone and honor the deceased, many people and families engrave epitaphs on the gravestone of a loved one. The great thing about epitaphs is that there’s no format necessary – you can get creative in how to express your grief and love for the deceased.

Here are some examples of how to start your epitaph:

  • Happy memories of
  • In honored memory of
  • Gone too soon
  • Here lies
  • A well-lived life
  • In fondest memories of 

Inscriptions typically incorporate the name and birth and death dates of the person buried there. For example, you may write, “In memory of Anna Marie, beloved mother, daughter, and wife (1950-2019)”.

If you don’t want to use your own words, you can lift lines from a religious text or even quote from a book, film, poem, or song that the person loved. While most epitaphs are meaningful and sweet, others are funny, lighthearted, or witty – reflecting the deceased’s personality.

We recommend that you choose an inscription that will stand the test of time and impact those who read it – even if they’re not related to the deceased.

4. Use The Right Decorations

You can use wreaths and flowers to beautify the last resting place of your loved one. Before setting anything on the grave, check with the cemetery office as most memorial gardens have a list of permitted decorations. Although there are exceptions, most cemeteries allow flowers, wreaths, pictures, small flags, and religious objects like crosses and statues.

In general, ornaments that are difficult to maintain, dangerous, or obstruct grass maintenance are not allowed. This varies from cemetery to cemetery, but things like lights, stuffed animals, giant flags, candles, and fencing borders are typically not allowed.

Image of a headstone decorated with a golden cross and a mixture of white roses

5. Less Is More

It’s challenging to condense a lifetime’s worth of emotions and memories into a short epitaph. But when you include as much information as possible, the inscription could end up cluttered and unsightly. You’ll want to stick to 1-2 short sentences at most, especially because longer inscriptions (and bigger headstones) could eat into your budget.

Don’t rush creating the inscription – it could take weeks, months, or even years before you figure out the perfect headstone design and words to accompany it. As this is a permanent memorial for a loved one, it pays to be patient and wait until you know what to say. Nobody should pressure you or make you feel guilty for taking your time about something this significant.


The headstone of your loved one offers you the chance to tell the world about their legacy. You may describe who they were and how you cherish them with your inscription and embellishments. 

We hope the tips in this headstone inscription etiquette guide help you choose and design the perfect headstone for your deceased loved one.