If you have recently lost a loved one, you may soon be faced with the reality of selecting a permanent resting place for their earthly body. If you choose a traditional burial, you will likely bury them in a public or private cemetery. But there are more things to consider than the location of the cemetery. How you will mark the grave is one of them. You may choose to use a simple grave marker or a more elaborate gravestone, depending on your loved one's and your wishes.
What is the difference between a gravestone and grave marker, anyway?
The major difference between a gravestone and grave marker is the size and expense, but there are other differences.
Grave Markers: A grave marker is typically flat or slightly raised and sits at either the head of foot of the grave. Those placed at the head of the grave are generally referred to as head markers (or headstones), while those at the foot of the grave are referred to as foot markers (or foot stones). A grave marker typically contains the person's name, date of birth and date of death. If there is room, it may include a short quote or verse that was significant to the deceased. There typically is not enough room on a grave marker for genealogical information or lengthy epitaphs. Grave markers serve the purpose of identifying the remains and marking the location of the grave site.
Gravestones: Gravestones are placed at the head of the grave and stand erect. These granite or limestone stones often include more information than a grave marker. They also contain the person's name, date of birth and date of death, but it is not unusual for gravestones to also contain the names of the deceased parents or spouse and other genealogical information. Gravestones also generally contain an epitaph, which can be lengthy. They may also include engraved graphics, decorative scrolls and other ornamental features.
Why do some people choose grave markers instead of gravestones?
There are a number of reasons to choose a grave marker instead of a gravestone.
Grave markers are less expensive and can often be installed by the cemetery caretakers. This option works well for those who cannot afford a large gravestone at the time of burial or who wish to mark the grave right away and make important decisions about the content and design of a gravestone at a later date.
Grave markers require little care, other than removing grass and weeds around the marker.
Grave markers are ideal for those who have been cremated and simply want a small stone to mark the burial location.
Some people prefer to make a subtle statement, even in death, and choose not to leave this world with a flamboyant statement often associated with having a large or elaborate gravestone.
Why do people choose a gravestone?
A gravestone is a more permanent solution for marking the grave site. Because it is large and upright, grass and plant debris cannot grow over or cover the stone if the grave is untended for a period of time. This may be especially important to families that live a distance from the burial site as they may not be able to visit and care for the grave site frequently. In addition, many people associate the gravestone with respect for the deceased and enjoy an aesthetically pleasing stone to stand as a testament of their love and respect for their deceased loved one. In some social circles the size and design of the gravestone also speaks to the social status and success of both the deceased and the surviving family.
Some cemeteries regulate the size and placement of gravestones and markers. If you have recently lost a loved one and are charged with making the final arrangements, talk to the funeral home director about local regulations for gravestones and markers before making your final decision.
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