What’s a Grave Cover & What Do They Do?


When people die, their loved ones often find themselves overwhelmed with making plans. They usually have to do things like write an obituary, plan a funeral or memorial service, and design a grave marker.

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These are monumental tasks to someone who has never had to do it before. It can feel even more distressing when you’re also trying to cope with grief. You simply don’t know where to begin. 

Here, we’ll break down the types of grave markers and covers and talk about the differences between them. 

What’s a Grave Cover?

Headstones or grave markers tend to be positioned at the head of a grave and are typically engraved with information about the deceased. Headstones often include:

  • The name of the deceased 
  • Birth and death dates
  • A memorial quote
  • A portrait of the deceased

Grave markers or headstones come in several different styles. They might lie flat on the ground or they might be perpendicular to the ground. Upright headstones either look like thin slabs that go straight up and down or designed on a slant with a larger base. Frequently made out of durable materials like stone or metal, you can find so many ways to customize them in honor of the deceased.   

Grave covers are distinct from headstones or grave markers. 

A headstone only takes up a small amount of space at the top of a grave. 

A grave cover covers nearly the entire grave plot. It rests on top of the land, flat on the ground. Grave covers fit about the same size and shape as the coffin the deceased was buried in, if not larger. These monuments have a lot of visual impact.

A grave cover often features the same kind of information found on a smaller, more traditional grave marker. Depending on the style of grave cover you use, that information might be engraved in different places. 

  • A grave curb often incorporates a headstone featuring information about the deceased. 
  • A grave ledger is usually flat to the ground all the way around. The memorial information would be engraved on the piece of stone that lies on the ground. We’ll go over more about those types of grave covers later.  
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Difference between a grave cover and a grave blanket

Covering a grave isn’t new at all. In some parts of the United States, people like to use grave blankets or cemetery blankets to cover graves. The act of bringing flowers to a gravestone is a well-known tradition. In some places, the winter climate is too cold for that. If people left bouquets on graves, they would quickly freeze. Grave blankets involve putting hardier foliage on a grave. 

Grave blankets, typically large evergreen arrangements that cover the ground above a grave, typically form from tree branches. You can adorn them with festive ribbons, pinecones, and other decorative elements. Cemeteries can feel bleak and barren in the winter. Grave blankets bring some color and style into the graveyard in time for the holiday season. Grave blankets typically end their usefulness at spring. As beautiful as they are, they are intended to be temporary.  

Grave covers are more permanent, typically constructed out of stone, metal, or a combination of the two. They stand year-round as a tribute to a loved one who has passed away. 

Why Do People Use Grave Covers?

People use different types of grave covers for different reasons. Sometimes grave covers are part of a specific cultural practice. Sometimes superstitions from long ago affect our current traditions. 

Grave blankets originated in the United States in the upper Midwest. Scandinavian settlers brought the grave blanket tradition with them. It made sense to continue the cultural tradition thanks to similar climates in the Midwest and Scandinavia. Grave blankets made festive grave decorations. They also hold a lot of emotional significance. Laying a grave blanket on a loved one’s grave is symbolic of keeping them warm and protected from the chill in the air.

Most people think that grave markers and headstones just mark the place where a person was buried. They also carry biographical information about the deceased. The origin of headstones is a little more unusual. Several religious traditions say that the dead will rise at the end of days to be judged before entering the next life. Europeans in the 1500s feared that the dead might rise too early. 

Headstones were placed on graves to keep the dead from rising too soon and wandering the earth. In most of Europe, people thought the head of the grave was the best place to put a headstone. But in some English cemeteries, the headstones were erected at the foot of the grave. People in these regions thought that placing the headstone above the feet would better prevent the dead from rising. In short, grave markers and covers come from a deep-rooted superstition.

Not all grave coverings are dictated by tradition or superstition, though. Some build grave covers with the idea that they’ll serve as a stunning visual memorial. Their size allows you to incorporate dramatic design elements that make your loved one’s grave stand out.    

How Much Does a Grave Cover Cost?

Grave cover costs vary widely. Grave blankets aren’t meant to be permanent, so they are relatively inexpensive. Many people make their own grave blankets, but others choose to purchase them. Grave blankets for sale usually cost between $75 and $100, depending on the materials and design. Buying one every year can add up. 

More permanent forms of grave covers have a much larger price tag. But because they are one-time monuments, that cost is fairly fixed. More permanent grave covers are large, and the materials used in them aren’t inexpensive. The most affordable large grave covers start around $2,000. Depending on the type of materials you use and the design elements you choose, they can go above $10,000.    

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Different Types of Grave Covers

Over the past several centuries, many different kinds of covers or memorials go on top of a grave. Some of these, like altar tombs and emerging stones, are rarely (if ever) used anymore. Here, we explore styles that are still used today:

1. False tomb

In some places, bodies can’t be buried due to environmental concerns. For example, the city of New Orleans is situated slightly below sea level. The ground frequently floods, which makes it too unstable to bury bodies. Bodies are usually interred above ground in stone boxes called tombs.

Some people like the look of tombs, even if not required in their area. In this case, they might build a false tomb — a large stone or concrete box resting on top of a grave. The body would still be buried underground. A structure like this starts around $4,000 but can climb much higher.

2. Grave ledgers

A grave ledger is a large flat stone slab laid on top of a grave plot. It often features engraved inscriptions honoring the deceased.

While a typical grave marker has limitations on the size and amount of text that can be used, a ledger has ample space for personalization. A simple and understated ledger starts around $4,500. Additional design elements increase that price.   

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3. Grave curbs (or kerb memorials)

A grave curb is a slightly elevated version of a ledger, and that is meant both literally and figuratively.

A ledger is typically a single large poured slab. A grave curb is usually a low border of stone or concrete that surrounds a grave or plot. It begins underground and rises a few inches above the surface. The center, typically hollowed out, is filled with gravel or dirt. Because there is no slab to engrave, a grave curb is often paired with a more traditional headstone.

A simple grave curb cost around $2,600. More detailed grave curbs cost $4,500 or more.  

Learn More About Grave Covers

Whether you opt for a temporary grave blanket or a permanent structure, a grave cover can show a lot of character. Consider a grave cover as you plan your loved one’s final resting place. It can also be a good resource if you want to get a head start on your own end-of-life planning. 

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