If you have spent any time in a cemetery, you know that there are many different types of grave markers. Another general term for grave markers is “headstones,” and they come in all shapes and sizes.
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Jump ahead to these sections:
- Single Headstone Design Ideas
- Headstone Design Ideas for Couples
- Headstone Design Ideas for Children
- Flat Headstone Design Ideas
- Headstone Design Ideas for a Mom or Dad
- Religious Headstone Design Ideas
Headstones can lie flush with the ground. This type is often called a grass marker. Other headstones, often called monuments, stick up from the ground and can be made in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. One can also purchase a ledger, which is a type of headstone that covers the entire grave.
Before you shop for a headstone for you or your deceased loved one, it is worth noting that cemeteries have different policies on what types of monuments are allowed. Some cemeteries require that graves be marked with flat headstones to make it easier for the grounds crew to trim the grass. Other cemeteries have height and size requirements.
If you plan on using a specific cemetery, find out their policies. Ignoring these details could be a costly mistake.
Here are some general ideas for headstone designs.
Single Headstone Design Ideas
The practical purpose of having a headstone is so that survivors can find a grave in a cemetery. But a headstone can be much more than a simple grave marker. It can also show the deceased’s likes and interests.
It can list the names of the deceased’s immediate family or disclose important relationships. It can also include a last statement, or epitaph, written by the deceased before death or by the family after.
Here are some ideas for a single headstone design.
1. Just the facts
For some people, less is more. If this is your philosophy, you can choose a simple design for yourself or your loved one. Many headstones merely list the person’s full name, the date of birth, and the date of death, like this simple flat marker.
Of course, the design of even a simple headstone requires many decisions. One would need to choose the shape and color of the stone, the font, and the exact placement of the words.
As technology has improved over time, so has headstone design. Now, friends or family members can have a picture of the deceased etched onto the stone.
The image can be in color or black and white.
Those who believe in the spiritual may include angels in the design of the headstone. Many of the angel designs that you find online are rather elaborate, with a separate statue of an angel leaning over the headstone of the deceased.
Others have engraved angels depicted next to the name of the dead.
If the deceased had a passion in life, that hobby may be displayed on the person’s headstone. Some choose to include images of musical instruments, sports equipment, books, or motorcycles.
The possibilities are endless, but you may want to check with the cemetery superintendent if you intend to choose something atypical.
Headstone Design Ideas for Couples
Many couples choose to be placed next to each other for eternity. As they shared household items during their lives together, they share a headstone after death. This headstone is called a companion headstone.
Of course, the couple may choose the headstone design while pre-planning for their funeral, but whoever outlives the other will make the ultimate decision.
Here are some headstone design ideas for couples.
5. Favorite things
Just because a couple shares a headstone doesn’t mean that the grave marker can’t include each person’s individual preferences. Just as couples tend to have one side of the bed, an individual can have one side of the headstone to display individual interests.
A husband who loves the Kansas City Chiefs can have an arrowhead on his side of the stone, while the wife can have a steaming coffee cup depicted on her side.
When choosing the design for the headstone, you can have a vase placed within the design. Before you decide to add a vase, make sure you understand the flower display rules for your particular cemetery.
7. Favorite place
Some couples choose to have an image of their favorite place etched on their headstone. This could be the family home, beach house, or vacation destination.
8. Wedding rings
It is common for married couples to display an image of entwined wedding rings on their headstone. Some choose to have their wedding date added underneath the rings.
Headstone Design Ideas for Children
While walking through a cemetery, you may stop and admire some headstones for their beauty or elaborate design. You may notice the age of other markers, and think about what the world was like when this person was born or died. But no matter how old the headstone is, seeing the grave of a child is heart-wrenching.
Your heart goes out to the parent who had to select the design of the headstone. Here are some standard designs one sees as gravemarkers for children.
A statue of a lamb is sometimes part of the headstone for a child. A lamb is a symbol of innocence, and it’s also important in Christian imagery.
Some parents choose to put the image of a favorite toy on the headstone of their child. Blocks, trains, and teddy bears are common choices.
You may see headstones surrounded with grave decorations that are childlike as well. Parents may include pinwheels, rattles, or balloons as long as it is permissible by the cemetery rules.
11. Butterflies or dragonflies
Even though butterflies and dragonflies are also used on headstones for adults, they are commonly used on children’s headstones. Both butterflies and dragonflies symbolize positive things in various cultures.
Some people equate the image of a butterfly with life and resurrection. Others see it representing endurance, change, or hope. You may choose to have a butterfly or dragonfly on a headstone simply because they are beautiful creatures.
Some headstones are carved into the shape of a heart, while others have hearts engraved on the stone’s face.
Regardless, this symbol of love can be found on the headstone of an infant or adult. Some mourners choose to have the heart depicted as broken on a headstone.
Flat Headstone Design Ideas
As we mentioned earlier, some cemeteries only allow flat headstones to be used as grave markers. Flat monuments are much easier to maintain. The use of flat headstones also speeds up the mowing process.
While all of the design ideas listed previously would work on a flat headstone design, here are some additional ideas.
13. Hands in prayer
Those who have strong spiritual beliefs may choose to have the image of hands in prayer placed on a headstone. This would indicate that prayer was important to the deceased.
14. Religious symbols
If the deceased espoused a particular faith, they might choose to have a religious symbol placed on the headstone. Common symbols include a cross, Star of David, crescent and star, or a holy book.
15. Flowers, trees, or vines
Plants are commonly used as designs on headstones. They are not only attractive, but they can also fill up the empty face of the stone without having any particular meaning.
Of course, some plants are chosen carefully. For example, a farmer may have selected the image of wheat or corn to be placed on his headstone. A person who enjoyed growing roses may have wanted an etching of the flower to be placed on the stone, like this stone with a rose.
Headstone Design Ideas for a Mom or Dad
Designing the headstone for your mom or dad can be one of the hardest things you ever do. Not only does this mean that your parent is no longer alive, but you’re also forced to choose words or images that will be tied to your loved one forever.
Here are some headstone design ideas for a special mom or dad.
16. List of their children’s names
Some families choose to list the names of the couple’s children on their headstone. You may include this information on the face of the monument or another side.
17. “Beloved Mother” “Beloved Father”
Some headstones are labeled based on the relationship of the person purchasing the gravemarker.
18. Anniversary date
You might consider adding the date of your parents’ wedding on the headstone design. Sometimes this date is added on a banner that flows between two rings.
Do you have a favorite portrait of your parents together? Maybe it was one from their wedding or perhaps a picture that was taken on a memorable trip. Consider using this image on your parent’s headstone.
20. “Together Forever”
Was your mom or dad ready to join their spouse in Heaven? Celebrate that they are together again by including the line “together forever” on the headstone.
21. “Love is the Greatest Gift That One Generation Can Leave to Another.”
Maybe your parents didn’t leave you real estate or a large bank account. However, what they may have left behind is more valuable than either of those things.
22. “Our Amazing Parents”
Let people know in perpetuity how amazing your parents were. You may also consider using the word “fantastic,” “loving,” or “wonderful.”
23. “Loving Mother and Father”
If you were lucky enough to have loving parents, share this with the world.
Religious Headstone Design Ideas
If your loved one’s faith was an essential part of their lives, share this knowledge with the world. Most headstone designers have hundreds of designs that include religious symbols. Here are some popular ones to consider.
We all know that the sign of a cross on a headstone signifies that the deceased was a Christian. There are probably dozens of different cross designs offered by most headstone designers.
25. Star of David
Those of the Jewish faith may mark their headstones with the Star of David or a menorah.
26. Crescent and star
The crescent moon and star is typically a symbol of Islam.
27. Praying hands
Was your loved one a prayer warrior? Celebrate this aspect of their lives by having a drawing of praying hands added to their headstone.
Is your loved one glorifying God with a host of Heavenly angels? Some people put angels on their loved one’s headstones.
Some people of the Catholic faith choose to put an image of Mother Mary on their headstone.
30. Bible verse
Did your loved one have a favorite verse? If the entire verse doesn’t fit on the headstone, consider simply having the book, chapter, and verse as a part of the design.
31. Open book
Even if you don’t include a specific scripture on the headstone, you might include the image of a holy book or scripture somewhere on the headstone.
A dove is a symbol of peace and is often found on headstones.
33. Three-leaf clover
While some would think of Ireland when seeing the image of a three-leaf clover, others might think of the Holy Trinity.
A Christian’s headstone may have the image of Jesus on it.
The shepherd and lamb imagery occurs many times throughout the Bible. People would recognize those images as signs of Christianity on a person’s headstone.
Other Headstone Ideas
Headstone ideas are only limited by your creativity, cemetery rules, and your wallet. Almost any image or statuary can be used, as long as it doesn’t violate copyright or trademark laws.
Some cemeteries may not monitor what is placed on the headstone, as long as it stays within the size restrictions. But the more elaborate the monument, the pricier it will be. While a standard, flat headstone may cost $1,000, more complicated designs may cost tens of thousands of dollars.
If you have a particular design in mind for your gravestone, make sure you share your idea with your family members. You may even choose to order your own headstone so you can oversee the design. Not only will you have the last say on how you will be remembered for eternity, but you will take care of a task that may be difficult for your loved ones to complete.
If you're looking for more headstone ideas, read our guides on buying a headstone and the best stones for a headstone.