At some point in your life, you may find yourself searching online for information on the best headstones or grave markers. This may mean that you are making plans for your own end-of-life services or planning one for someone you love. Regardless of your reason for researching this topic, we are happy to help.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What’s a Pillow Grave Marker?
- How Much Do Pillow Headstones Usually Cost?
- Different Types of Pillow Grave Markers
- What Features Should You Look for When Buying a Pillow Headstone?
- Where Can You Buy a Pillow Headstone Online?
One of the most popular types of headstones is the pillow grave marker. Also called the bevel-shaped grave marker, they are easier to read from a distance than flat grave markers and can be customized on the face as well as some of the sides.
Let’s learn more about pillow grave markers. We’ll discuss how much they cost and give you ideas of the different types available on the online market.
What’s a Pillow Grave Marker?
A pillow grave marker is named after its unique shape. They look similar to a pillow that is placed at an angle at the top of a bed. Pillow grave markers are higher in the back than in the front. In fact, common measurements of pillow grave markers are eight inches in the back sloping to five in the front or six inches in the back to four in the front. These headstones usually sit on a base.
Pillow grave markers are a distinct category of their own. They aren’t flat (or grass-level) headstones that can be easily mowed over with groundskeeping equipment. They are also not upright headstones with the text and other important information written on a stone that sits perpendicular to the ground.
Some headstone companies categories pillow grave markers with slant grave markers, but slant grave markers are more similar to upright headstones. They have more of a dramatic slope than pillow or bevel grave markers.
Before you commit to purchasing a headstone, make sure you first consult with the cemetery staff where it will be placed. Some cemeteries do not allow anything but grass level headstones. Other cemeteries may have size or style limitations.
Monuments are usually not returnable, so you may be stuck with a grave marker that can’t be used at the site of your loved one’s burial if you do not check the cemetery specifications before you order.
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How Much Do Pillow Headstones Usually Cost?
Pillow headstones start at about $500 and go up to $2,000. The price depends on the material used, the size of the monument (whether it is single or double), and the amount of text engraved on the stone.
To learn more about the pricing of headstones, check out this article called “How Much Should a Headstone Really Cost?”
Different Types of Pillow Grave Markers
Headstones are highly customizable. If you can dream it, it can be made. Keep in mind that the more customized the headstone is, the more expensive the item will be.
Here are some common types of pillow grave markers. These are all available if you choose to purchase a headstone online.
1. Pillow-top headstones with vase
You can purchase pillow-top headstones with a permanent vase. The vase typically is attached to the base instead of being connected to the monument itself.
Check with the cemetery to see what types of flowers can be left as decoration on your loved one’s grave. Some cemeteries are choosing to go “green,” which means that only living flowers and plants can be left on a headstone.
2. Single pillow-top headstone
Smaller pillow-top headstones may only be large enough to print the information of one decedent.
3. Double pillow-top headstone
Pillow-top headstones can come in a wider size. This can be used to label the gravesite of a couple. In a male/female relationship, the husband is typically buried on the left and the wife on the right.
4. Granite pillow headstone
Granite gravestones are very popular in American cemeteries. Granite comes in a wide variety of colors. Check with the cemetery to see if the color you choose meets their guidelines.
5. Marble pillow headstone
You can also choose to have your loved one’s headstone made of marble. While some prefer the look of marble over granite, it tends to be more expensive and less durable.
6. Pillow headstone with a photograph
More people are choosing to have photographs placed on their loved one’s headstones. This technique can be done on a pillow headstone.
7. Pillow headstone with bronze plate
If you like the look of a bronze headstone, you may consider having it attached to a pillow-shaped granite base. The slight slant that comes with a pillow headstone will make the bronze headstone easier to spot at a distance.
8. Pillow marker polished on the front
Most of the time, pillow markers are only polished on the top, which is where the person’s name and birth/death dates are engraved.
Rarely, you may see that the front of the stone is polished and engraved, typically with the decedent’s last name or with a Bible verse or epitaph.
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9. Pillow headstone shaped like an open book
Occasionally, you may see pillow headstones shaped like an open book. Since they are slightly slanted, the book looks as if it is sitting on a pedestal. Sometimes this design is done on a slant headstone.
10. Pillow headstone with customizable graphics
Headstones of any shape can be personalized with a wide variety of graphics and images. The illustrations can depict a hobby, animal, type of car or motorcycle, or sport. The picture may represent a particular type of flower or tree, or the headstone may also be adorned with a religious symbol such as a cross or Star of David.
Carefully choose what graphic you would like on your loved one’s headstone. This symbol will be united with the name of the deceased for the ages, so choose wisely.
11. Pillow headstone for veterans
Many times, families choose to commemorate their loved one’s service to their country by purchasing a headstone with a military emblem. This emblem can be placed on any size and shape of monument, but not every size or shape of headstone can be used in a National Cemetery.
12. Bevel headstone for three people
At times, it may be appropriate to purchase a headstone to label three decedents. A bevel or pillow design works well for this type of situation.
13. Bevel or pillow headstone that lists anniversary date
When a married couple shares a headstone, each spouse typically gets half of the stone. At times, a heart with a date is engraved in the middle of the stone. This date is the wedding date for the couple.
14. Pillow headstone with relationships (or children’s names) listed
For decades, it has been relatively common to personalize a headstone with all the labels the deceased had worn through his or her life. For example, a monument may mention that an individual was a “beloved wife, mother, and grandmother.” Others may be labeled “perfect son” or “amazing aunt.”
You may also consider listing the names of the deceased’s children (or grandchildren) on the headstone.
15. Pet pillow headstones
Pillow headstones are available for purchase for pets as well as people. Some companies have special pages on their websites to offer this service.
While you might want to purchase a headstone for a pet cemetery, you could also buy a pillow headstone to place under a tree in your backyard.
What Features Should You Look for When Buying a Pillow Headstone?
There’s a lot of decisions that come with choosing a headstone. Even if you are certain you want to honor your loved one with a pillow headstone, you still will need to talk about the specifics of the design with the monument company.
Here are the features for the pillow headstone that may be available.
Single or double
The most important decision regarding your loved one’s headstone is whether the monument will be for one person or two. Unfortunately, this choice can lead to a difficult conversation with those involved.
Before you order the headstone, make sure the size and shape conform to the cemetery’s standards.
If the slanted pillow headstone sits on a flat base, you should be able to add a built-in vase to the monument. Before choosing this option, ask the cemetery staff about the rules regarding cemetery flowers and other headstone decorations.
There are four basic finishes to a granite monument.
The face of the monument is typically polished, which means that it is smooth and shiny. This finish is completed by using a coarse abrasive followed by finer abrasives. Finally, the shiny finish is achieved with a buffing process.
You can choose to have your loved one’s headstone polished on one, three, or five sides.
Sometimes families select a rock pitch for the sides of their loved one’s stones. This finish is completed by hand using a hammer and chisel, and the finished product has a rough, rocky effect.
Typically, monument designers use sawn sides for headstone surfaces that won’t be visible after the monument is installed. Sawn sides are relatively smooth, but they aren’t shiny.
Finally, some headstone designers use honed surfaces as a design contrast to the polished areas.
Some pillow headstones sit directly on the ground, while others sit on a flat base. Typically, those that sit on a base are more expensive, but there are benefits from purchasing this additional stone.
Those with a flat base can easily add vases to the design. This is still an option without a base, but the vase will sit at a slight angle.
A pillow headstone that sits on a flat base will also be more protected from cemetery equipment.
As we mentioned earlier, the shape of a pillow headstone works well for those wishing to buy a monument that looks like an open book.
Talk with the monument company about the images you can add to your loved one’s headstone. For example, you might be able to add a color photograph of your loved one or a drawing that represents your loved one’s faith, hobbies, or favorite animal.
Where Can You Buy a Pillow Headstone Online?
Believe it or not, you can buy headstones online. In fact, we will give you a list of some of the most popular online retailers. First, however, don’t forget to visit the local monument dealers in your area.
There are advantages to sitting down in person with a monument designer. As you can see from the previous section of this article, you will face many decisions when purchasing your loved one’s pillow headstone. A monument designer will talk you through these decisions and show you examples of their work.
The other advantage of working with a local monument designer is that they would be aware of the rules and regulations of the cemeteries in your area. You’ll spend less time on the design process because the monument designer will be able to narrow down your selections based on what types of monuments are allowed.
You might be able to save money or purchase a specialty monument from an online monument retailer. First, however, make sure you understand the shipping costs and the cost of hiring a local person to set the stone.
Cemeteries can’t prevent you from buying a headstone from an outside (or online) vendor. If the cemetery staff charges higher installation fees for monuments not purchased through them, consult the Federal Trade Commission.
Formed in the 1920s, Legacy Headstones is a family-run business that is based in Hookstown, Pennsylvania. They offer free shipping to anywhere in the 48 contiguous states. This company has three pillow headstones to choose from and recommends making arrangements with a local installer before ordering.
Signature Headstones has four pillow headstone designs. The company offers free shipping and will ship the stone directly to the cemetery. However, someone must be present during the delivery to unload the stone from the truck. Like the previous company on our list, Signature Headstones recommends that you pay setting fees to a local company before your stone is shipped to the cemetery.
Next, Rome Monument has been serving customers since 1934. The company is located in Rochester, Pennsylvania, but they will ship your loved one’s monument anywhere in the U.S.
Pacific Coast Memorials
Even though the name of this company implies otherwise, Pacific Coast Memorials serves families in all 50 states. The company offers five different styles of pillow markers, including two that look like open books.
Other Tips for Buying a Headstone
As you can see, pillow or bevel-style headstones can be purchased in a wide variety of sizes and types. They can be made from many different materials and can be widely customized.
As you consider the headstone style for your loved one, we would like to offer these tips for purchasing a headstone.
First, consult with the cemetery. Many cemeteries have restrictions on the type, size, and even color of headstones that can be used. Some cemeteries may not allow pillow headstones since they jut up from the ground, making it difficult for groundskeepers to do their job quickly.
Second, shop around for the best price. Start with memorial companies in the area near the cemetery. These people are local experts on not only memorials but also all the cemeteries in the area. You may also consult with the cemetery or funeral home staff to see if they sell headstones as well. Finally, you might look at the online marketplace. Pay attention to shipping and installation charges before you order a monument online.
Next, take time to think about the text and images you want on your loved one’s monument. This headstone will last into the ages, and your progeny may return to the burial spot seeking knowledge of their ancestors’ personality, interests, and beliefs.
Finally, do a triple check on the text placed on your loved one’s headstone. Have multiple people look at the words before they are engraved. Confirm the dates based on birth and death certificates. Double-check the spelling of the middle name. Most monument companies will not offer refunds for any reason once you sign off on the design.