Losing a loved one is often a surreal experience. Besides grieving the loss of a family member or friend, you are forced to make decisions on the minute details of the funeral and burial, of which you may have minimal experience. One of those details is how the grave will be marked until a permanent headstone can be purchased and placed at the site.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What’s a Temporary Grave Marker?
- Main Types of Temporary Grave Markers
- Can You Make Your Own Temporary Grave Marker?
You may be lucky enough to purchase a funeral home or cemetery package that includes a temporary grave marker. If this is the case, then you don’t even need to consider figuring out this detail.
This article is for those who need to purchase or make a temporary grave marker for your loved one.
What’s a Temporary Grave Marker?
A temporary grave marker is a small sign that marks a burial site. Most of the time, it includes the name and birth/death date of the deceased individual. Since these grave markers are “temporary,” the name implies that a more permanent marker, such as a headstone, will come later.
Here are some scenarios you may encounter regarding temporary grave markers.
- The funeral home may place a temporary grave marker at the burial site. This may be included in the service package you purchase or you may be able to buy this item separately.
- The cemetery may provide a temporary grave marker. The grave marker price may be included in the price you pay to open the grave or you may have to purchase this item separately. The cemetery may have a rule regarding the length of time that a temporary grave marker can be used or they may dispose of the item as soon as it becomes impossible to read.
On the other hand, the funeral home or cemetery you chose may not provide this service. At that point, you need to learn whether they are allowed in the cemetery. Ask about design regulations, placement, and length of time they can be at the burial site.
Once you are armed with this information, consider this list of different types of temporary grave markers. Most of these are available for purchase online.
We also included a few comments about DIY grave markers. Before you go through the trouble of constructing one, make sure that the cemetery allows it.
Main Types of Temporary Grave Markers
Are you looking for a temporary grave marker? They range from index cards slid between two sheets of plexiglass to full-color images of a headstone printed on a large magnetic sheet. Just as the types of permanent grave markers range in price and durability, so do temporary ones.
If you are responsible for purchasing a temporary grave marker, here are some types to consider.
1. Laser-engraved plaque on a stake
Online or local retailers are available to create a customized, laser-engraved plaque on a stake. These grave markers are weather-resistant and may last a long time. Even though they can withstand the elements, they are still considered temporary since they are on a stake stuck into the ground.
These attractive markers can include artistic flourishes as well as lines of poetry or scripture. You can buy one for less than $25 online, including the cost of personalization.
Are you looking for a specific color? It seems as if these plaques come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and styles.
Even though they come with a pointed stake at the bottom, it is suggested that you first dig a hole before inserting it into the ground. The stake may not be able to survive being forced into hard-packed earth.
2. Metal memorial plaque on a stake
If you are looking for something a little more traditional than a laser-engraved sign, you may also purchase a brass memorial plaque as a temporary grave marker. This option is much more expensive than the previous one, but it is nowhere near the cost of even a simple headstone.
Again, these brass memorial plaques are considered temporary grave markers because they are on a stake. Even though they are temporary, the raised lettering on the sign indicates that care was put into the choice of the marker.
3. Granite stone with stand temporary grave marker
Perhaps your finances force you to delay the order of a permanent headstone. With the high cost of headstones, this may be the situation for many families. In the meantime, you can order a thinner granite stone that may match the design on the permanent headstone.
These temporary grave markers usually come with a stand, which would be a more attractive way to display them instead of sitting them on uneven ground.
4. Laser-engraved photo plaque on a stake
Just because your grave marker is temporary doesn’t mean that it can’t include a photo of your loved one. The picture can be printed in black and white or color.
The plaque can include a poem or loving tribute, as well as identifying information.
5. Magnetic headstone on a metal stake
As you wait for your loved one’s headstone design to be completed, you may purchase a temporary one that is printed on a durable magnetic sheet. That sheet can adhere to a metal sign attached to the top of a stake.
Search for a magnetic temporary grave marker to find companies that can create this product for you.
6. Metal grave markers with acrylic frame
When most people hear the phrase “temporary grave marker,” they think of a handwritten piece of business card placed on a metal stake. The paper may be covered with a plastic sheet or slide through two pieces of clear Plexiglas.
This describes the temporary grave marker that most cemeteries or funeral homes provide. Unfortunately, you may have a difficult time ordering one of those for your purposes. They are often sold in bulk.
7. Vintage temporary grave markers
You may be able to purchase vintage temporary grave markers from auction sites or from funeral homes that have been in business for generations.
These aluminum markers were made with a plate the unscrews off the back. Underneath the plate is a tray that holds letters that can be customized to spell out the deceased’s name.
Can You Make Your Own Temporary Grave Marker?
Even though you have purchased a cemetery plot for your loved one, you do not have the right to decorate the plot as you desire. Each cemetery has regulations regarding grave decorations, which you need to be familiar with before buying a headstone or temporary grave marker.
On the other hand, some cemeteries are more vigilant than others in making sure people follow the rules. This may be a cause of concern to you if you prefer to visit a well-maintained cemetery. On the other hand, you may be tempted to take advantage of the lax maintenance to place a DIY temporary grave marker at your loved one’s burial site.
DIY grave markers can be as simple as a laminated photo with a hand-printed name placed on a wooden stake. Or you could mimic the way Christians have marked graves for generations -- with a small, handmade wooden cross.
If you choose to place a DIY temporary grave marker on your loved one’s burial site, you run the risk of the item being removed by a member of the cemetery staff or another visitor. They may also be removed by visiting wildlife or gusty wind.
Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Temporary Grave Marker
Ask the funeral home or cemetery staff before you go through the expense or the hassle of purchasing a temporary grave marker for your loved one. It could be that this step was overlooked and that the responsible staff member will place the marker at the plot as soon as possible.
Perhaps placing a temporary grave marker isn’t the standard protocol for either the cemetery or the funeral home. But they may have grave markers available that they would be willing to provide if you ask for one.
You may even ask yourself whether a temporary marker is needed. New graves are rather noticeable in cemeteries for even months after burial. You may be able to notate the grave’s location in your memory so you know what site to visit before the permanent headstone is placed. This doesn’t mean you should leave your loved one in an unmarked grave. You want to honor your loved one and show respect for the deceased by labeling his or her burial location. You may only have to wait two or three months for the permanent headstone placement.
Before you make any decisions, ask for the guidance of your funeral home director. These highly trained professionals know a lot about cemeteries in your area. They offer an invaluable resource for navigating a system with which you have little experience.
If you're looking for more resources on headstones or grave markers, read our guides on the best stones for headstones and unique headstone ideas.