When someone dies, a headstone serves as a kind of final monument to their life. A headstone will typically contain someone’s name and the dates of their birth and death. Headstones also usually have epitaphs, which are brief phrases engraved on the headstone. They might be a religious verse, a line from a poem, or even a quote from the deceased.
Our Favorite Unique Headstones
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Many people are content to have a traditional headstone. But others want something unique and special that captures their personality. Here, we’ll explore some unusual headstone ideas with a lot of character. We’ll also look at unique headstone quotes you can have inscribed or engraved.
Unique Headstone Ideas
A headstone can be a true piece of art. A unique design can say a lot about who the deceased was as a person. Here are some unusual headstone ideas that may inspire your choice.
1. Birdbath headstone
Some people like to mount a stone basin with a birdbath or fountain on top of a headstone. Birds can use this freshwater source as a place to bathe, preen, and drink clean water.
This kind of headstone is unusual, but also practical. It’s a perfect memorial for someone who loved animals.
2. Animal sculpture headstone
Another great headstone design idea for animal lovers is the incorporation of an animal statue. This can be especially sweet if the statue is modeled on a beloved pet that belonged to the deceased. This could be a cat statue curled up on top of a flat headstone, or a dog standing sentry.
You could even incorporate more unusual pets, like a turtle or a hedgehog. This is another cool and quirky headstone idea for animal lovers.
3. Piano headstone
If the deceased was a skilled pianist or was just passionate about listening to music, a piano-shaped statue can serve as a great headstone.
Names and dates can be engraved directly onto the side of the stone piano. As a fun bonus, you could have an excerpt from a piece of sheet music etched onto the stone. This could be from a song they love or one they were renowned for performing.
4. Book headstone
Some people choose to incorporate a book into their headstone. One variation of this is an open book on a pedestal or podium made out of concrete. The name of the deceased can be engraved on the podium, along with the dates they lived and an epitaph.
Or to make the book even more realistic, that information can be inscribed onto the pages of the open book. The epitaph could be an excerpt from the deceased’s favorite book. This is a sweet tribute to a writer, librarian, or just someone who really loved to read.
5. Scrabble headstone
If you or a loved one is a big fan of board games, a Scrabble board headstone is a fun and unusual headstone design. The words spelled on the Scrabble board can be of personal significance. They can describe the kind of person the deceased was.
You can even incorporate the little wooden trays that hold letters. Those can spell out the name of the deceased and the dates they were born and died.
6. Castle headstone
They say a man’s home is his castle. But so can be their final resting place. You can get a custom castle built to serve as a headstone.
Different colors of stone can be incorporated to differentiate features like doors and turrets. Something like this will be a little pricey and ostentatious, so feel free to get really creative with various design elements. This is a lovely tribute to someone who was all about fairy tales, or a fan of architecture.
7. Lighthouse headstone
Lighthouses are used to help sailors navigate dangerous seas. They can also serve as a beacon to welcome people home. Symbolically, they often represent safety and security. Active lighthouses also have keepers who typically live in solitude while they tend the lighthouse.
A lighthouse headstone can work on many symbolic levels. It could be the perfect monument for someone who lived near or appreciated a particularly iconic lighthouse.
8. Tree headstone
Like lighthouses, trees carry a lot of symbolism. They can symbolize birth and new life. They can also embody spiritual enrichment. A tree can be etched into a traditional headstone.
A more ambitious design might include a three-dimensional sculpture of a tree. A variation on this design is a tree stump headstone. That can symbolize that a life was cut short.
9. Bench headstone
When you go visit the grave of a loved one, there often isn’t any place to sit nearby. People often dress up to visit a grave, so sitting on the ground isn’t very practical. Some people will incorporate a bench into the design of their headstone.
This creates a place to sit for loved ones when they visit the cemetery.
10. Headstone with hands
If the deceased was a bit of a practical joker, you can include something offbeat and quirky. One fun idea is to include a sculpture of hands reaching out from the ground. This makes it look like someone is climbing out of the ground.
It’s definitely not the right choice for everyone, and you also may need to clear it with the cemetery ahead of time. But for someone who loved to have a good time and push boundaries, it’s a great tribute. It would also be a fun headstone for a horror movie fanatic.
Unique Headstone Inscription Ideas
Headstones typically include a person’s name and the dates of their life and death. It may also include an epitaph engraved into the stone. Epitaphs give you a great opportunity to really personalize a headstone. Here are some unique ideas to inspire you:
11. Song lyrics
Whether the deceased was a musician or just a person who appreciated music, song lyrics are a great way to customize a headstone. Choosing a lyric that really resonated with the deceased is key. That makes it more special.
Here are a few examples of song lyrics that would be appropriate for a headstone:
- “The song has ended but the melody lingers on.” —Irving Berlin
- “Take what is left of me and make it a melody.” —Switchfoot
- “I did it my way.” —Frank Sinatra
Read our list of nostalgic songs for more inspiration.
12. Book quotes
Earlier, we talked about incorporating an open book into a headstone design. Whether you use that idea or not, a book quote can still make for a meaningful epitaph. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s headstone features the closing line of his own novel The Great Gatsby.
It goes like this: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Using a line from a book the deceased loved helps personalize a headstone and make it more unique. Here are some good examples:
- “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” —J.K. Rowling
- “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” —J.R.R. Tolkien
- “Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” —Haruki Murakami
13. Funny epitaphs
Epitaphs don’t have to be dour or serious. They don’t even have to be deep and meaningful. If the deceased had a good sense of humor, a funny quote is an excellent (if unconventional) way to pay tribute to them. Here are a few examples:
- Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.” —Dorothy Parker
- “It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.” —Terry Pratchett
- "I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions of years before I was born and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience." —Mark Twain
14. Coded epitaph
If the deceased loved a good puzzle or mystery, you can turn their epitaph into kind of a cipher. People who visit the grave can try and crack the code of what it says. It pays tribute to the deceased, and it’s interactive.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Headstones can feature pictures to augment the words written on them.
They are often laser-etched. Portraits aren’t uncommon, but you could choose something else to make it more unique. Perhaps have an image of a place they lived. Or, if they were an artist, see if their work can be incorporated into the headstone.
Headstones That Stand Out Thanks to Innovative Design
When we die, we want to make sure that we’re remembered. We can leave our mark through or careers and great works. We can also live in the memories of our family and other loved ones. But a headstone can also serve as an enduring tribute to your life.
If you opt for cremation, there are a lot of unique ideas to honor your loved one's memory as well. For example, Eterneva specializes in memorial diamonds created from ashes or hair. Similarly, Foreverence will 3D print a custom, unique urn in honor of someone's memory. It's important to know all of your options when it comes to planning your final wishes and handling your loved one's legacies.
When you make end-of-life arrangements, consider the kind of headstone you might like. For years to come, people can appreciate the uniqueness and originality of your choice.
If you’re planning a visit to a loved one’s grave soon, check out our articles on how to clean a gravesite and what to leave as a gift.