Need a headstone? Ironically enough, time is on your side. This is good news because headstones can take upwards of six months to create from start to finish.
Even so, while the cemetery you’re working with may have regulations in place regarding the time frame, many religious customs around burial can also impact how quickly you need to act. For instance, some Jewish traditions allow for an unveiling ceremony of a grave marker to take place within a year of burial.
This gives you some time to grieve and then find a provider that suits your needs. Even when the headstone meets the regulations of the cemetery, it still has to be accepted by those who work at the graveyard. But you shouldn’t feel pressured to make a decision quickly.
There are various suppliers that you can purchase a headstone from, such as direct monument companies and online providers. You even can order headstones from Amazon, which makes the purchasing process rather accessible. Buying from the cemetery is typically the most expensive option, but the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule says you don’t have to feel pressured to buy package options.
Considering the cost
The cost of a gravestone will vary based on the overall design, lettering, artwork, and material required to make it. Certain colors and finishes can raise the price as well. The average cost of a standard flat tombstone is about $1,000. For a more detailed, upright headstone, expect to spend about $3,000. Higher-quality individual headstones, family headstones, or even a companion headstone — which is one headstone for two people — can be as costly as $10,000 each.
The stone itself accounts for most of the cost of a headstone. Granite is popular because it’s durable, relatively affordable, and comes in a variety of colors. The average granite headstone cost is around $450. The other primary stone option is marble, which is more expensive, but many people prefer its polished look. Marble weathers faster than other options, so you may have to invest in the upkeep of the headstone. The average cost of a marble headstone ranges from $1,500 to $1,800.
Besides the stone itself, engraving is another cost to consider. The pricing models of engravings will vary based on how detailed an inscription you request, averaging about $20 per letter for inscriptions up to 20 or 30 letters in length. Additional lettering often costs less, averaging around $10 per character.
Expect a standard gravestone with your loved one’s name, birth date, and death date to cost around $500. You may opt for an engraved plaque instead of having the etching placed directly into the stone. Bronze and aluminum plaques cost between $100 and $300, on average.
Most cemeteries offer installation — at a cost. If your cemetery doesn’t provide this service, you may want to hire a professional monument installation team. They will measure the stone, dig a proper hole, and place the headstone onto a concrete base, which is mostly done for medium and large headstones.
The average installation cost can be anywhere from $150 to $450. Companion headstones, on the other hand, tend to cost an average of $300 to $600 per headstone. The concrete foundation will likely cost extra, but it’s not always required. Professional headstone cleaners charge between $40 and $170.
From there, you can add services such as planting flowers and watering the grass surrounding the headstone. If a headstone has been damaged, restoration and repair — including resurfacing, polishing, or even reinstalling parts of the headstones — can be performed as well. These costs vary widely, but it is always best to preserve the headstone and avoid these services as much as possible.
You may wish to add a full-color ceramic image of your loved one, a vase, a sculpture, or a statue as well. Ask the cemetery for a full list of prices for these additions.
There are many prepaid plans that save family members a lot of stress at the time of their loved one’s death. And you should know that if you are buying a headstone for a U.S. veteran, you may be able to obtain one for free. The VA’s National Cemetery Administration can help you, so be sure to contact the United States Department of Veteran Affairs.
Planning details in advance will help. Small, flat, or tilted headstones cost less money, especially if you use a bronze or aluminum plaque for inscriptions. Investing in a family headstone or a monument where each individual has a flat headstone are two other ways to save money without compromising completely.
Some cemeteries have strict rules about installation, such as standards regarding how the foundation is set and where the marker is placed. Make sure that your headstone provider meets all of the specification requirements of the gravesite. If you hire a local monument company, it is likely to have experience with nearby burial facilities.