For thousands of years graves have often been marked in one way or another – be that a neolithic earth mound, Egyptian pyramid, granite headstone, wooden cross or tree. There are many choices today as to how you can mark a grave – traditional gravestones, cremation stones, kerb sets, plaques, contemporary ones, mass-produced, hand-carved, metal, wood, glass, trees, shrubs, even multimedia ones that digitally store information about the person whose grave it marks. Costs can vary considerably, so shop around if you can, but do bear in mind that the chosen gravesite will probably have restrictions in place as to what you can and can not have, so always check the headstone permissions first before paying out money on something you can’t actually use.
The local undertaker will be able to advise you on this, and will obviously have a selection for you to choose from, but if you need more choice, inspiration, or just something different from the norm, browse the links below or see some gravestone alternatives. If you need to find out more about how to choose a memorial and have it erected, then The National Association of Memorial Masons has some very helpful information and can be found at www.namm.org.uk
Finally, because a memorial is a lasting monument and a tribute to a person’s life, perhaps a final gift to someone dearly loved, it is important to choose it carefully. Hasty decisions made while still in great distress frequently result in later regrets, so it can be sensible to wait – and to spend time on selecting a suitable design.
Once decided, you can also find a local grave maintenance service
Types of Grave Markers
perspex grave markers – available from a range of companies and a more modern type of grave marker.
Headstones / Memorials – Traditional
The majority of standard headstones today are made from granite. To keep costs down, words or designs are usually machined on. They come in a variety of colours and finishes, and many makers will include a certain amount of “free” lettering within the cost.
www.affordablememorials.co.uk – (Wide range of quality Grave Markers from this long-established UK company)
The British Register of Accredited Memorial Masons has a more comprehensive list of masons, and a helpful search tool which you can find at www.bramm-uk.org/find-bramm-registered-masons
Contemporary Headstones & Memorials
This category includes what may be classed as more bespoke grave markers. Although we have “labelled” the standard memorial ware as “traditional”, you could very easily argue that these more contemporary ones should really be called that, as traditional crafts and skills are used to make them as opposed to modern machinery. Anyway, here we incorporate hand carved and individually designed headstones and grave markers. Using a variety of different materials from stone and slate, to oak, bronze, resin or glass, for the right price you could have something that is a piece of art in itself, and as individual as the person it memorialises.
www.memorialartscharity.org.uk has produced an excellent booklet called “Art and Memory” showcasing the memorial works of over 50 traditional letter-carvers throughout the UK.
Check out the links below, for some more beautiful, individual handcrafted pieces..
www.peoplestribute.co.uk (crafted from Welsh Slate)
Gravestones (hand carved, bespoke designs by Fergus Wessel))
Natural Wood Burial Markers
Burial Markers In Woodland Burials
As the whole idea of these types of burial grounds is to look as “natural” as possible, large monuments do not go down well with the whole ethos of woodland burial grounds. Each burial ground may have slightly different rules and regulations, but many will still allow a discreet grave marker like a small wood burial marker to be used if desired. Stone monuments or anything made from non-biodegradable materials will not usually be permitted.
Many people are concerned that without a physical marker, they will not find the grave if they wish to visit in the future. All reputable sites, however, as a matter, of course, should have a detailed survey of the site layout so they can pinpoint exactly where all the graves are, not just for family and friends of the deceased, but also for their own information so old graves are never disturbed when digging new ones. Many will use very accurate digital surveying equipment, micro-chip data logging, or GPS (global positioning system) – just make sure (for your own peace of mind) that some form of accurate records is maintained.
Multimedia Grave Markers
Multimedia grave markers, although not common in the UK, are beginning to get a foothold in the American memorial market, and could do the same here before long. By incorporating digital information with the grave stone or memorial, photographs and even commentary of the deceased’s life can be viewed and/or listened to, by anyone who is interested.
At the present moment there are two main contenders from the US (see below), but in the UK the focus is presently in the direction a QR (quick response) barcode to be etched or glued on to a stone or metal plate and then fixed discreetly to the gravestone. The barcode could technically also be attached to benches, plaques or even trees and shrubs. Scanned with a mobile device (such as a phone or ipad), the QR code links to a website that provides pictures and information about the deceased – an online obituary embedded in a slab of granite or at the base of a tender sapling. Follow this link for more information.
Vidstone uses a small 7” LCD Panel that attaches to most upright or slanted grave site monuments. At the mere touch of a button, a 5 to 8 minute video plays on the screen, recounting the most precious and poignant memories of a loved one. Even though it’s relatively small, many grave sites would not presently allow an external addition like this on a marker/memorial, but that may change in the future.
* Vidstone – www.vidstone.com
Memory Medallion, the alternative solution, takes the form of a small metal disc that is incorporated in the headstone or memorial itself. This metal disc contains a micro chip that stores information such as a picture and brief biography of the deceased, which can then be read with the use of a special small hand held devise. This simple, unobtrusive system, installed at a memorial site, lets you preserve and share the image and life story of someone for generations to come.
Whichever system is favoured, the idea of incorporating more information about a person other than a name and two dates, could revolutionise grave sites across the country.
* Memory Medallion – www.memorymedallion.com
Alternatives To Traditional Gravestones
We all plan how we would love to live. Although we do not make death wishes, death is inevitable. We may not really be prepared to depart but we can make plans to ensure we have a decent send-off. People do have their preferences and ideas of how best they would love to be laid to rest. Since in most cultures and religions the dearly departed are still held dear and in some cases, visits to the gravesite are done, it is best to have the site marked. Gravestones are commonly used as grave markers. However, it is not cast in stone that you should also use them. If you prefer not to go the usual route of having a gravestone, there are alternatives to traditional gravestones.
A gravestone, also known as a headstone or tombstone, is traditionally used in burials as a marker to indicate where a person has been laid to rest. It is also known as a stele. Christians, Muslims, Jewish, and people from other religions embrace the use of gravestones. Gravestones have been commonly used over the years but now, most individuals are embracing other options. If you are looking for something unique, here are some alternatives to traditional gravestones:
Wooden crosses have been commonly used as grave markers for a long period of time. Usually, they would bear the name of the departed one, their years of birth and death, and in most cases, a small message to remember them by. The only disadvantage of using them is that they do not stand the test of time.
A grave statue is an alternative to gravestones and it has gained massive popularity. You can choose to have it designed as a praying cherub, sleeping angel, or as the Angel of Grief. These are just a few examples but you can get creative on how best to use a statue as a marker.
At any one time, you may have been asked the following question: ‘If you had the chance to sit someone, one who is either long gone or alive, who would you chose?’ A memorial bench is a unique alternative to a gravestone. Although they are now common in parks and cemeteries, you would have to find out if the cemetery you have chosen allows such. A memorial bench can also be placed on your personal property, at a gravesite or in the backyard. A unique addition to such include the plaque, which indicates who you should thank for the rest.
As you do your favorite walks, you may come across beautiful pebbles that you love and collect. These can then be used as a pebble arrangement on a gravesite. The pebbles can even be personalized by having them engraved. If you want people to remember you by something, you can invite them to pick a pebble.
While pebbles are small and thoughtful options, you can think big and go big with a large stone. It will serve as a good marker and although moving it to a gravesite may be quite some work, it will be worth it. The large stones will be able to stand the test of time and weather the elements, unlike pebbles and wooden crosses.
Although you may have reached your sunset at the end of your life, the sun shall still rise and set. You can use a sundial as an alternative to the traditional grave markers. Sundials can tell the time of day by the position of the sun. In addition to reflecting the passage of time, they also serve as a symbol of the cycle of life. Sundials are perfect for lovers of the outdoors and astronomy.
You may have finally gained your wings and want to leave a mark on earth. A birdbath is also a unique alternative that you can put on your gravesite. It is a beautiful piece that is a symbol of life, peace, and nature. You also have the option of personalizing it to suit your taste and preferences.
If you want to consider something natural and eco-friendly, which will serve as a grave marker and be helpful to the environment, you can plant a tree. You can also have a planted bush or flowers as a marker. You may have protected your family over the years and if they sit under a tree planted on your gravesite, they will still be covered by the shade. It will also serve as a peaceful place for them.
Leave A Unique Mark
An important note before you choose a unique gravestone is to check the grave permissions before deciding on a final memorial.
If you have lived to the fullest and have always aimed to leave a mark, you can also leave a mark on your gravestone. Be unique in all you do, even on choosing a unique alternative to traditional gravestones. Remember, these are to choose not only as a gravesite marker but also as a celebration of life and something to remember a loved one by.