What is a Memorial?

A memorial is a physical remembrance permanently installed within a cemetery at a gravesite, crypt, or niche. Permanent memorials may be constructed of bronze, granite or stone. When marking an in-ground burial site, memorials may be either located at the head or the foot of the grave and may either be upright or flush with the ground (lawn-level). When marking a mausoleum or niche entombment, memorialization takes the form of a bronze name scroll permanently attached to the crypt or the memorial information may be carved directly into the granite front.

Regardless of type, size or location, memorials are typically inscribed with words and images that identify the individual at rest and reflect the individual’s beliefs, relationships and personality. The inscription cast or carved on the memorial face may include both formal biographical information and a personalized epitaph. The biographical information includes the name, date of birth, date of death, whereas the epitaph may include colloquial text or a literary note, inscribed or cast on a grave marker or memorial. Modern memorials may also feature a pictorial representation of the individual integrally cast in bronze or laser etched into the granite.

Purpose & Characteristics of a Memorial

A memorial serves many practical and emotional purposes. Permanent memorialization placed within a cemetery helps to document and record of an individual’s life, connecting visitors to both the past and future. In addition to commemorating an individual in perpetuity, a physical marker also helps mourners to cope with loss during the grieving process. The erecting of a memorial or monument, an installation or dedication ceremony, and on-going visitation are acts of remembrance that help mourners in their grieving process to move from a life with an individual’s physical presence to preserving one’s memory. It is a deep-rooted part of human culture for thousands of years to create memorials.

Types of Memorials

The types of memorialization, monuments, and headstones offered by cemeteries will depend on many factors including, the type and location of the burial, along with an individual’s or family’s religious and personal beliefs. The most common memorial types include:

  • Granite Monuments / Granite Headstones
  • Bronze Memorials
  • Individual Memorials: An individual memorial will memorialize a single person.
  • Companion Memorials: A companion memorial will memorialize two people, typically spouses.
  • Family Memorials: A family memorial includes the surname only in order to identify a family area and does not include any specific individuals’ information
  • Benches, Plaques, and Memorial Rocks
  • Child Memorials / Infant Memorials: Children memorials are individual memorials, typically smaller in size, to memorialize a youth. Modern youth memorials include pictorial representations of the individual.
  • Cenotaphs: A cenotaph is a memorial placed at a location that does not represent the individual’s final resting place. Cenotaphs are often used for loved ones lost in war, lost at sea, or buried in another difficult to visit location.

Cost of Memorials

Depending on the type of memorial selected the cost may vary significantly based upon a number of factors including material, location, artistic features, and size. During the planning process, an individual may want to consider and evaluate the cost of the memorial, installation, and perpetual care.

Ancillary Information about Memorials

Modern cemeteries may offer a selection of digital memorial options to complement the physical gravesite memorialization. Accessible instantaneously worldwide, a virtual memorial allows family and friends to remember when they are not physically on the cemetery grounds.

Designing a Memorial

Depending on the type of memorial, trained professionals, including design consultants or memorial counselors may be engaged to provide a memorial consultation. Professional guidance may be valuable to ensure that personal expectations and specifications are satisfied. Some cemeteries have memorial specialists on staff. Each cemetery maintains rules and regulations for the specific type(s) of memorials that are permitted on the cemetery grounds and/or in a designated section of the cemetery. The restrictions, guidelines and specifications for types of memorials permitted within a given cemetery are designed for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, historical preservation, geographic limitations based on topography, religious beliefs and even seemingly subjective reasons set forth by either the cemetery’s charter or rules and regulations. When designing a memorial, it is important to know and understand the type permitted.

General guidelines for selecting and designing a memorial are as follows: First, review and select the type of memorial to be placed at the final resting place including size, construction, material and orientation. Second, identify and create a general design. Third, decide upon the most appropriate biographical and epitaph language for the memorial. Fourth, identify any artistic and meaningful emblems that can be added to the memorial. Lastly, review a design proof rendering for final review and acceptance. Once a memorial has been designed and ordered, it may be delivered to the cemetery for permanent installation.