Headstone Selection Made Easy a Family Guide to Memorial Choices

Choosing a headstone for a loved one is a deeply personal and significant decision. It serves as a lasting tribute to their life and legacy, so it’s essential to make an informed choice. Sunset Stone & Memorials is a well-known Cemetery Headstone Designer in Alberta that has helped numerous families create beautiful and meaningful memorials. This guide will walk you through the various options and considerations to help you select the perfect headstone. 

Different Types of Headstones 

When it comes to selecting a headstone, there are several types to consider, each with its unique characteristics and benefits. 

Upright Headstones 

Upright headstones are the most traditional and commonly seen in cemeteries. They stand vertically and provide ample space for inscriptions and designs. These headstones are typically made from durable materials like granite or marble, ensuring they withstand the test of time. 

Flat Headstones 

Flat headstones, also known as lawn-level markers, lie flat on the ground. They offer a more understated option and can be easier to maintain. Flat headstones are often made from granite or bronze and can be customized with engravings and designs. 

Kerbed Headstones 

Kerbed headstones are full-length memorials that lie flat but can be framed with kerbs around the perimeter. This type allows for more elaborate designs and additional inscriptions. They create a distinctive and personalized tribute but may require more upkeep. 

Slant Headstones 

Slant headstones have a slanted face, making inscriptions more visible while still offering a lower profile than upright headstones. They combine the benefits of both upright and flat headstones, providing a balance between visibility and subtlety. 

Material Choices for Headstones 

The material you choose for a headstone will significantly impact its appearance, durability, and maintenance needs. Here are some common options: 


Granite is a popular choice due to its durability and variety of colors. It can withstand harsh weather conditions and requires minimal maintenance. Granite headstones can be polished to a high gloss or left with a more natural finish, depending on your preference. 


Marble offers an elegant and timeless look but is less durable than granite. It is prone to weathering and may require more frequent care. However, its aesthetic appeal makes it a favorite for many families looking for a classic and sophisticated memorial. 


Bronze headstones are known for their longevity and ease of customization. They often feature intricate designs and can be mounted on a granite base for added stability. Bronze is resistant to corrosion, making it a low-maintenance option that retains its beauty over time. 

Other Materials 

While granite, marble, and bronze are the most common materials, other options like sandstone and limestone are available. These materials offer unique textures and colors but may not be as durable. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each material to determine what best fits your needs and preferences. 

Customization and Design Options 

Personalizing a headstone allows you to create a fitting tribute that reflects your loved one’s personality and legacy. There are several aspects of customization to consider: 

Engraving Techniques 

Engravings are a fundamental part of headstone design, and two primary techniques are used: etching and sandblasting. Etching allows for detailed images and fine lines, while sandblasting provides a deeper, more textured engraving. Both methods can be combined to create a unique and intricate design. 

Font Styles and Sizes 

Choosing the right font style and size is crucial for readability and aesthetic appeal. Traditional serif fonts convey a timeless feel, while modern sans-serif fonts offer a contemporary look. The size of the lettering should be proportionate to the headstone’s dimensions and ensure that all inscriptions are legible. 

Incorporating Images and Symbols 

Images and symbols can add a personal touch to a headstone. Common choices include religious symbols, flowers, and portraits. Laser-etched photographs are a popular option, allowing for detailed and lasting images that capture the essence of your loved one. 

Choosing the Right Epitaph 

The epitaph is a brief inscription that typically includes the name, birth and death dates, and a short message or quote. It’s an opportunity to convey a meaningful sentiment or highlight a significant aspect of your loved one’s life. Take time to choose an epitaph that resonates with your family’s values and memories. 

Legal and Cemetery Regulations 

Before finalizing your headstone design, it’s essential to understand and comply with legal and cemetery regulations. 

Common Cemetery Rules and Regulations 

Cemeteries often have specific rules regarding the size, material, and design of headstones. These regulations ensure uniformity and facilitate maintenance. It’s crucial to check with the cemetery where the headstone will be placed to adhere to their guidelines. 

Permits and Approvals Needed 

Some cemeteries require permits and approvals for headstone installation. This process ensures that all headstones meet the necessary standards and regulations. Working with a reputable monument company like Sunset Stone & Memorials can help streamline this process and ensure all requirements are met. 

Size and Design Restrictions 

Cemetery regulations may also include restrictions on the size and design of headstones. These limitations can affect the type of headstone you choose and the extent of customization. Be sure to review these restrictions early in the planning process to avoid any issues later on. 

Budget Considerations 

The cost of a headstone can vary widely based on material, size, and customization options. Here are some tips to help you budget effectively: 

Cost Breakdown by Material and Customization Options 

Different materials come with different price points. Granite and marble tend to be more expensive due to their durability and appearance, while bronze can vary based on the level of detail and customization. Flat headstones are generally less costly than upright or kerbed options. Customization, such as intricate engravings or laser-etched images, will also add to the overall cost. 

Tips for Setting a Budget 

Start by determining how much you are willing to spend and prioritize your must-have features. Consider the long-term value of investing in a durable material that requires less maintenance. Seeking quotes from multiple providers can help you find the best balance between cost and quality. 

Financing and Payment Plans 

Many monument companies offer financing and payment plans to make purchasing a headstone more manageable. Discuss these options with your provider to find a plan that fits your budget. Remember, the goal is to create a lasting tribute without causing financial strain. 

Finding a Reputable Monument Company 

Choosing a reputable monument company is crucial for ensuring a high-quality headstone that meets your expectations. 

Tips for Researching and Vetting Companies 

Start by researching monument companies online and reading reviews from previous customers. Look for companies with a solid reputation and a portfolio of completed projects. Ask for recommendations from friends, family, or funeral directors who have experience with local providers. 

Questions to Ask Potential Providers 

When meeting with potential providers, ask about their experience, materials, and customization options. Inquire about their process for obtaining permits and approvals, and request a detailed quote that includes all costs. Transparency and open communication are key indicators of a trustworthy company. 

Importance of Reviews and Testimonials 

Reviews and testimonials provide valuable insights into the quality of a company’s work and customer service. Look for consistent positive feedback and be wary of any recurring complaints. A company with a strong track record, like Sunset Stone & Memorials, can give you confidence in your decision. 

Maintenance and Upkeep 

Proper maintenance is essential for preserving the appearance and integrity of a headstone. 

Regular Cleaning and Care Tips 

Regular cleaning can prevent the buildup of dirt, moss, and lichen. Use gentle cleaning solutions and soft brushes to avoid damaging the surface. For granite and bronze headstones, a mild soap and water solution usually suffice. Avoid harsh chemicals that can cause discoloration or erosion. 

Professional Restoration Services 

Over time, headstones may require professional restoration to address issues like weathering, staining, or damage. Restoration services can clean, repair, and even re-engrave headstones to restore their original beauty. Consult with your monument company for recommendations on reputable restoration providers. 

Preventative Measures to Prolong the Headstone’s Life 

Taking preventative measures can help extend the life of a headstone. Applying sealants can protect against moisture and environmental damage. Installing a foundation or base can prevent shifting and settling. Additionally, placing the headstone in a location with minimal exposure to extreme weather can reduce wear and tear. 


Selecting a headstone is a deeply personal and significant decision, one that requires thoughtful consideration and planning. By understanding the various aspects involved—from epitaph selection and legal regulations to budgeting and maintenance—you can create a lasting tribute that honors your loved one’s memory. Partnering with a reputable monument company ensures that the headstone will be crafted with care and respect, meeting all necessary standards and personal preferences. Ultimately, the goal is to create a meaningful and enduring memorial that brings comfort and remembrance for generations to come. 


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