A beginner’s guide to buying a gravestone

We asked Yvonne Wilson of the National Association of Memorial Masons for her recommendations on how to get this most heartfelt of purchases right.

  1. Don’t rush

First of all, Yvonne says, “Take your time and leave some space between the funeral and when you feel you are ready to look at the memorial.”


I’m sure Yvonne’s advice will be a relief to people feeling pressured by families to choose something right away. It is daunting enough trying to find the right words for the death notice in the newspaper, let alone something that will be preserved in stone for centuries to come. And our emotions change over time. At first all I could say was that he was the best person in the world, but that just tells you about my sense of loss. To find the right words that tell about the person who has died, even how they would want themselves represented, takes longer.


  1. Get the paperwork sorted

Yvonne says, “in order to put up a memorial stone, you must be the deed holder of the burial plot”. This would also be true if you want to inter ashes in an area of a cemetery designated for cremated remains. If you’re not the deed holder, you will need their permission. If the person who has died was the deed holder then in order to proceed with the burial you will have already completed a statutory declaration, transferring the deeds to you. Yvonne adds, “The grave number will be stated on the deeds. You’ll need to give this information to the mason.”


If the deeds are recent, they might contain or have been given to you with up to date information on the rules for what kind of memorials are allowed in that cemetery.


You also need to know the fees charged by the cemetery for the right to put up a memorial stone. If you don’t have this information or it looks a bit old, you might be able to find details on your local council’s website or phone the cemetery and ask them to send you the information.


  1. Know what to look for in a stone

Next, have a look at the stones in your local cemetery. Yvonne’s checklist is:

“The memorial wording is readable and even looking

The stone is upright and not leaning

Most importantly, do you like the way it looks”

If you see one or more stones that you like, Yvonne says you’ll find the name of the mason responsible, on the side.


  1. Find a reputable mason

Check that the mason is a member of the National Association of Memorial Masons. You can find their website at http://www.namm.org.uk

A reputable mason will give you a written guarantee. Yvonne says this will be for “a minimum of 10 years and include the stability of the memorial.” Visit the mason’s showroom and, or, ask for a brochure.


  1. Enlist your mason’s help

By now you have an idea of what you want the stone to say, you have the cemetery paperwork in order, you’ve looked at other stones in the cemetery and you’ve found a mason whose work you like. However, you might still be feeling unsure of the details. Yvonne says, “the mason will help you with your choice of stone, your wording and your design”. It’s worth remembering that memorial masons are used to helping people caught up in bereavement. Yvonne concludes, “We are here to help you through this difficult time and we’ll work with you to provide a lasting, beautiful monument that tells you about your loved one’s life, gives comfort and also remembrance.”



Image by iStock.com/marako85

First published in Widows & Widowers magazine, Issue 10

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