12 Headstone Inscription Tips To Get It Just Right

Headstones are big, expensive, and permanent, so you want to get it just right. The headstone inscription can be a lengthy description or a short sentence or anything in between, but whatever length or style you want it done well.

To that end, here are 12 tips to help you get the headstone inscription just right. These tips work equally well for inscriptions on cremation urns, niche cover plates, memorial gifts, and more.

These tips are based from the classic three or four line setups:

3 line with top line:

Top Line

4 line:

Top Line


3 line with epitaph:


The top line is often something like “In Loving Memory” or “At Rest”. The epitaph line is typically a brief quote or phrase that sums up the deceased’s life.

12 Headstone Inscription Tips

1. Choose someone to oversee the task

This will be one person in your family who can do the research, figure out what it should say, find (or negotiate!) the best price, and just get it done.

While this person should accept input from other family members, my experience working with families on cremation urn inscriptions tells me that group decisions rarely work out for everyone. If there are too many cooks in the kitchen, things go awry. Especially once revisions and changes start getting made, all bets are off.

Better to have one person in charge who will make a good job of it. As long as the name and dates are on there, it will be just fine.

2. Take your time

A headstone is a big purchase. You should never be pushed into something you don’t want, or rushed and end up forgetting something important. Or, heaven forbid, you should make a mistake on the birth or death date.

Take the time to think through what you want. The wording, the font, the style. Then, once you have everything, double-check the spelling and date from the birth certificate and also the date from the death certificate. It’s surprising how easy it is to get a birth or death date wrong, especially with all the stress surrounding the death, funeral, and burial. Take your time.

3. Keep it simple

Simple minimalism = classy and always in style. You won’t go wrong by keeping it short and sweet.

Headstones can involve so many bells and whistles, add-ons, and personalized options. The choices are really overwhelming. With so many options, it seems like you have so many ways to get it just right. But in the final tally you will find that the opposite is true. With so many options, it is just so many ways to mess it all up.

Instead, go for understated class. Name and dates for sure, and consider a brief inscription or quote. Keep the ornamentation simple; a flower or a cross will often look way better than engraved or sublimated images of dogs and kids and whatnot.

Keep it simple and you will not only keep the costs down but end up with a better and more beautiful headstone.

4. Avoid trends

Choose lettering and styles that are timeless. Serif fonts will always look good on a headstone. You can choose between all-caps and a mix of upper and lowercase (or a combination of both styles) and it will look great.

But avoid script, styled, and sans-serif fonts. These can look cool, and maybe they’ll be in style 30 years from now when the trends loop around again, but in 10, 15, or 50 years you will regret falling prey to the trend of farmhouse fonts or whatever is “in” this year.

5. Avoid humor

Yes, the deceased probably had a wonderful sense of humor. But humor is tricky; something that seems funny today might not seem quite as witty years later.

Cultures and tastes change, and the written word (especially the formal style required on headstones!) is much different than a wisecrack told in person within a given context.

It’s just too difficult to capture a sharp, fun sense humor on a headstone in a timeless way. Our advice? Skip it. Save it for the memorial scrapbooks and photo albums, and let the headstone stay simple, classy, and timeless.

6. Remember that your loved one is already unique

Personalization is the buzz word in the funeral industry right now. People are customizing their funerals more than ever, leading to crazy things like Viking sendoffs, dance parties, fireworks, and more.

That’s all fine and good. You want the memorial to reflect reality, because each person truly is unique.

But sometimes the push towards making everything unique strikes me as a bit of overcompensation. Perhaps it’s a way to work through regrets or come to terms with a difficult situation. In any event, it is perfectly acceptable to decide that the personalization of their name and dates is enough.

Remember that your loved one already is unique. There is no way that any phrase, poem, or image can capture them completely or perfectly. And that’s ok.

7. Choose a good first line

Everyone does “In Loving Memory.” That’s a classic, and it is perfectly fine. But if you are committed to keeping it simple and avoiding trends, you can still allow yourself a bit of constrained creativity.

Consider alternate opening lines, like some of these:

  • In Memoriam
  • In Remembrance
  • Happy Memories Of
  • In Fondest Memory Of
  • In Treasured Memory Of
  • Here Lies
  • In Honored Memory Of
  • In Cherished Memory Of
  • A Life Well Lived
  • At Home
  • At Rest
  • Gone Too Soon

8. Avoid clutter

In harmony with the “keep it simple” tip, it’s a good idea to avoid clutter whenever possible. For instance, rather than writing out the entire birth and death dates, some headstones are adorned with only the years.

9. Aim for emotional resonance

The descriptive line that comes after name and date is another one that can easily become cluttered. Many inscriptions are swamped with adjectives and attributes: “Loving and devoted wife of John and mother of Suzanne, Ellen, Tyler, and Nathan” etc.

Instead, choose a well-composed sentence that sums up what you are trying to say: “Her acts of kindness will be treasured.” This is the sort of thing

10. Be inspired by the classics

If you find it difficult to create your own emotionally resonant inscription, get inspired by the best. Choose a line from a poem, hymn, song, Scripture, or famous author. These are words that have already had a profound impact on many people in your generation or throughout history. Why not go with the greats?

11. Ask the headstone maker their opinion

Sure, some headstone cutters just want to quit and go home, while others will advise you to add all the costly special features. These types will try to sell you on the easiest or the most ornate options. That sort of advice is easy to spot and ignore.

But most dedicated craftsmen take pride in their work and won’t steer you wrong. Try asking them about the classiest headstone, or the most meaningful, or the most interesting. Ask what they will put on their headstone. A few creative questions directed at an expert should yield helpful and fascinating insights.

12. Think about your return visits

Try to think ahead. What headstone inscription, quote, or description of your loved one will you treasure a year from now? Five years from now? After all the fuss and bother, once the stream of frozen lasagna dries up, what will warm your heart? What will stir up the most fond memories?

Keep it simple, think about the character qualities that truly resonate, and go with your heart. Those are the words you will recognize and treasure at each return visit to the grave site.

Check out these beautiful grave markers that can be engraved with a photo of your loved one.

Headstone Inscription Examples

Most headstone inscriptions will include the name and dates.

Names. Use the decedent’s full legal name. This includes middle name(s) and any suffixes such as Jr. or III.

Sarah Marie Ellmore
Jackie James Gleason IV
Arlenis Kahlo Gutiérrez

If the decedent had a nickname, it’s ideal to place it in quotes after the first given name. For example, if Joe Smith was known to everyone as “Pops”, the traditional setup would read:

Joe “Pops” Smith

Dates. Sometimes people choose to write out “born” and “died,” but typically just the dates separated by a dash or on two lines will suffice. The traditional formula for dates includes the month spelled out followed by the date, a comma, and the year.

September 13, 1922 – August 1, 2007

Other variations on the dates:

9/13/1922 – 8/1/2007
13 Sep 1922 – 01 Aug 2007
1922 – 2007

Born: 9/13/22 Died: 8/1/07

Headstone Sentiments. Often families will add a brief quote, saying, verse, or sentiment. This can be as simple as “In Loving Memory” or “Forever Loved” above the name and dates. It can get as lengthy or detailed as you like (or can afford).

Here are a few examples of additional things to say on the headstone inscription:

Always in Our Hearts
Forever Loved, Forever Missed
Rest In Peace
In the Arms of Jesus
Gone Fishin’
Together Forever
Until We Meet Again
Loving Husband and Devoted Father
Beloved Wife, Mother, and Grandmother
Well done, good and faithful servant
The best is yet to come

For more inscription ideas –

We hope you have found this article to be of help! Pin it to your memorial or funeral board for handy reference later.

How to get the headstone inscription just right

81 thoughts on “12 Headstone Inscription Tips To Get It Just Right”

  1. I like that you suggest aiming for emotional resonance with a custom engraved headstone. My dad was given only two weeks to live, so we are preparing for the next steps we need to take in this process. I will keep this in mind and discuss it with my siblings while we choose our next steps.

  2. I like that you suggest taking your time in the design of the headstone. My brother recently lost his little boy, so I have been trying to pick up the slack, and plan a good celebration of life and burial. I will keep this in mind while I am conferring with them about what they want on the grave marker.

  3. My grandpa recently passed away and I am in charge of picking out his headstone, so I appreciate the tips in this article. You make a great point that I should take my time and keep the message simple. I think this is a great idea because a short and clear message that is memorable matches my grandpa’s personality perfectly.

  4. I like what you said about aiming for emotional resonance on a cemetery memorial. My uncle recently passed away. I would imagine my cousins will have to think hard about what they want and find a company that provides a headstone that they would like best.

  5. Hi Patty,

    Great question! It’s really up to you. Personally, I would go with how they signed or wrote their name. If they preferred “II” or always wrote “Jr.” then go with that. Thanks!

  6. Hi Ken,
    Good question, it’s ultimately up to you. “Gone home” makes sense if they were a Christian who is “at home” with Christ now. For other faith traditions or beliefs, some people prefer the image of their loved one on a journey so they might prefer “going home.” That’s my two cents, at least. Hope this helps!

  7. Thanks for these tips on how to find a good headstone inscription. I agree that you want to take your time with it in order to ensure it is right. My dad passed away recently, so we’ll have to consider their inscription first.

  8. Mom is being buried with Dad. Her married last name is on the front of the stone. Dads first name and dates are on the back. Mom remarried and hyphenated her last name. How would her name go in the back?

  9. Ultimately, it would be up to her (if still living) or the family. Would she (or you) prefer to have her last name be how it was for that first part of her life, with her married name? Or does being buried with Dad honor their relationship, while the newly hyphenated name also honors her relationship with her current husband? These are important considerations to think about. However, note that most married women have their name at the time of death on the headstone (their married name). You could think of it in a similar way… she was born with one name, had a new married name, and when she died it was with her hyphenated name. So with that line of reasoning perhaps the name she had at the time of death would be best. Again, it’s ultimately up to her and/or the family. Best wishes as you think through this!

  10. My grandma passed away last night from cancer, and we’re now trying to plan the memorial. I liked your advice to choose one person in your family to take care of the headstone and to stick with classic, serif fonts. I think my mom is going to take care of it, so I’ll pass on the rest of these tips to help her when she finds a headstone service.

  11. Does a junior always take a comma
    After the name, i.e.
    John Smith, Jr. Or
    John Smith Jr.

  12. I have a question, if I may.
    My brother was a state Supreme Court judge. Would it be proper to inscribe his headstone :
    HON. ROBERT L. ???

  13. Hi John,

    Yes, I’ve seen headstones like that for judges. I’m not sure if there is a specific protocol for state Supreme Court judges; you may want to try contacting his office because they would probably know. Hope this helps!

  14. Hi Ken,

    The classic style is yes, do include the comma. But I have seen inscriptions go both ways, and even without the period (i.e., John Smith Jr). These days, it really seems to be up to the family’s preference. But if you want to go the “traditional” route, then do include the comma. Thanks for asking!

  15. My dad passed away about 6 months ago followed by my mum just recently. My mum is buried on top of her mum but we have also put my dads ashes in with my mum. There is space for one person in the headstone but we would like to redo headstone with all 3 of them on it. Is there any way I can incorporate all 3 into one headstone?

  16. Hi Rayleen,

    Yes, I think you can. You would just need to discuss it with the headstone maker. I’ve certainly seen many couples together on a headstone along with children, so multiple people on a single headstone is certainly doable. You’d just need to ask about it at the cemetery.

  17. I would like to know is there a proper way to set up the front of a Memorial Stone with 2 last names and 3 first names for my beloved late husband of 17 yrs., myself and my boyfriend/finance (14 years)? No plans to remarry. If this was you what would you suggest? A small subtitle somewhere or none at all? Using 2 last names at top followed by all 3 full names OR 1 last @ top, 2 first names; then1 last name and 1 first? A suggestion made that I should have my maiden name in all capitals. I don’t care for the look of all caps on that. Have you ever seen this to be some lower case letters example (Geneology) when all other lettering on stone is in capitals? Thank you so much for your help.

  18. Hi Jill, thanks for asking your question! I think this would ultimately come down to a discussion with the headstone manufacturer. Since we don’t know the size of the headstone, or the space allotted for names, etc, it would be difficult for us to say. Ultimately, it will come down to 1) what will fit, and 2) what you want. But, for what it’s worth, here’s my advice.

    My first thought is that you should do each individual’s full name, with (space for) their birth and death dates below their name. Then you can do in smaller, subtitle-type lettering somewhere below (and I’m just guessing on the dates), Husband & Jill, Married 17 Wonderful Years (1987-2004). Then, below that, Boyfriend & Jill, Together X Wonderful Years (2006-XXXX). By providing the amount of time together, you indicate the significance of the relationship. And by including the years you were married/together, it tells the observer that these were separate and distinct relationships that you are honoring each in their own way.

    I hope this helps!

  19. Thank you for this help. A suggestion made that I should have my maiden name added in all capitals for Genealogy. Have you ever seen a maiden name to be some lower case letters ex. MARY A. (Jones) SMITH when all other lettering on stone is in capitals? Any rule of thumb or just personal visual choice?

  20. Hi Jill,

    I have not personally seen the lowercase maiden name like that. To go with tradition, you’d want it to be all caps or first-letter caps. But of course you are welcome to go with your own personal preference. Hope this helps!

  21. My mother recently died and we intend to inter the ashes at a different location to the rest of her family. We are able to have a headstone and have asked and been told we can include the names of the other deceased relatives but should show that their remains are not at the same site. There are five names in total any advice on how we can word it?

  22. Hi Jane,

    Great question! “Preceded by” (or some variation on that) followed by the names is the usual way to go.

    – Preceded in Death By
    – Preceded into Glory By
    – Joining Beloved Family in Heaven:
    – Reunited With
    – Rejoicing in Heaven With

    Hopefully that helps get you started! Any of those or similar phrases can work, whatever feels right for your family. Then list the names.

  23. Such a wonderful and helpful article. Thank you. We recently lost our 9 month old and purchased a family plot. My husband is a Jr. and I’m working on the design of the family headstone. We will have our last name across the top and each of our first and middle names below. So, my question is, if we usually write Jr. after my husbands last name, how would we write it in this case?

    Thank you for your help!

  24. Thank you so much for the suggestions, advise and examples you have given here.

    My friend, companion and wife of 32 years recently died and I am still finding it difficult to reduce her life to an 8 minute eulogy I wrote and read at the Church she last attended with one of her brothers. Every attempt to edit it down to the recommended 5 minute maximum “reduced” the eulogy to something longer still! So too, I am finding it difficult to simply state “Rest In Peace” with name and dates for the plaque on her urn and door of her niche where her cremains will be interred.

    Your site gives very useful information and avoids causing undue struggle with battling pop-up ads and other annoyances at a time when I just need to keep everything simple, not just my writing. Sincere thanks to those who contribute and do the editing.

  25. Hi Robbie,

    I believe the traditional way to do this is:

    Top line: LAST NAME
    Below: First Middle, Jr ~ First Middle

  26. My husband of 10-1/2 years died in January from COVID. This is our second marriage…his wife died 9 years before we married, but I was dear friends with her. When she died, he purchased two plots and had headstones set for each of them. Unfortunately, he didn’t see this article as each headstone says “Tim’s wife, Matt’s mother” then “She never paid retail.” Actually, the humor is quite poignant and I don’t have any issues with that. His says “Debbie’s husband, Matt’s father” then “He died laughing.” He was well known for his humor and the ability to make everything right with laughing.

    He will not be buried here, but I feel that the memorial still should remain. He was cremated and we have plans for distributing his ashes in various places that he loved. And by the way, my stepson calls me Mom and plans to “take him” to baseball games to continue “their tradition.”

    My question is about how to carry on the 20 years since his first wife passed? Should I consider replacing the headstone? Should I talk with the cemetery about adding a second headstone? I also told him during our marriage I was going to add a “snipe” to his headstone that says “He is not here” because I know he is in the loving arms of our Savior.

    Your help would be greatly appreciated as I discuss this with our son.

  27. Hi Patty,

    This is clearly a unique situation, as it is less common to have the headstones in place ahead of time and even less so when there is a later marriage involved. It sounds like you’re doing your best to honor your husband. Personally, from the little you’ve mentioned, I’d suggest either leaving it in place (since he’s not buried there anyways) or updating/adding text to the headstone as you see fit. If you’d like to include something about your marriage on the headstone, that seems fine if the son is on board. Or if you wanted to go a different direction and do a memorial stone at home in your backyard or garden, that might be another option.

  28. My mom was predeceased by my dad (her husband) and all of her siblings. Do I include “Loving wife, sister.. on her gravestone? Thank you.

  29. Hi Jill,

    You don’t have to, but if those things were important to her and to the family, then by all means include them!

  30. Hi
    We are burying our Mother with our Father….Mother chose the wording on the memorial after Father passed, not a lot of room left for her memorial…please could you give some suggestions what we could write, plus how to include her on the memorial….I do not like the word ‘also’ so how can we word she is buried there too?
    Thank you

  31. Hi Belle,

    Most frequently, the couple’s names are listed either joined by “and” or simply listed one after the other.

    Hope this helps!

  32. I’m sorry that this is somewhat off-subject. Can you help me with the type of engraving to use on Georgia grey granite? I’ve read that the V-cut lasts longest and should be pretty deep. The company we plan to hire wants to use sandblast in a panel with dark grey lithochrome. I want to make sure the lettering will last as long as possible. Should I insist on a V-cut? We are having a round upright in the shape of a full moon (not spherical, just round), 36″ high with at least 6 shape-carved roses climbing the sides. Your advice on wording was very helpful. Thank you.

  33. Hi Anna,

    I’m not an expert in granite, so I would point you to those who are. Ask the company you are planning to hire, and as a sounding board call around and ask 1-2 other companies (local or not, doesn’t matter) what they think. I hope this helps!

  34. I’m preparing a marker for my mother’s cremains and unsure how/whether to include her given name at birth, and three husbands, 4 children.
    Her birth name: Mary Betty Robinson
    First husband, 3 children: Mary Betty Challenger; divorced
    Second husband, 1 child: Mary Betty Williamson; divorced
    Third husband, no children: Mary Betty Johnson (at her death.)
    Mr. Johnson died before mother died.
    We never discussed her wishes for this piece.
    Thank you for your advice.

  35. Hi Teri,

    Great question. Ask your funeral director and/or the headstone engraver for their opinions, for sure. My suggestions would be something like:
    Mary Betty Johnson
    née Robinson
    Formerly: Challenger; Williamson

    You could also skip the “extra” last names (though they are important parts of her story!) and do either only her name at the time of death, or only her maiden name.

    You might also consider writing out her story in a few words:
    Mary Betty Johnson
    Born to Mr & Mrs Robinson, married to Mr Challenger with whom she had three children, then to Mr Williamson with whom she had one child, and finally to Mr Johnson.

    Of course you’ll want to use your own voice or what you think is best when describing it, but those are some options. Personally, I’d probably go with her final name, then say “Beloved mother of…” and list the children with THEIR last names. That would cover the Challenger and Williamson parts of her life, without getting into the divorce details.

    Hope this helps!

  36. I am adding a quote to my mom’s headstone. Do I need to add it in quotes and add the author’s name?

  37. Hi PB,

    Yes, I would certainly provide correct attribution for the quote. To save on space, you can sometimes use the author’s initials or just the last name. The quotation marks are optional – most people will realize it’s a quote with the “-Author Name” attribution at the end.

  38. My husband’s first wife died and I am divorced. We feel we never truly loved our first spouses, as we love one another. We are soulmates and one another’s first true love. We were so young and naive when we first married and although we cared deeply for our first spouses at one point in time, there simply is no comparison to the love and devotion that we share for one another in our marriage.

    Is it okay to keep his first wife’s headstone minimalistic, yet tasteful, and not acknowledge the married name at all and just keep her birth name? And just mention the two children?

    My husband agrees with this, but we understand that some family will wonder why the omission of married name.

    We wish to be buried together/side-by-side at a different cemetery – we’re both of the same religion and have the rest of our lives to live out – hopefully! Our headstones will only acknowledge our marriage and the children/grandchildren.

  39. Hello,
    I am in the process of selecting wording for my dad’s gravestone. Should I be using punctuation? The cemetery came back with:
    It’s in all caps and includes periods, but no commas, I feel it should either include both commas and periods, or no punctuation at all. Is no punctuation proper? What are you thoughts?

  40. Hey Anon,

    That sounds acceptable. You may want to ask those closest to her about it (if possible) – children, siblings, or parents. But since it sounds like her ex-husband is in charge of her arrangements, ultimately it will be what he or the two of you decide. It sounds like you are trying to honor her.

    However, her married life and married name were a part of her story. If she kept her married name, you may want to consider putting “First Married Maiden” name or “First Middle Married, nee Maiden”, which would recognize her name at the time of death. If she went back to her maiden name, then it seems like you should go with that, no need to mention her married name.

    Hope this helps!

  41. Hi Giulia,

    I completely agree – that looks like it needs one comma, or at least a dash. The first line is fine. The second line should be…

    Correct punctuation:

    or no punctuation:

  42. What are punctuation rules for headstones? Is it the same as general grammar rules? Are periods typically used if the statement is all on one line? I’ve seen it both ways and not sure how it should be applied.
    Such as: Line 1-Faithful servant and a friend of God
    Line 2-Loving son, husband, father, and grandfather
    Should each line end with a period?
    Thanks for your help.

  43. Yes, I’ve seen it both ways too. My view is that it depends on whether you are treating the phrase as a title or as a sentence. Using your example, as a sentence it would be just like you did it, but with a period at the end:

    Line 1-Faithful servant and a friend of God.
    Line 2-Loving son, husband, father, and grandfather.

    If you were to do it as a title, you would follow title capitalization rules and not use a period:

    Line 1-Faithful Servant and a Friend of God
    Line 2-Loving Son, Husband, Father, and Grandfather

    However, I’ve seen the first example with no periods and it’s fine (especially when using italics or all-caps), because ultimately it’s up to you and your choice. But those are the tips I recommend when a customer is ordering an urn over the phone with me at our cremation urn store.

  44. My father’s name is on the gravestone as devoted husband and dearly loved father. My sister has now passed and is survived by my mother. Should names always be put in chronological order or should we leave a space for my mother’s name to be inserted. Many thanks.

  45. Great question, Tracy. I would leave a space for your mother’s name so that it is listed in order of relationship rather than by death date. So: Father, Mother, 1st Child, 2nd Child, etc. Hope this helps!

  46. I was adopted and recently meet my biological father. I am certain I want my first/birth surname mentioned on my marker. Are there rules of etiquette concerning adoption?

  47. Hi Robert,

    Great question. It comes down to what you want to say on the headstone, how you want to say it, and how much you want to spend. Typically the more words you add, the more expensive it will be, so that can be an important consideration in all this too.

    The simplest way is to treat the birth name like a maiden name. Often this looks like:
    1) First Middle Last (Birth Name)
    2) First Middle (Birth) Last
    3) First Birth Last

    Examples, in order:
    1) John Robert Smith (Jones)
    2) John Robert (Jones) Smith
    3) John Jones Smith

    Or you could go into a longer explanation below. In this case, you’d do your full name, then below write something like “Born [your birth name] to [parents] and adopted by [adoptive parents] at age…”

    This tells a bit of your life story, and (I can say from personal experience, because I like to visit cemeteries) it is always interesting to read the things people put on headstones, especially highlights from their lives.

  48. My parents organised a double grave and my father past away first over 20 years ago. My mother decided she wanted to be cremated and her ashes spread in various locations. We would like to put a memorial plaque on her her husband’s grave. Do we reference she was cremated, so people are aware she is not buried with her husband. I feel like we should? If so how do we say it?

  49. Hi,
    I was wondering if you had any advice or nice quotes to put on my grandmothers plaque (quite small) she is being interned with her parents as she wished.

  50. Hi Mary,

    You can if you would like to, but in my experience most people don’t. I’d suggest burying or scattering a small amount of ashes in her part of the plot, that way it would accurately portray that her remains are there. Otherwise, you could do something that hints at it, like “Though scattered far and wide, their souls are together in heaven,” or a similar sentiment.

  51. Hi there,
    Mum has now been buried with dad (who died 20 years ago) and the existing headstone (set out by mum) offers a gap for her died….aged…..to be completed. Both were grandparents but dad died before he was a great grandfather. We would like to add a plaque to acknowledge grandchildren and a great grandchild. Should the plaque say “dearly loved grandparents and great grandparents” or “dearly loved grandparents and great grandmother”? Although the later may be politically correct, posthumously both are still great grandparents right?
    Kind regards

  52. Hi Siobhan,

    Yes, I would definitely say of both “great grandparents”. Both are truly great grandparents, even if they didn’t live to see it. Hope this helps!

  53. This was a great help! My husband passed in September. I purchased a double grave so that I can be buried with him when I pass. The grave marker has my name and birth year and the year of death will be left blank of course. My dilemma is, they are asking for a few word be written about me in addition to what I have added for my husband. I may be overthinking it, but what should I add about myself on a grave marker and I’m still living???? Loving and supportive wife and mother???

  54. Hey Crystal,

    Yes, that sounds perfect. Just think – how would you like to be remembered? And of course you’ll want it to somewhat match what is on your husband’s epitaph. As in, make sure they are similar length and style, etc. I hope this helps!

  55. My mom passed and I have to figure out the engraving on her niche granite. She always signed her name with Mary Smith Brown, Smith being her maiden name. Do I include her given middle name also? Mary Louise Smith Brown?
    That was her name and I’m not sure it should be forgotten. Also, she was Mom, Grandma, Aunt, Sister, Cousin, Mother-in-Law, Wife. All those relationships were important to those listed, how many should I include without offending anyone?

  56. Hi Jane,

    Great questions! Thankfully, it’s up to you – although that can make it even more difficult to decide sometimes! Mary Smith Brown would be perfectly acceptable, if space is limited. Otherwise, you can definitely include her full name with both middle and maiden name. For a “sentiment” below the name and dates, many families put something like the list you mentioned: “Beloved Wife, Mom, Grandma, Aunt, Sister, Cousin, and Mother-in-Law.” That’s a fairly typical length, so you shouldn’t have a problem including that on the headstone inscription. If space is limited, you might consider the most immediate relationships, something like, “Wife, Mom, Grandma, beloved by all” or something like that. I hope this helps!

  57. On a headstone of a married couple which is correct…….
    Together Always and Forever or
    Together Forever and Always

  58. Hi Louise,

    Either sentiment is correct, it’s just a matter of which you prefer. I’ve heard “Always and Forever” more frequently, if that helps. Thanks!

  59. Our families are still ‘discussing’ what should be on our mother’s headstone. Our father (of us four girls) died 1966. He is buried with his parents who went after him. Mum remarried many years later. Due to how she was treated in the latter years by husband and step children has soured my sisters against using her married name on headstone at time of death. Our stepfamily changed arrangements after their father died, months after our mother, and buried him with their mother which means our mother is buried on her own. Our dilemma for the headstone is names.
    I suggested:
    Forever in our Hearts
    Doris Anne
    Swann; Bishop (nee O’Leary) – this line in small letters
    Beloved Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother
    Passed away 10 ——– 20.. aged — years
    In God’s Loving Care
    Do you have any suggestions?

  60. Hi Kath,

    These situations truly are difficult! You have our sympathies. I think your inclination against using her name at the time of death is fair; if you and your sisters are taking care of the arrangements, paying for them, and if your mother didn’t indicate a specific preference, then it’s up to you. I’d suggest using either her maiden name, her first married name, or both. As in: Doris Anne [Married] nee [Maiden]. Keep it simple!

  61. My grandparents purchased a family plot and have a large headstone with the family name of Pruett at the top. My grandparents are buried on one side. The other side has my father and his First and Middle name as well as birth and end dates. My mother also has her First and Middle name on the headstone plus her birth date. Fast forward 22 years, and after a remarriage of my mother, she passed last month. I need to get the headstone updated with her date of death (no question about that). However, I think that her remarried name (legal name at time of death) needs to be listed. How do I indicate her remarried and legal name at the time of death given that her first marriage last name is already at the top of the headstone?

  62. Hi Sarah,

    Great question! It will largely depend on the space available. You can indicate “married to [2nd husband’s name] on [wedding date]” and that would honor the 2nd marriage and imply a name change. Or perhaps something like “Mrs [new name] by marriage from 2000-2022” or something along those lines. There is no standard that I know regarding the name on a remarriage, so ultimately it would be up to you and the family on how you want to express it using the available space.

  63. Thank you so much for this site.

    In providing attribution for a quote, I have the following questions: If changing the first couple of words of the quote, would I still quote from the beginning to make it look cleaner? The word changes are to omit “some people,” and insert “she” at the beginning. Also, if including another sentence after the quote that is not part of the original quote, how would this be handled?

  64. Standard attribution is to use quotation marks when quoting exactly, and no quotations when paraphrasing. I would think that you could consider ‘tweaking’ a quote as a paraphrase, and simply attribute the quote to the author but don’t use quotation marks. I hope this helps!

  65. Thank you for the suggestions! I am wondering about punctuation on a flat gravestone. The mark-up came back with:
    Birthday – Death date

    I think it should say: WIFE, MOTHER, and GRANDMOTHER, but my brother disagrees. Also, they abbreviated October to OCT. My mom wanted things done right, so I feel like October should be spelled out, also. Can you please help?

    Thank you!

  66. Hi Jenny,

    Either of those ways are acceptable. Traditionally headstone spelling and punctuation has been abbreviated for space and because each letter adds a cost due to the engraver’s work. So the lack of punctuation and the abbreviation are pretty typical. However, if you specified what you wanted it to say, the engravers should have done it exactly as you specified without change (or at least consulted you prior to changing). Hope this helps!

  67. My father-in-law is to have his remains placed in a columbarium, and we are working on marker design. In the few examples I have seen, it appears if more than one family member is interred in the same niche, the surname goes on the top line, with given names below, but if only one person is there (as will be the case with my father-in-law), it lists the full name of the person in the standard order, not surname on top line, given below. Is there an etiquette to this and a proper way to lay out the marker? Thank you.

  68. The order of the name is up to you. But yes, you are correct – often, when the inscription is for two people, the surname will be larger and centered on the first line, with the husband’s name below on the left and the wife’s name on the right, with dates below each name. And when it is an individual, the name is often in the traditional order of first, middle, last. But again, it’s up to you how you would like the name to be displayed.

  69. I was married for 29 years, 3 children, then divorced, never remarried. I legally changed my name back to my maiden. As an only child, I will be 3rd next to my parents in a plot for 5 and my never-married daughter will be 4th, next to me.
    How should my name appear? My parent’s names are on separate but matching stones, spelled out, all caps. My widowed and remarried mother chose to not include her remarried last name on the headstone.
    How do I show my current maiden name which will show relationship to my parentage? Should married name be in parens since my daughter will be next to me? What should be the order of my name?
    1. JOHN DOE [father]
    2. JANE DOE [mother]
    3a. ANN DOE (JONES) [self]
    3b. ANN (JONES) DOE [self]
    3c. ANN DOE (JONES) DOE [self]
    4. MARY JONES [daughter]

  70. Hi Georgia,

    Ultimately it’s up to you how you would like your name to be displayed, but traditionally it’s one of these three options:
    1. Ann Jones (Doe)
    2. Ann Jones née Doe
    3. Ann Doe

    Because you want to connect to your daughter as well, I’d suggest the first or second option which includes both your married and maiden names.

  71. My Father passed away 30yrs ago and now my mom is gone she never re-married. Should I put a loving wife on her tombstone? They’re going to be next to each other in the cemetery.
    She’s a Mother, Grand Mother, and Great Grand Mother.
    Please help. Thank you.
    Mary Anne

  72. These are the titles/roles of my dad: Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Grandfather. Should they be listed in chronological order as above or in relationship once married as shown below?
    Husband, Father, Grandfather, Son, and Beother

  73. If I’m engraving an double/companion urn for a husband/wife, is there convention around the name order?
    For example, my father passed first, then my mother a few years later. So would his name and dates come first, or would the wife’s name come before the husband’s, as it does on wedding invitations?

  74. Hi Michelle,

    Great question. The traditional convention is husband, then wife. You are of course free to arrange it as you like, but that is the conventional order.

  75. My mother recently passed, and not keen on the word DIED on the headstone, would it be “went to sleep”or “fell asleep” or “closed her eyes” not sure which one sounds right.

  76. Hi Karen,

    Yes, any of those would work. You could also do B. and D.:

    B. Jan 14, 1945
    D. Mar 22, 2023

    Or simply the dates, with no indication of birth/death:

    1945 – 2023
    Jan 14, 1945 – Mar 22, 2023

    Hope this helps!

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