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Cemetery Etiquette Practices

Every interaction generally has a system of rules, guidelines, or conventions that regulate social and professional behavior. As social creatures, humans create social units, and within those units are accepted rules on conduct and even legal codes or norms of behavior mandated by custom and enforced by groups. These guidelines or rules are known as etiquette. 

Did you know there are some general concepts of cemetery and headstone etiquette? What exactly is expected when it comes to grave markers and cemeteries? We discuss some of the most common conceptions. 

Headstone Etiquette

Engraving a headstone is a significant part of the burial process for you and your family and for memorializing the deceased. One of the first steps is knowing what to write or what epitaph you will choose to have engraved within the stone. Once it is engraved, changing it is relatively complex and possibly expensive. 

Another reason why it is essential to know what you will have written on a headstone, including information such as their name, date of birth, and date of death, is for record keeping. 

Some questions to help you decide what to have engraved on a headstone include: 

  • Did the deceased have any wishes or requirements regarding their headstone? 
  • Did they ever mention any designs they'd liked or would have been partial to? 
  • Were they private and may not have wished to have their maiden name, nickname, or gender included on the headstone? 
  • Were they religious, and if so, did they have a favorite prayer or quote? 
  • Did they have a favorite line from a book, poem, song, lyric, or phrase? 

  1. What is the Order of Names, and How to Add a Maiden Name?
    Should the maiden name be critical to the person who has passed, here are a few things to consider before engraving it. Is there space to include a maiden name on the headstone itself? Did the person specifically request to have their maiden name included? If so, a few ways exist to display maiden names on a monument.

    Here are some examples: 
    •First Name Middle Name née Maiden Name
    •First Name Middle Name Last Name [Maiden Name]
    •First Name Last Name née Maiden Name
    •First Name Last Name [Maiden Name]

    Regarding the etiquette of the name order, generally, it is: First, Middle, Last, or if they wish, their maiden name included: First, Middle, Last née Maiden. Additionally, a nickname can be included, and that is generally ordered as First (Nickname) Last or First (Nickname) Middle Last.

  2. Who Holds the Rights to Placing Headstones on a Grave? 
    The person who can place a headstone on a grave is the person who has a grant deed. The grant deed is a legal document proving ownership of the plot or gravesite. Anyone attempting to establish a monument in a public or private cemetery requires this deed.

  3. Headstone Information Order
    Most headstones follow a similar pattern regarding the order of information presented. While what you wish to have engraved on the tombstone is up to you, the standard arrangement that is inscribed is as follows:

    1. Parting phrase
    2. Name
    3. Date of Birth – Date of Death
    4. Epitaph

Cemetery Etiquette

Cemeteries are unique places to visit. Created as a place of memorial to those who passed, it should be a place of tranquility and quiet. Here are a few pieces of cemetery etiquette you should consider following when visiting one: 

  • Be respectful of the quiet. Do not play loud music from your car or have a loud mobile phone conversation. 
  • Keep your children with you. Keep them from yelling, rolling around on the grass, climbing, or playing on monuments. 
  • Do your best not to walk directly on a grave. Walk in between headstones, and don't stand on top of a burial place. 
  • Follow cemetery rules. Most cemeteries will have a sign near their entrance stating their hours and directions about decorations and behavior. 
  • In most cases, cemeteries are open from dawn until dusk. Try not to remain within the cemetery after dark. 
  • Do not litter. Not only does this cause the caretakers to work extra, but it also shows a lack of respect for the other families who visit the cemetery to mourn their loved ones. 
  • Should you bring a pet, please keep them leashed and always clean up after them. 
  • Follow the roadways within the cemetery, and please pay attention as you drive. There may be families or people grieving a loved one and upset and unable to pay attention. 
  • Never take photos of other people or other people's funerals.

We hope that we have been able to help you understand cemetery and headstone etiquette and have answered any questions you may have about the topic.

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