5 Tips on Choosing a Headstone for your loved one

by | Nov 20, 2023 | Blogs | 0 comments

Choosing a headstone for a family member who has passed away is a thoughtful and difficult task, especially when thinking about their final resting place. I’m James McKeon, the owner of McKeon Memorials in County Laois, and in this guide, I’m going to share five important tips to help you make the right decisions when picking a headstone.

We’ll explore everything from understanding the rules at local cemeteries to figuring out the best headstone shape, material, and words to put on it. We aim to give you clear guidance so that together, we can make choices that create a meaningful and respectful tribute to your loved one.

#1. Always check your local cemetery regulations

When embarking on the journey of choosing a headstone, the first step is to familiarise yourself with the local cemetery regulations. In Stradbally, Co. Laois for example, the sacred grounds like Curraclone Cemetery, Holy Trinity The Rock Churchyard, Oakvale Cemetery, Oughaval Old Graveyard, Saint Patrick Churchyard Cemetery, and Timogue Church Cemetery hold unique rules and guidelines.

It’s crucial to obtain a certificate of permission before proceeding with the headstone installation. These certificates ensure that your chosen headstone adheres to the specific regulations of the burial grounds.

Local rules and regulations may cover aspects such as headstone size, design, and material. Being aware of these rules will save you from potential issues and ensure a smooth process. Remember, every cemetery has different regulations, so it’s essential to do your research beforehand.

#2. Decide about the headstone shapes

As you navigate the heartfelt process of choosing a headstone, our second piece of advice focuses on the diverse array of shapes available. Here are the popular choices of headstone shapes:

Upright Headstones:

  • Rectangular: Traditional and classic, symbolising stability and permanence.
  • Square: Represents strength and equality.
  • Round or Oval: Signifies eternity and the cycle of life.

Slant Markers:

  • Slant or Wedge: Modern and sleek, offers a contemporary look.

Flat Headstones:

  • Flush or Lawn-Level: Simple and subtle, often chosen for its unobtrusive appearance.


  • Obelisk: Represents a strong connection to ancient history and often symbolises a connection to a higher power.
  • Column: Symbolises strength and support.

Special Shapes:

  • Heart: Represents love and compassion.
  • Cross: A religious symbol for Christianity.
  • Butterfly: Symbolises transformation and the cycle of life.
  • Book: Represents knowledge or the Book of Life.

Custom Shapes:

  • Some headstones can be customised to unique shapes or designs that hold special significance to the deceased or their family.

The choice of proper shapes and sizes and the headstone design is a personal reflection of the individual being commemorated. I encourage you to consider the unique qualities and preferences of your loved one such as his/her personality, interests, and beliefs, allowing the chosen shape to serve as a lasting symbol of their essence and the memories shared within the embrace of these cherished remembrance spaces.

#3. Choose the material for your headstone

Different Types of headstones

Natural Granite

Natural Granite is a common type of stone used for memorial headstones in Ireland. It is valued for its durability, variety of colours, and ability to retain its polished finish that stands the test of time. While Limestone and Marble are also used, Natural Granite tends to be the preferred choice due to its resilience and suitability for the Irish climate. Limestone is appreciated for its timeless elegance, but its softer nature may make it less common for outdoor monuments.


Limestone is often picked for memorial headstones because it has a classic and timeless look. Its calm and simple appearance makes it a dignified choice for remembering someone. People like using limestone because it’s not too hard, making it easy to carve and add personalised designs. It can be polished for a shiny finish or left unpolished for a more matte look.

While limestone is liked for its appearance and carving possibilities, it’s important to know it’s a bit softer than other stones like granite, so it might wear down a bit over time.


Its smooth surface provides an elegant canvas for intricate engravings and inscriptions, creating a sophisticated and timeless tribute. The choice of marble may also be influenced by cultural preferences or personal aesthetics, as it exudes a sense of prestige and reverence. However, it’s important to note that marble is relatively softer compared to other stone types like granite, which may impact its long-term durability in outdoor settings.

Each material has its own unique characteristics and aesthetic appeal. Consider factors such as weather resistance and ease of maintenance when making your decision.

At McKeon Memorials, we ethically and sustainably source natural granite, limestone, and marble from Ireland, Europe, & the World so that we can create enduring tributes that honour your loved one with dignity and respect.

#4. When Choosing a Headstone – Follow Headstone Inscription Etiquette

Here are some general headstone inscription etiquette guidelines in Ireland:

  1. Respect Religious Beliefs: Ireland has a diverse religious landscape, including Catholicism, Protestantism, and other faiths. Ensure that the inscription aligns with the religious beliefs of the deceased and their family.
  2. Family Names: Traditionally, family names are prominent on Irish headstones. Including the family name in a prominent position helps tie together generations and maintain a sense of continuity.
  3. Dates of Birth and Death: It is customary to include the dates of birth and death on the headstone. This information provides a chronological perspective and is considered a fundamental part of the inscription.
  4. Celtic Symbols and Designs: Ireland has a rich Celtic heritage, and many headstones feature Celtic symbols or designs. Common symbols include the Celtic cross, Claddagh, shamrocks, and Celtic knots. These symbols often represent themes such as eternity, loyalty, and interconnectedness.
  5. Quotes and Verses: Including a meaningful quote, verse, or line from a favourite poem is a popular way to personalise a headstone. It should reflect the personality, beliefs, or interests of the deceased.

Inscriptions on headstones are a timeless way to express love and remembrance. When it comes to headstone inscription etiquette in Ireland, it’s important to be mindful of cultural norms and sensitivities. Some common inscriptions include:

  • “In Loving Memory Of”
  • “Rest in Peace”
  • “Forever in Our Hearts”

While these phrases are widely accepted, consider adding a personal touch or unique quote that reflects the individuality of your loved one. Ensure that the chosen inscription respects the cultural and religious background.

#5. Choose the Right Supplier

When it comes to crafting a memorial headstone, the importance of selecting a reliable and experienced headstone maker in Laois cannot be overstated. At McKeon Memorials we proudly extend an invitation to consider us as your trusted choice when choosing a headstone for your loved one. With a century of expertise in this art, we recognize the challenges that can arise in this process. It is within this depth of understanding and skill that you can place confidence and trust in the service and care offered by McKeon Memorials.

We offer more than just headstones; we provide insights, a skill set, and support that have been honed and cherished for generations. As you navigate this important decision, we want you to feel the comfort and certainty of choosing well—for yourself, your family, and, most importantly, your loved ones. Their final resting place, marked by a fitting memorial crafted by us, will serve as a timeless prompt for fond recollections, and appropriate prayers, and a place for you to visit them for time immemorial.

I hope the 5 tips on choosing a headstone have helped you in these difficult times. If you live in Laois and nearby counties such as Kildare, Carlow, Kilkenny, Offaly, or Tipperary and require a bespoke headstone. Feel free to contact me, James McKeon, to discuss your specific needs, explore various options, or arrange a personal meeting. We are here to assist you in the next stage of selecting your family headstone or designing a bespoke memorial that truly reflects the unique essence of your loved ones.