A final word, written in stone
Like caskets, grave markers (also called tombstones, gravestones or grave memorials) are another expensive feature of funerals. Unlike other expenses, however, there is little criticism concerning the cost of tombstones. The time and material put into a grave marker ensures that each one is a truly customized and durable memorial, worth the money invested. However, you do need to be aware of cemeteries that sell gravestones as part of their service, as they limit consumer choice and prevent you from shopping around.
Tombstones are usually carved from heavy granite, and can be shaped in a way personalized to the deceased. You can find deals on grave markers by looking around, both locally and over the internet. The internet provides a simple way for tombstone makers to keep costs down, as they don't need to provide a showroom or samples (photos online are all that is required). As is the case with other online vendors, these services pass the savings onto the consumer. Designing a gravestone online can also be a great way to get a preview of your grave marker before you buy it.
Headstones can be made from a number of different materials. Granite is considered the most durable stone, and it has varying value depending on the color and place of origin. Other natural stones, such as slate, are also very durable.
Monuments can also be made out of metals or metal alloys such as bronze. Any monument can be engraved.
Sandstone is one of the weakest materials you can choose, and won't withstand the elements as well as either metal or granite.
In 2004, Robert Barrows filed a patent for his method of integrating memorial video of the deceased into a tombstone. When someone pushes a button on one of these tombstones, a video created by the deceased before their death begins to play. Barrows calls his invention the Video Enhanced Grave Marker (VEGM). The reliability and durability of this technology is still unproven, and you may find that some family members think this type of memorial is tacky. Most people prefer to engrave a picture or expression in the grave marker, rather than including a video.
If you're looking to personalize a tombstone with something unusual or controversial, a good engraver may try to talk you out of it - knowing that the death of a loved one can skew a person's judgment. You might want to consider taking this advice, because it can be costly and time-consuming to try and replace a grave marker, if you later decide you'd prefer a traditional memorial.