A guide to memorial headstone inscriptions and engravings

One of the last acts of kindness you can perform for a recently-deceased loved one is to choose some beautiful words for their memorial; something meaningful, timeless and that perhaps manages the huge task of encapsulating their spirit in just a sentence.

That’s no easy task, of course. Choosing an inscription is a delicate and thought-provoking matter; it has to be exactly right while meeting all the criteria that the churchyard or cemetery prescribes. Unless your loved one had chosen the words themselves, as some do, this process can prove stressful. Hopefully our quick guide will help you make a befitting and dignified choice.

Rules and restrictions

Before we go any further, it’s vital that you understand there can be restrictions on the type of engraving you opt for. Some churches may stipulate the style of engraving allowed in the churchyard, so it’s best to contact them in the first instance, rather than ordering something that contravenes their rules. If the memorial will be situated in a public cemetery, the local council should provide you with guidelines as to what is acceptable.

Additionally, some sites may not allow pictures, etchings or emblems, while others may block certain words. Make sure you know exactly what is allowed from the start to avoid any frustration.

The traditional route

When choosing an epitaph, many people turn to what might be considered ‘traditional’ phrases. The table below shows some of the most common phrases, roughly in order of use on a memorial:

In loving memory of…Who fell asleep on [date] aged 81Beloved mother and grandmotherDearly loved, sadly missed
Here lies…Sadly taken on [date] aged 52Dearest husband and sonTill we meet again
Rest in peace…Born [date], died [date]Dearly loved fatherRemembered always
Forever in our hearts…Passed away on [date]Cherished sonOur little angel
Gone but not forgotten…Died on [date] aged 92Much loved mother of…An inspiration to us all
In remembrance of…At rest [date] aged 79Loving father and granddadResting with those s/he loved
Memories of…[date] – [date]A faithful friend


Other sources of inspiration

A common source of inspiration is, of course, The Bible, from which there are any number of suitable passages. Churches may even insist that a Biblical reference is included in the inscription. Among those popularly used are:

  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God – Matthew 5:8
  • Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil – 23rd Psalm
  • Sleep on now, and take your rest – Matthew 26:45
  • The Lord watch between me and thee, while we are absent, one from the other – Genesis 31:49

Poetry also provides some beautiful words and while you may need to check whether there is a limit on the number of letters that is acceptable to the churchyard or actually fits on the memorial, there are lots of shorter poems or even single lines that you can use. A few examples include: ‘To have known you was a precious gift’, ‘Sweet are the memories that never fade’ and ‘Our happiness together are memories forever’.

More well-known lines of poetry might be Wordsworth’s ‘There hath pass’d away a glory from the earth’ or Moore’s ‘Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal’.

Alternatively, you might want to choose a line from a favourite song or use a fitting quote. Another option is to mention the deceased’s occupation or an accomplishment; something which they were proud of, worked hard for or were best known for.


This is the physical transferring of your message on to the memorial. There are a range of options which start at simple stencilling and end with deep engraving plus gilded finish. Obviously, the deeper the engraving, the clearer the inscription will be to read and the longer it’s likely to last. That said, any kind of gilding, enamelling or painting will naturally fade over the years and will require a reapplication. Maintaining the memorial should help retain the effect and boost the longevity of both the lettering and stone itself.


Several factors come into play when considering pricing, so it’s difficult to be precise. Every single situation is different, so it’s best to get in touch so we can discuss the specifics. We engrave by the letter, so a longer inscription would naturally cost more than a simpler one. The type of engraving also varies the price; you can choose from a sandblasted computer stencil at the lower end of the scale, right up to a raised lead. Then there’s whether you want a cut only, cut and paint, gilding, drilling or, in the case of the lead, formation and paint. There might also be implications associated with the memorial you hope to have engraved – some of the more intricate engraving techniques may not suit the stone’s finish, though we can advise you at every step of the way.

Choosing those final words can be extremely challenging, yet there is a real sense of pride which comes with creating the perfect inscription. The right words can preserve the memory of your loved one perfectly for decades, if not centuries to come.