How to Pick a Headstone for Your San Diego Cemetery

If you want some help finding the right headstone for your San Diego cemetery then check out our tips for choosing a headstone.

Whether you join the 50% of American families who opt for cremation or the 50% who go the route of a traditional burial, it is your right to select a headstone that holds meaning for you.

At La Vista Memorial Park, we offer services that make planning a funeral and selecting a San Diego cemetery easier. We understand that these preparations are emotional and difficult. 

To get started, we suggest taking a look at some of your headstone options and begin to narrow down your choice.

Read on to learn more about headstones and how to select the perfect marker for your loved one.

Selecting a Type of Headstone

The first thing you will want to do is decide upon a type of headstone. There are four distinct headstone designs to choose from, including flat and raised-top flat headstones, upright headstones, and kerbed headstones.

Flat headstones or markers are small, rectangular stones that are laid flat along the ground. Raised-top flat headstones are similar in size, though the top or back end is usually higher than the bottom or front end, giving it a slanted appearance.

Upright headstones are what we call traditional headstones. They’re usually around 45″ in length and sit vertically on a thick concrete base. Kerbed headstones span the length of the casket and lay horizontally on the ground, typically accompanied by an upright headstone.

Keep in mind that cemeteries often have regulations regarding the size and type of headstone they permit. Discuss this during the planning process before you settle on your ideal headstone.

Selecting a Shape

The majority of upright headstones follow the classic arched or domed shape. However, you may consider further customization. It’s not uncommon to see upright headstones constructed in the shape of a heart, open book, or cross. 

Materials to Consider

In addition to the type of headstone you choose, you will need to consider the materials used to construct it. Options range from granite to marble to limestone and occasionally even bronze. 

Granite tends to be the best choice in terms of durability and price. In fact, we often think of marble and limestone as durable stones but they are actually soft stones, meaning that they are damaged and eroded by acid. Granite, on the other hand, is a hard stone that is acid-resistant.

While you may find some very handsome bronze headstones in some cemeteries, it is the priciest option and some cemeteries do not permit the use of it. 

Deciding on an Inscription

Many families find that deciding on an inscription for their loved one’s headstone is the hardest part. In some cases, your loved one may have specified what they wanted their headstone to say and what other elements they want their headstone to feature. However, this is not always the case.

In addition to the wording and additional features, you will need to decide on the lettering (or font) and style of engraving. Let’s take a look at all three elements of choosing your inscription.

Lettering and Engraving

If you’re choosing your lettering, pull up a Microsoft Word document and take a look at the fonts available there. Most headstones utilize Serif fonts, which include the classic Times New Roman. These fonts are easy to read and the spacing prevents the inscription from becoming worn and illegible over a short period of time.

If you’re looking for something more ornate, like a cursive font, make sure that it will transfer well to the stone. Cramped lettering is discouraged.

There are a number of ways to engrave a headstone, the most common of which is incised. Incised lettering entails a simple engraving process during which the letters are carved out of the stone.

There are also a few ways that you can use raised lettering, or lettering that appears raised. Embossed lettering involves sandblasting the background of the engraving in a manner that makes the lettering appear raised. Lead lettering involves adhering letters carved from lead to the stone so that they are tangibly raised.


There are a few key elements to a headstone’s wording. You want to include your loved one’s full name (including, if relevant, their nickname). You should also include the date of their birth and the date of their death.

Now, it’s time to decide on an epitaph. This is a short phrase that speaks to your loved one’s life or legacy. 

Think of the things most important to your loved one. You may consider pulling inspiration from religious texts, poems, or other pieces of writing that bear personal significance.

In some cases, epitaphs have more to do with you and your living family. For example, you may use an epitaph like, “Gone, but not forgotten,” or, “Loved in life and mourned in passing.” 

The length of your epitaph will likely come down to two things. The first is the size of your headstone and the second is the price. Oftentimes, engraving is priced by the letter, although the size and style of engraving of the letters will also factor in.

Additional Features

Additional features to consider are engraved photographs or significant imagery. Many people choose to engrave religious iconography, hearts, or symbols of their loved one’s work or life’s passion.

Once again, your choices here may be limited by your budget and the size of the headstone. However, it’s always possible to include a few small, final touches that will give your headstone a beautiful look.

Find the Perfect San Diego Cemetery

Picking a headstone is one of the most difficult parts of planning a funeral or burial. There are a lot of factors to consider and we hope we’ve made your decision-making process easier.

La Vista Memorial Park is here to help you plan the perfect funeral and lay your loved one to rest in a beautiful San Diego cemetery. Contact us so that together, we can begin making arrangements as soon as possible.