When caring for the remains of a loved one, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the many choices and decisions that must be made. While many people start by dealing with the hundreds of details surrounding the funeral, eventually, they will also have to make decisions about the burial, including the locations of the gravesite and the headstone or memorial marker. 

To be honest, not a lot of people are familiar with the details of burying a loved one and setting up a memorial marker. Often, people come into our office or visit https://monuments.com, wondering what to ask for. Naturally, we get a lot of questions about headstones. Many people need help deciding how to design them, and while most people tend to concentrate most of their effort on designing the front, our staff is frequently asked if anything should go on the back.

In order to truly answer this question, however, it's important first to understand the historical purpose of a headstone.


The first gravestones were used in the late medieval period in Europe. They were traditionally made from stone or wood and placed on the grave's foot. Headstones were typically only used to mark the graves of important people such as kings and other nobility. 

When these people passed, they were buried so that the head of the body was facing east. This was originally done before the arrival of Christianity because of pagan beliefs in the Middle Ages that resurrection would happen when the sun rose. After Christianity became the dominant religion, the tradition took a long time to pass away. In fact, today, many cemeteries still follow this tradition. Still, it is becoming increasingly common for the direction of the body and the placement of the headstone to align with whatever is most aesthetically pleasing.

What Goes On The Front Of A Headstone?

Traditionally, headstones are usually inscribed with the name of the person who died, the dates of the deceased's birth and death, and a message from the family known as an epitaph. These memorial markers are usually made of granite or other types of heavy material. It's not unusual to see headstones that mark the graves of two or more people, such as a double headstone marking the shared grave of a married couple or a mother and child.

Today, it is becoming more and more common to get more creative with headstones. Many people are choosing unusual shapes and sizes for their headstones, and plenty more people are choosing to include information beyond the traditional name, dates, and epitaph. Modern technology has allowed adding elements such as electronic picture frames, etched photographs, and a lot more.

The Other Side Of A Headstone

Traditionally, nothing was written on the back of a headstone. These markers took days or weeks to carve with manual tools, so markings such as epitaphs were kept as brief as possible. Furthermore, placing carvings on both sides of the headstone had the potential to break or crack the marker. When headstones were made of wood, carving both sides was next to impossible. Stone headstones could easily crack if carved on both sides and obtaining a new piece of granite was often prohibitively expensive.

In fact, there are some scholars who believe that these physical and technological limitations were the main reason why headstones and grave markers were so limited in the information they provided about a person's life. A large headstone or even a monument or statue provided more room for more information, but the cost meant they were limited to the nobility. Many towns or villages would create a group headstone to honor a group of people who died in a war or natural disaster. This allowed the costs to be shared among the entire village.

With today's technology, however, it is possible to carve a headstone in a much smaller period of time. Granite slabs are comparatively much cheaper and can therefore be cut thicker. Lasers can be programmed to ensure that the stone does not crack if cut on both sides. That means that as long as there are no restrictions from the gravesite or cemetery, it is possible to carve both sides of a headstone. 

What Can Be Added To The Back Of A Headstone?

Just about anything a client requests can be added to the front or back of a headstone. Most headstones still have names, dates of death and birth, and a short epitaph carved on the front. The back of the headstone can contain just about anything, but here are a few suggestions or ideas of what to include:

A poem, religious verse, or favorite quote - The back has much more room to include a longer selection than what usually fits on the front. 

Pictures Or Photos - Think beyond just including a simple headshot of your loved one. Some people use this space to include a larger version of a favorite photo. Another popular idea is to include a college of favorite photos. Other people use this area to engrave photos of the deceased's family or other beloved people.

Accomplishments And Achievements - Use this space to tell other people about the important events of your loved one's life. Some families can design a headstone to be more like a monument or statue to include this information.

If you need assistance with selecting a headstone, choosing its design, or making other decisions regarding your own final arrangements or the arrangements for a loved one, give us a call. We have years of experience helping people with these decisions, and we look forward to meeting with you.