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3 questions to ask before selecting a headstone design

Photo of headstones

Photo of headstones

Headstones serve as a permanent memorial of a lost loved one. Deciding on a design for the headstone is challenging, the process is sometimes complicated by the need to meet the rules and regulations of a cemetery. In some instances, if the headstone does not meet the standards set by the cemetery, modifications must be made. To avoid this unfortunate situation, here are a few questions to ask when discussing the regulations.

What are the requirements for upright headstones?

Your family has the choice between an upright, slanted or flat headstone to memorialize your loved one. Upright headstones can sometimes have special regulations attached to them. For instance, some cemeteries have height restrictions in place for the upright stones.

Before ordering a headstone installation, find out what the restrictions are for upright stones if you and your family are planning to select one. In addition to restrictions, you need to know if there are special fees to consider.

Are unique designs allowed?

More families are turning to non-traditional forms of memorializing their loved ones, such as a commemorative bench. If you and your family are considering a one-of-a-kind design, you need to work with both the cemetery and the headstone dealer to ensure that the design is acceptable.

Before meeting with the cemetery officials, it is a good idea to discuss a design with the dealer first. The dealer can not only aid with finding the right design, but is also aware of many of the restrictions of cemeteries in the area and can offer advice on how to modify the design to fit the regulations of the cemetery in which your loved one is laid to rest.

Is painting of the headstone allowed?

Some cemeteries prohibit the use of paint on headstones. In those instances, working with a headstone dealer who has experience in the engraving process is important. The dealer can ensure that the engraving is deep enough that the words on the surface stand out without compromising the integrity of the stone.

If painting is allowed, find out if there are restrictions on the color of paint that is used. White and black paint are commonly used for headstone painting, but if your family desires another color, there could be a rule forbidding it.

Contact Columbia Gardens Memorials in Arlington on 703-527-7774 to learn more about designing and installing headstone memorials. We have experience in not only custom designing, engraving, and installing headstones that meet the needs of bereaved families; we are also well versed in meeting the rules and regulations of local cemeteries, throughout the greater Washington, D.C. area.

Photo Attribution: Headstones by Valerie Everett licensed under Creative commons 5


COVID-19 Update

We are continuing to practice social distancing and following CDC guidelines, to protect our community and staff. However, we are open and available to serve you. Todd and our engravers are back on premises working and we are accepting appointments during our normal operating hours. To schedule an appointment with us please call our office at (703) 527-7774 or email us at

Thank you for your understanding during this time. – The Columbia Gardens Memorials Staff