Memorial Inscription Ideas: How to Choose the Perfect Epitaph

Among the many decisions we make when planning a funeral, headstones and memorials require careful thought. A memorial marks a place which loved ones will visit for quiet contemplation and connection with the deceased for years to come. We consider the headstone’s shape, material and style with this in mind. A unique inscription is a message intended to channel this contemplation, acting as a reminder of the life and character left behind. In this article we share the ways people gather ideas for bespoke inscriptions, to help you decide. 

headstone inscriptions ideas should be special

Choosing a Memorial Inscription

Traditionally, headstone inscriptions consist of a few meaningful words, personal to the deceased, their family and their close friends. These words are commonly presented on the front of the memorial, but some opt for a longer quotation, even extending the text on the back or sides of a headstone to make use of the space.

Unfortunately, the length of an inscription often depends on your budget. While some stonemasons engrave up to 80 letters for free, costs can be as high as £2.00 per character for a new memorial. It’s a good idea to get a number of quotes before settling.

For a lasting and poignant goodbye, some engravers will add headstone inscriptions to parts that will be below ground level. Even though no one can read it, family and close friends will know the message exists, a private expression of love.

Headstone Inscription Ideas

Whether the memorial is a traditional headstone, a bench or a tree, any kind of grave marker can bear an inscription. These may include engraved epitaphs, religious quotes and even poems. The value of these will depend upon your particular values. If you are making a funeral plan for yourself, it is a good idea to communicate your desired inscription, or a few ideas, to your family. 

Religious Quotations

Personalised Inscriptions are not a feature of grave markers in all cultures or religious practices, and are not commonly associated with Islamic and Jewish funeral rites. In Christian cultures, many find that religious quotations make meaningful inscriptions, helping loved ones find strength and comfort in their faith. Whatever your faith, religious texts regarding death can help you process some of the difficult feelings brought about by grief, and are worth considering. A good stonemason will be able to offer headstone engravings in Hebrew and Arabic, or include religious symbology such as a Star of David.

Common inscriptions taken from the Bible include:

  • ‘Sleep on now, and take your rest.’ Matthew 26:45
  • ‘He shall receive in the world to come eternal life.’ Mark 10:30
  • ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ Luke 12:13
  • ‘He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life.’ John 3:16

Whether you choose from the Bible or another religious text, calling on faith can be reassuring when deciding between headstone inscription ideas.

collect headstone inscriptions ideas

Poetic Memorial Inscriptions

Poetry offers a wealth of succinct phrases to describe death, life, grief and comfort, and is a great place to search for headstone inscription ideas. You may choose lines from a favourite poem, or one which captures the feelings still held for the deceased. There is no right or wrong decision here, but only choose something that feels right. 

Popular poems to choose lines from include:

For further ideas, this article on funeral poems from our sister company may be helpful. While a whole poem may be too lengthy to include, most have a line or two which crystallizes the meaning of the rest. Look for the moments, images or phrases which speak to you most to find those that work as a stand-alone inscription.

memorial inscriptions ideas to last

Personal Sayings and Epitaphs

For some, a truly unique epitaph spoken from the heart can make a beautiful headstone inscription. You may choose to gather with family and friends to discuss the best phrase to celebrate the life and personality of the person missed. It may be a phrase describing the essence of the person, their life and impact on others, or it may be a saying of theirs that guided the way they lived. Consider favourite authors, personal values and treasured memories for ideas.

Epitaphs may include phrases such as:

  • ‘A beautiful life’
  • ‘Our dear Mum’
  • ‘A joy to all who knew him’
  • ‘A light among the shadows’
  • ‘One day at a time’

Personal quotes are a beautifully quirky way to remember your loved one. Perhaps written by them before their death, these may be an insightful quip or a mark of support and solidarity. If this is something you are considering for your own memorial, discuss it with your loved ones so that they understand your idea.

There are many different options should you need alternative inspiration and something with a more personal touch. Whatever you choose should clearly depict your loved one’s memory, remaining in line with your chosen burial site regulations.

Engraved by Bannocks – this inscription contains song lyrics

Unique headstone inscription ideas:

Song lyrics can be very insightful. You could choose to engrave the lyrics of a favourite song or artist. Alternatively, if the deceased was a musician themselves, a heartfelt option would be to inscribe their own songs’ lyrics into their headstone.

Famous quotes are perfect if your loved one felt an affinity to a specific actor, musician, or author.

Images can often communicate more than words are able. This could be a portrait, or if they were an artist, a piece of their own work. You might also choose imagery symbolising love, hope, freedom or rest.

Things to Consider when Choosing a Headstone Inscription

Rules for Inscriptions

It is a good idea to check what restrictions might be in place regarding memorial inscriptions. Depending on the intended location of the memorial, it is usual for a vicar to have the final decision on inscriptions. In Church of England churchyards, the regulations are decided by your local Diocese, so these are worth bearing in mind. The Anglican Diocese of Birmingham, for example, advises that additional words should be tactful, consistent with Christian scripture and doctrine and avoid drawing comparison of any sort with others buried in the churchyard. 

Gathering with friends and family to discuss

Choosing an inscription is sometimes easier to do when surrounded by family and close friends. Deciding together can provide space for advice and support, creating an opportunity for everyone to be involved in creating a lasting memorial.

Getting the Best Price

In this difficult time, you want to make sure you know what your options are. Shopping around different stonemasons and engravers in your area can be a good way to understand what is included in their price list. Ask retailers to clearly explain to you what each price covers so there are no surprises. It is worth considering that there may be additional costs for images and inscriptions on your chosen headstone. Generally, extra fees include additional sandblasted designs, photo plaques and extra letters. Be prepared to ask for a detailed quote from a number of retailers to ensure you make an informed decision.

Memorial Inscriptions

Ideas for memorial inscriptions come from a desire to create a lasting reminder of our love for our deceased, physically beside their resting place. These inscriptions can be one of the most important ways for us to heal ourselves and feel comforted, each time we visit a loved one. 

memorial inscriptions ideas can come from religion, literature or life

A Lasting Memorial

Choosing between memorial inscription ideas can be a difficult task for those who have lost someone. Make sure to seek support if you are struggling. It can be a good idea to note down what you want for yourself in your will. Choosing inscriptions can lead to a wonderful discovery of the swathes of literature which explore what it means to be human. The right headstone inscription can convey a timeless message to your family and friends, to guide them whenever they think of you.


This article was created with Ingeniums.