Home Uncategorized Husband and Wife Headstones – What to Know

Husband and Wife Headstones – What to Know

by Virginia Fidler
couple headstones feature

Husband and wife headstones are still in use today. Despite an increase in divorce cases, some couples are intended to be together for a long time. In 2021, Ralph and Dorothy Kohler celebrated their 86th wedding anniversary, as the U.S. Congress officially declared them the longest-married couple in the country.

Sometimes, people get lucky and enjoy many years together. We spend our lives with the one person we enjoy doing things with, talking to, confiding in, and making plans with. It’s a rare gift. Imagine how lonely life would be if we didn’t have that. It is what we all hope for.

However, eventually, losing a spouse is inevitable. The person who was at our side for decades is gone. The future we planned is no more. We’ll discuss dealing with loss later in this article.

Are Husband and Wife Headstones a Good Idea?

Gravestones for couples is not an unusual idea. Imagine being together for decades, only to be separated in death. A husband and wife headstone is a tribute to a loving couple and a means for them to remain together in eternity. These gravestones can be designed any way the family chooses. Many have an artistic design; others share a moving inscription.

Gravestones have a long history of honoring loved ones who have passed on. They symbolize an official mourning site, a place where friends and family can gather to mourn and pay tribute. Ancient Greeks used marble headstones, which evolved into wood and sandstone. For today’s headstone, granite or bronze are the material of choice.

What to Put on a Couple’s Headstone

If it’s surviving children or other relatives making plans for a wake, addressing the grave and headstone comes soon after writing the obituary.

Companion Grave Markers allow for two people to share a text and image, as many other headstone dealers do. The couple shared a home and belongings while alive. It seems natural that they should share a final resting place. While a forward-thinking couple may preplan the details together, the definitive decision will be made by the surviving spouse.

While a companion headstone is shared, it can – and should – reflect the individual interest of each. For example, if one of them was a baseball fan, his or her side of the marker may exhibit a bat. If the spouse was a gardener, a bloom on that side of the market is a perfect design. A shared design of a favorite item or place can also be displayed. Intertwining rings with their wedding date can serve as a memorial of their love for each other.

The more decisions the couple makes while still alive, the more of their wishes can be honored. More on that in a bit.

Types of Two-Person Headstones

A double headstone is larger than a single headstone, and that size difference is generally reflected in the cost. There is more surface, more text, and more design when memorializing two people. These headstones are generally also heavier. Some cemeteries have rules regarding double headstones, so it is a good idea to check before making any final decisions.

husband and wife headstones
Image Credit: “Bullard grave” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Mellicious

As a rule, the double headstone is created after the first spouse dies, so many details will be made by the surviving spouse. It isn’t until after the second spouse dies that the blank headstone is filled in with necessary details such as dates of birth and death.

Generally, the husband is buried on the left side of the grave; the wife is placed on the right side. People are free to do whatever they wish, however.

The predominant materials used for double headstones are granite and bronze. The reason for their popularity is that they stay fresh without needing an abundance of maintenance and cleaning.  

Both granite and bronze headstones can look beautiful and suitable. The bronze material may develop a green sheen over time, but not enough to distract from its sophisticated looks. Bronze headstones are usually made in shades of brown, verde green, or an antique shade of green. These are shades recognized and accepted by cemeteries.

There is a greater choice of colors for granite headstones, from black, gray, red, green, blue, to pink. The rarer the color, the more expensive the headstone will be. Gray and red are common colors and are the most affordable granite headstones. Granite weighs more, is less expensive than bronze, and is not as useful to thieves. It is a prestigious stone that has been used for making headstones for a long time.

How Much Husband and Wife Headstones Cost

A bronze headstone will cost more than a granite one. It is very durable and attractive, which can subject them to theft. Bronze markers frequently have a removable plaque with the name, date of birth, and date of death of the deceased. Such a plaque can be used to add the necessary information of the remaining spouse when he or she dies.

There is little difference in the cost of engravings for either the granite or the bronze headstone.

Couples’ headstones are available in a number of different types: slant, upright, or bevel. A bevel headstone is a vertical marker with only a slight rise that is so low on the ground it looks more horizontal. Obviously, the type of marker will influence the price.

  1. A double bevel marker can cost between $850 to $1,300.
  2. A double slant marker will start at around $1,200 and go up to $1,900.
  3. A double upright marker can cost anywhere from $1,550 to $3,100. The cost of a lower upright marker will range from $1,600 and $2,350.
blank gravestone
A blank headstone ready to be engraved.

Will a Headstone Ever Need to be Replaced?

The legacy of a beloved dead person should live forever. Unfortunately, that is not the case with headstones. Wear and tear due to the elements is not unusual, and many people choose to replace the damaged headstones of their beloved, or perhaps they want to change the inscription.

Here are some common reasons for replacing a headstone:

  1. Headstones can sink over time. This situation can be handled by placing it on a base and raising its height (high heels for headstones). Replacing it is also an option.
  2. Inscriptions will eventually fade to the point of becoming illegible. For the family, the inscription is a crucial part of the grave and headstone as it expresses their feelings for the deceased. Cleaning the headstone is an option. If that proves to be inadequate, the entire headstone can be restored with a new and legible inscription.
  3. Headstones are not indestructible, especially in harsh weather. Harsh heat, hail, or ice can cause them to crack and chip. A damaged headstone is naturally upsetting to the family. Some damages can be repaired, but if not, the family may decide to replace the entire headstone.

What Happens When a Second Spouse Dies

blank couple headstone
His and hers headstone not yet engraved.

Can you add a name to a headstone if the surviving spouse remarries? Depending on the cemetery rules, there are few limitations to how many names can be on a headstone. It is not unusual for a deceased to be buried between two spouses, but everyone needs to feel comfortable with the idea. This probably includes family members.

How will the family of the second spouse feel about visiting a grave that includes the first spouse, and vice-versa? Emotions can run high in such an event.

If a deceased is ultimately buried between both spouses, the headstone inscription would need to be redone, or a brand new headstone needs to be purchased.

Maiden Names on Headstones

There are no rules about adding a maiden name to husband and wife headstones. Inclusion may depend on the following:

  1. Is the maiden name prominent and well-known?
  2. Was his or her heritage/name important to the deceased?
  3. Is there room for a maiden name on the headstone?
  4. The surrender of a maiden name originated in English Common Law. When a woman lost her rights after marriage; she lost her name as well. Perhaps restoring those “rights” and giving a woman back her name, even in death, is worth thinking about.

Discuss Funeral and Headstone While Still Alive

funeral planning

Death can happen at any time. It is an uncomfortable subject for most people, but it is best to be prepared for the unexpected. Death is a time of confusion and grief for the survivors. If anyone has specific ideas for his or her funeral or headstone, it is best discussed while still alive. This can avoid unnecessary arguments and hard feelings.

  1. If the inscription and name on the headstone is important, make that clear while alive and ensure that the surviving loved ones approve. It is the survivors that will be visiting the grave; they should feel comfortable with the inscription and engravings.
  2. Discuss details with a funeral staff.
  3. Make sure whatever type of headstone or inscription you desire is permitted by the cemetery.
  4. Keep in mind that the closest relative, usually a spouse, will be making the ultimate decision. While still alive, the owner of the grave owns the plot deed.
  5. It is while still alive that a couple can discuss what to do about a second spouse. Do all agree that a second spouse can be included? This will likely involve a new headstone for three people. Most cemeteries do not limit the number of names on a headstone, but everyone should be in agreement on this issue.

The more issues that are settled while alive, the less frustration there will be following a death.

Losing a Spouse is Difficult

woman grieving at grave

Mourning the loss of a spouse is difficult. People try to cheer up the survivor, but life is rarely the same again. The mourning process is different for everyone, and there is no right or wrong way to mourn. Many spouses feel guilty for being the survivor. Others may fluctuate between numbness, anger, and fear.

Signs of Grieving

Many survivors have difficulty sleeping, find it hard to focus, and show little interest in food. Some days will be better than others. There are some actions to take that can prove helpful.

A Support System

Negative emotions, such as grief, require an outlet. A support system that is there for the grieving survivor can be a bridge to sanity. It is a way of releasing pain and sharing memories with others who knew the deceased. They are also grieving and understand. It is critical to acknowledge all the negative feelings and pain. To keep from becoming overwhelmed, a reliable support system can be a genuine lifeline. Sharing cherished memories with those who knew the deceased can help. That includes funny anecdotes and sharing a chuckle.

Grief Counseling

grief counseling therapy session

Mourning is normal. When there is no end to the grief, there may be a problem with depression. A licensed counselor can help work through the pain and necessary stages of grief.

Self-Care

During times of adversity, self-care is not a luxury; it becomes a necessity. Both our mind and our body are affected by the overwhelming grieving process, which can seriously affect our health.

A grieving person may not feel like doing the following, but making an attempt is crucial:

  1. Eat well. Nutrition matters in maintaining bodily health
  2. Exercise.
  3. Get plenty of sleep.
  4. Go see a movie or have a nice dinner out.
  5. Indulge in a manicure or pedicure.

Don’t Make Important Decisions Immediately

The death of a spouse will bring on turbulence of emotions at a time when there are major changes in your life. This can involve the sale of a house, changing investments, keeping or quitting one’s job, etc. These are decisions best made rationally instead of emotionally.

If possible, postpone any life-changing decisions until you are able to handle them.

Spend Time With Friends

Good friends can be a lifeline. Spend time with them doing things that will keep your mind off your grief for a while. There is no need to feel guilty for enjoying yourself. Being active can be emotionally very beneficial. When not with friends, volunteer time to a good cause, join a church group, bowling league, or game group. Learn a new language. It’s important to keep active.

Chances are, when you were married, your friends were other couples. In some cases, being single may change that, as it can feel awkward navigating solo in a world made up of twos. Use this time to create a new social life that includes new friends.

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