Pallbearers, Headstones, and Epitaphs

In some funeral ceremonies, the casket is carried to and from the place where the ceremony is held—and sometimes again carried from a vehicle to a burial site. The covering traditionally draped over a casket is called a pall, and the people who carry the casket are called pallbearers.

If you envision a ceremony in which your casket will be carried, you can name the people you would wish to serve as pallbearers. Close friends and relatives are common choices. While women were not historically named as pallbearers, there is no logical reason to exclude them.

Your choices need only be physically able to lift and carry. And factor in that some people's psychological makeup may make them better or worse choices for the job.

The number of pallbearers usually ranges from four to eight, but you can name as many or as few as you wish. If you know of no one to nominate—or know just a couple of people you want to name— a mortuary should be able to provide people to help.

Transportation to Burial Site

You may have a preference about the type of vehicle that will carry your body to the burial site or cremation facility, usually after a funeral ceremony. This might be a horse-drawn carriage, a favorite antique car, or a stretch limousine.

If you have selected a mortuary to handle some of your arrangements, it may have only one type of vehicle available. If the vehicle customarily provided is not what you would want for yourself, check to be sure the mortuary will allow you to provide your own—and be sure that it will not add its transportation charge to your costs. If this is an important issue to you, check with the mortuary you selected earlier and, if its arrangements about transportation are not satisfactory, shop for another mortuary.

Headstones, Monuments, and Burial Markers

Headstones and monuments are upright grave markers (picture the traditional, rounded tombstone), generally used with in-ground burials in a cemetery. In contrast, burial markers are flat and flush to the ground or other surface (picture a plaque), and may be used with an in-ground burial or affixed to a vault above the ground. Burial markers are often used in mausoleums, columbariums, and family crypts. Also, because of space constraints and maintenance considerations, many cemeteries now prefer burial markers for graves in the ground.

Headstones, monuments, and burial markers come in an almost endless array of shapes and sizes, from the common tombstone to elaborate sculptures and designs. For example, a headstone or burial marker might be embossed with flowers, figures or a photograph. It might bear the logo of a fraternal organization or a military insignia. New "green" cemeteries may use simple stones or just a planting of wildflowers to mark a burial site. Designs are limited only by the constraints of cemetery policy, the craft of the builder and your budget. (An Internet search for "burial monument" or "grave marker" will turn up numerous providers to help you compare styles and prices.)

Traditional headstones and monuments are most often made from marble or granite. Both stones come in a variety of colors and shades. With granite, the darkest shades provide the best long-term resistance to erosion. Burial markers are usually made from stone or from various metals—such as steel, bronze, or copper.

Headstones and burial markers start at about $500 and run into the thousands. An individual mausoleum or crypt costs about $20,000, and a family mausoleum (containing eight to ten caskets) can cost several million dollars.


Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of making final arrangements is choosing the words that you wish to appear on your burial marker.

These words are known as your epitaph. Your epitaph can be extremely simple, stating only the years you were born and died—or it can reflect your personality by including a witty saying, favorite phrase, or poem.