How do I into headstones/gravestones/grave markers?
January 8, 2019 2:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the NYC area, and my father's grave is in Parlin, NJ. He was buried in February of last year and we've yet to order a gravestone for the site. What would our process for getting one made and placed be? None of us have any experience with this. Specific requirements and questions below the fold.

-We are Chinese, so we'd need there to be Chinese on the gravestone; can this be done by basically anyone or would we need to find a company that specifically deals with our population?
-The funeral director at the parlor we used said something to the effect that the ground is too cold to put a gravestone on and we'd need to wait until it gets warmer. Is this a thing?
-Any specific recommendations are also welcome.
posted by coolname to Shopping (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don’t have answers to your other questions, but growing up in New England, I’ve for sure been told that the ground is too frozen for headstones at certain times.
posted by greermahoney at 2:34 PM on January 8

This company is clear on the other side of the country, but Colma which is a city south of San Francisco has the distinction of being a city with more dead residents than living because of all the cemeteries so there is a lot of expertise here. They have examples of various stones done with Korean, Chinese, etc. because of our large Asian population.

However, the site where your father is buried may have specific rules about what type of gravestones can be used. Some don't allow standing stones, only flat memorials because it makes maintenance (mowing) easier. I would contact the cemetery and see if they can give you a referral to a company--or, Acme would probably ship. The stones take a while to produce, so they could be working on it until the ground thaws.

Cost varies dramatically depending on what material, how many words, if you want a picture, etc. We received a free headstone for my father because he served in the US Military. You don't get a lot of choice of what it looks like. We paid for my mother's headstone and it was flat and fairly simple and was under $1,000 with installation if I recall correctly.
posted by agatha_magatha at 2:54 PM on January 8

Regarding the Chinese on the headstone, headstone producers that do computerized etching or engraving should be able to do this in principle - you would give them a fixed file of what you want put on (I think typically an AutoCAD PLT file), and then they just run it through the computer the same as if they were putting on say, a picture of him.

The downside of this, is that, if they can't actually read hanzi, they would be able to do zero proofreading or layout work - you would either need to take responsibility for that yourself or hire a third party calligrapher or designer to do so.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:54 PM on January 8

If you haven't yet, do check with the manager of the site where he is interred. Some cemeteries have specific policies for size and/or style of headstone. You will need to coordinate installation with them, and they are likely to have a recommendation for someone to make the headstone for you - they may even require you to use a specific fabricator.
posted by AliceBlue at 4:58 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]

I’m Chinese AND recently arranged a headstone.

We spoke to the office at the cemetery. They had a couple of people they could recommend. There is a Chinese section at our cemetery so they probably dealt with the same few suppliers a lot. Failing that, Chinese newspapers or just google.

The stone people will be able to help you design the layout etc and ours could computer generate a picture of the headstone. Ours was superimposed onto a photo taken at the burial site so we could see exactly what it would look like. Be specific, don’t assume anything, eg we didn’t ask how they’d finish the sides so turned out they were just plain concrete.

We made a couple of design changes by email. Deposit upfront, rest after installation. Installation needed paperwork and arrangements with cemetery office. We actually did that first.
posted by stellathon at 6:57 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]

I think the comments above have covered the specifics pretty well but in general be aware that headstones are unbelievably expensive. Like, so shockingly expensive. Possibly way more than you are expecting. (I was expecting like 1k, max, and my mom's v simple stone was over 3k.) I used Sprung Monuments out on long island bc they are familiar with hebrew engraving, but there will most certainly be someone, probably in Queens, who does chinese.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:28 PM on January 9

Thanks everyone! Like I had hoped the answers here helped to break the task down from "Get Headstone" into much more helpful specifics.
posted by coolname at 1:35 PM on January 9

If you had a funeral director, I bet they know who could help with that sort of thing; you can bet that someone with such a specific business, memorials and monuments, gets a lot of referral business compared to, say, walk-ins.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:11 PM on January 9

I just had a similar thing done (plaque rather than headstone though). The Chinese part of the engraving was explained to us as done as strangely stunted trees outlined above.

The downside of this, is that, if they can't actually read hanzi, they would be able to do zero proofreading or layout work - you would either need to take responsibility for that yourself or hire a third party calligrapher or designer to do so.

I did a rough mockup picture (superimposing text on a sample of the plaque) of how I'd like everything to be set out, then emailed them the text. They only really asked for the text though, and only in a word document. There's a step in between submitting our text and it going to be engraved, which is that they'll send a mock up of the design on their end back to us to see if we're happy with it before doing so.

Also, they told us that from the time we approve the final design to when the actual plaques will be done will be eight weeks, so it may be that engraving the headstone will similarly take some time and the weather will be warmer when it's done?
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were at 4:58 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

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