Headstone Markers: How Soon Can I Place One on the Grave?
For centuries the custom of erecting a headstone marker to identify the grave of a departed family member has been recognized by most cultures. It is usually the last and final detail in burying a loved one. For many it also serves as a focal point when visiting the grave - a point of closure - the last and final detail. How does one know the right time to place a headstone marker on the grave? While no protocol has been set in stone (pun intended) here are some things to consider.
Few, if any, religions specify a proper time to place a headstone marker on the grave; however, the Jewish religion does require that some type of monument or headstone marker be erected to identify the grave. Jewish custom calls for the unveiling of the monument after one year has passed, but it does not mandate it.
Some Hispanic cultures also have the custom of unveiling of the headstone marker. This is usually done after the marker is erected and during a memorial service attended by a Catholic priest. But, there is no specific timeline when this should be done.
Outside of religious considerations some cemeteries require a specific amount of time to pass before the headstone marker can be placed on the grave. The reason for this is that dirt, which covers the grave, requires enough time to settle. This is fairly important as newly covered graves constantly settle and shift which may cause headstones to lean and become unleveled. This mostly affects upright headstone markers, but can also happen to lawn level markers.
Flat or lawn level headstone markers are not affected as much as the upright ones, but they can still slant a trifle. An upright headstone marker installed prematurely may begin to lean as the grave settles. This is especially true after a good rain has occurred. Rain has a tendency to advance the settlement of any fresh grave which has been is topped off with loose dirt.
Some cemeteries have their caretakers level a fresh grave with a gas powered tampering machine. This machine will compact the loose dirt above a newly covered grave. The workers will then cap it off with a layer of fresh sod to quickly restore the grave space to its former self. This, in effect, drastically reduces the amount of time that needs to pass to install a headstone marker.
Always check with your cemetery before ordering a headstone marker. You want to make certain you order the right memorial at the right time.