Choosing a memorial

man holding flowers and kneeling at a grave in a cemetery

How do you commemorate a loved one in the right way? Choosing a memorial can be difficult. Not least because there are so many to choose from. We’ve put together this guide to help you make the choice that feels right.

What is a memorial?

A memorial is an object that’s dedicated to someone who’s passed away. For example, an urn or a headstone. It’s a physical tribute to them that you can visit or keep at home so that you’re reminded of a loved one who’s gone.

How to choose a memorial

Before choosing the memorial you’d like, it’s important to do a bit of research to make sure it’s suitable.

Check burial ground rules

Burial grounds often have rules about the type of memorials they’ll allow. This is sometimes for environmental reasons and sometimes to keep the site looking neat.

Think about maintenance

How often will you be able to clean the memorial? Some materials are easier to keep clean than others. For example, polished stone is usually easier to wipe clean than unpolished stone, so doesn’t need cleaning as often.

Different types of memorials

There are many different types of memorial. So if you’re planning a funeral or memorial service and would like to create a memorial in honour of a loved one we’ve put together a list of the different types. Hopefully it’ll help you choose something suitable and help you remember your loved one in a personal way.


If your loved one is being buried traditional memorials for graves tend to be headstones. But that’s not to say that someone who’s cremated can’t have a headstone either. There are many types of headstone available in cemeteries and crematoriums. So it can be difficult to choose. To help you make a decision here are your options.

Types of headstone

Read our guide for more info on typical headstone costs.

Memorial vases for gravesides

A memorial vase or cemetery vase is used to hold flowers at a graveside. They can be simple metal vases with small holders for flower stems or they can be larger with engravings on them. You can add a personalised message on a memorial vase if you like. It’s a good way to add a unique touch to a loved one’s grave especially if you’ve kept their headstone or cremation memorial simple. And it also means you can regularly visit and add fresh flowers to the grave.

Memorial urns

You might want to commemorate a loved one with an urn for their ashes. Whether you choose to scatter the ashes, keep them at home or bury them, memorial urns come in many different designs. They can be made from wood, ceramic, stone or glass. And you can have an inscription added to it. You can also get biodegradable urns if you’d like to bury the ashes in a more environmentally friendly way.

Not sure which family member should keep the memorial urn? You can get keepsake urns. Typically these are smaller in size and give you the opportunity to divide the ashes with other family members. That way each of you can have a memorial of your loved one to keep.

Memorial benches

A bench placed in memory of someone is an opportunity to sit and reflect. And a way to give back to the community too. You could have it placed in a local park. Or maybe you’d like to put their memorial bench somewhere important to them – a woodland path? Or on the coast perhaps?

Memorial jewellery

Memorial jewellery is sometimes known as remembrance jewellery. It’s usually when the person’s ashes or a small amount of their hair is incorporated in a piece of jewellery. This is so that family can keep the person close to them. The jewellery is traditionally a pendant or a ring. But it can be whatever you ask for from the jeweller. The ashes can be set in glass or resin and only a small amount is needed to make a piece of jewellery. So it’s a good way of making memorial keepsakes for close members of the family.

Memorial trees

Planting a tree in memory of someone is an environmentally friendly way of saying goodbye. And it’s a living memorial that will grow long after their funeral. There are a few places you could plant a tree in memory of someone. Here are some ideas to make things easier:

Read our guide to memory trees and learn more about planting a tree in memory of someone.


A memorial plaque can be made from metal or stone and usually has an inscription on it with the name of the person who’s passed away and a personal message or a tribute to them. You could choose to have a memorial plaque instead of a headstone or cremation memorial. Or you could have a plaque added to another memorial like a bench. There are lots of possibilities. Here are a few ideas of where to put a memorial plaque to help you figure out if it’s the right option:

Online memorials

If family members and friends live far away an online memorial is an excellent way of bringing everyone together. You could create a simple memorial website for the person who’s passed away or use social media to put one together. Whatever you choose to do it offers an opportunity for family to share memories and photos to help you grieve.

Want to know how to put together an online memorial? Read our guide to creating an online memorial.

Book of remembrance

Most crematoriums have a book of remembrance which memorialises each person who has been cremated on their premises. This can be viewed by family members and friends. Although a more personal way of remembering a loved one in this way is to create your own. Before the funeral you could get a specially made notebook with blank pages. You could even get it inscribed with their name or a quote they liked. After the service you could ask family and friends to share their memories of the person who’s passed away as a lasting tribute that you can share again and again.

A memorial photo frame

It’s a small gesture. But a memorial photo frame is a way of remembering a loved one at their happiest times whether it’s them at a family event or special occasion. And it can bring back good memories of the times you had together. There are lots of memorial photo frames to choose from. But you could get one specially made with a personal message so it’s completely unique.

We hope we’ve given you some ideas on which memorial to choose. But remember there’s no right or wrong way when it comes to choosing a memorial. Whether it’s an elaborate headstone or a simple piece of memorial jewellery pick the one that feels right to you.


Funeral Choice is a free online resource that helps people plan funerals and find local funeral directors. Visit our funeral planning advice hub to search for more articles. 


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