Have you ever considered what you would look for when purchasing a burial plot? If not, don’t feel bad. Not many people have.

Thankfully, these topics are becoming much less taboo, allowing people to have conversations with friends and loved ones, discussing exactly what it is that they want done. Although many people used to think of a will or life insurance as something that their grandparents needed to worry about, we are now seeing the younger generation begin to prepare for an untimely passing. When you’ve lost a loved one, getting through the day is already difficult enough as it is, without having to plan a funeral and find a burial plot. No matter how old you are, you’re never too young to go ahead and arrange everything now, so that when you do pass, it will be just a little bit easier on your loved ones.

One of the biggest decisions that must be made is one that is often forgotten: Where will your final resting place be? For some, this may seem like an easy question. Maybe your entire family is buried in a family plot in the cemetery in the middle of the town you live in. Or, maybe the church you attend has a cemetery and you would like to be buried there. However, for those of you who don’t have a clue where to even begin, there are a few things that you want to keep in mind when looking for the perfect final resting place.

Does the cemetery require that all monuments be purchased from them or from a specific monument dealer?
This is extremely important. I’ve heard from so many people that when they purchased a plot from a cemetery, no one told them that they would have to order the monument through the cemetery or a designated company. When it came time to place a monument, they would contact another company about working with them, only to discover when they called the cemetery for verification, they could not work with the company they had chosen themselves. When a cemetery requires that monuments be purchased from them, many times you will find that the price being charged for their monument is much more than the price from an independent monument dealer. Often times, they will even charge an additional fee for every single letter placed on the monument. As with any company, if they know the customer has no choice but to work with them, they are not going to provide the best customer service, their prices are not going to be competitive and they are not going to be as concerned about ensuring customer satisfaction.

Keep in mind, even if the cemetery advises that you may purchase the monument anywhere you’d like when you are purchasing the plot, they may decide to change this policy after you’ve purchased the plot but before you’ve purchased and installed the monument. In order to ensure that this does not happen, try to get in writing that you may purchase the monument from any company that you’d like and have the person in charge of the cemetery sign this statement. You have to remember, although it may not look like it, a cemetery IS a business. And, the ultimate goal of any business is to make a profit.

What type of monuments are allowed in the cemetery? Can you have an upright, custom, flush, or any other type of monument you choose?
If a cemetery only allows specific types of monuments, you can often tell by just riding past and taking a look at what is currently installed. When there are absolutely no upright monuments, most likely only flush markers are allowed in this cemetery. You may be asking yourself “Why would a cemetery only allow flush markers?”. The answer is simple: It makes it easier on them. When it comes time to mow the grass in a cemetery, having a flush marker means that the mower can go right over top of the monument. In a cemetery where there are upright, slants, etc, the person mowing the grass would have to go around the monuments and then go back to finish up with a weed eater. I have spoken with several cemeteries who have also informed me that allowing only one type of monument gives the cemetery a more “put together” look. Although a flush marker places several limitations as to what can be done to the monument, there are still plenty of ways to personalize them. So long as there are no restrictions as to what can be placed on the marker, get creative! Make the flush marker a reflection of you and your life!

Is the cemetery affiliated with a church? If so, which one and what denomination is it?
This is important to know because depending upon the denomination, there may be strict restrictions as to what can and cannot be done. Prior to any monument being placed in the cemetery, a preview of what the design will look like has to be forwarded to the cemetery for approval. If any “forbidden” images or symbols are included on the monument, they will not approve the placement and the design must be redone to fit their requirements. For example, many Catholic cemeteries only allow religious symbols on the monuments placed in their cemeteries. This means that you cannot represent a favorite hobby or include a nature scene in the background. These same cemeteries will only allow specific fonts for the lettering, nothing fancy, no script. They may even require that you place a specific cross or other religious symbol on the monument. I have seen widows and widowers beg those in charge of the cemetery to allow them to place something sentimental on the stone, and still get nowhere. All of the monuments in these cemeteries look the same, with only the names, dates and stone color being different. So, if you want to personalize the monument placed on your plot, a cemetery with these types of restrictions would not be the best option for you.

Do you have to pay the cemetery to place the footer? If so, what is the cost and how long does it take?
A footer is basically a slab of concrete placed below the ground, on which a monument will be placed. The footer ensures that the monument does not settle or sink into the ground, which could cause damage to the monument. Most monument dealers will include the price of the footer in the total cost of the monument. Here at Mike’s Laser Etching, the price quoted includes the installation of a footer and the delivery and installation of the monument. However, some cemeteries will not allow a monument dealer to install the footer. When this is the case, a fee must be paid to the cemetery or to their contractor in order for the footer to be installed. Typically, when we are permitted to install the footer and the monument, everything is in place within just a few weeks of the payment in full and the design approval. However, when the cemetery does not allow us to do the footer, it can take much longer than this. Whereas we have an employee whose entire job is installing footers and monuments, a cemetery has no such person and therefore the footer will be installed when their contractor has time to come do it. The price they will charge can vary drastically, so it’s always important to ask about this upfront.

Are there restricted visiting hours? Is the cemetery closed on holidays?
You would think that a cemetery would be open to visitors anytime they wished to visit the resting place of a loved one. In fact, I’m almost positive that up until a few years ago, this was the case. While some cemeteries still allow anyone to walk through them, anytime day or night, some have not begun to lock their gates. Typically, this is done because the cemetery has been suffering from vandalism or theft. However, if your family has special traditions that are followed, you want to make sure that you will have access to your loved one’s resting place whenever you need to.

Can decorations be placed around the monuments and staked on the plot? Can a light be placed on the monument?
If you plan on placing or planting flowers on the plot, or staking a flag into the ground next to the monument, it is important to find out if this allowed. I learned the hard way that you always need to verify restrictions with the cemetery after I lost a wind chime I had placed on a plot. Typically, if the cemetery does not require that all monuments be flush markers, then it’s likely that they will allow a variety of decorations. When only flush markers are allowed and you live in an area where winters are cold, the cemetery may allow you to place decorations on the plot during the winter months because they are not mowing. If this is the case however, be sure to verify the date that all decorations must be removed. Otherwise, you will probably discover that everything you had left has been thrown away the first time they mowed. When it comes to what you can and can’t place in the cemetery, the most important thing to remember is to ask. Every cemetery is different and something that you might think wouldn’t be a problem, may turn out to be an issue.

Once you’ve found the perfect place, be sure to ask:
-how many plots are there still available for purchase?
-how much larger does the cemetery plan on becoming?
-are their companion plots side by side or stacked?

Never assume and always get everything in writing. Read the fine print, even if the documents you’re signing have been explained to you. And, most importantly, never settle. If this is going to be your or your loved one’s final resting place, you want to make sure that you’re getting exactly what you want!

Also, don’t forget that you can even design your own monument! You can make sure that you get exactly what you want. Families will often disagree on what type of monument to choose, as well as what design should be placed on it. In order to avoid any added stress, many people are now not only purchasing their plot, but purchasing the monument as well. If you would like to take a look at our monuments, visit our website: www.mikeslaseretching.com.

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