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Ways to Honour Your Loved One: From Memorial Plaques to Planting a Tree

Updated: Nov 1, 2022

The sad reality is that most of us will have lost family or friends in our lives, but the proclivity of death doesn’t mean that each loss isn’t a deeply painful time for those involved. Many people find comfort in honoring their loved one in some way, whether that’s by erecting a gravestone to visit or wearing a special piece of jewellery as a memento.

If you’re looking for a way to honor and remember your loved one, there are many different types of memorial to choose from, including headstones, memorial vases, a memorial bench or a piece of jewellery containing the deceased’s ashes. The type of memorial you choose is very personal and entirely depends on your wishes and taste, but if you’d like some more information about the options out there, read on for our handy guide.

A brief history of memorials

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A memorial can be classed as any object which serves a focus for the memory or commemoration of a person or event. There are many famous memorials which commemorate famous people or events (such as the Second World War), but memorials can also be small and deeply personal.

The word tombstone comes from the Greek word ‘tymbos’, meaning ‘burial mound’ and it first appeared in the English language around 1560. The word tombstone used to describe the large lid of a stone coffin, but the meaning changed to describe a grave marker in 1711. Nowadays, tombstones (also called gravestones) are used as a memorial marker for a loved one’s grave and come in all shapes and sizes, with the option for decorative carvings and inscriptions.

In Elizabethan times, many people wore mourning rings as a memorial to their deceased and these came in popular designs like skulls, crosses or coffins. Memorial jewellery is still very popular today and there are many different styles to choose from; from a locket printed with your loved one’s fingerprint to a ring with a diamond or precious stone made from their ashes.

Cremation has been around for centuries, with historians agreeing that the first cremations date back to around 3000 B.C. However, the cremation urn wasn’t created until 1873, by an Italian professor named Brunetti. Meanwhile, in England, cremation was made popular by Queen Victoria's surgeon Sir Henry Thompson, who started the promotion of cremation and founded the Cremation Society of England in 1874.

Nowadays, there are many different ways to honour and remember your loved one; from traditional gravestones and cremation urns to planting a tree or dedicating a memorial bench in their memory. We will explore the different types of memorial available and their functions in more detail below.

Types of memorial

As you can see, there are many different forms of memorial and the type you choose is a highly personal decision. Some will depend on whether you choose burial or cremation at the funeral, while other people may wish to bury a loved one’s ashes beneath a tree or immortalise them in a piece of jewellery. Whichever memorial you choose, they can bring comfort to friends and family and provide a way to honour the memory of your loved one.


Also called a tombstone or headstone, a gravestone serves a marker for where a person is buried and is engraved with their name, birth and death dates and usually some kind of meaningful quote or inscription. Upright gravestones are the most common choice, but they can also lie horizontally if you prefer or come in the form of a ledger slab (a thick piece of stone which covers an entire grave).

Gravestones are most commonly made from granite or marble and are usually around three-foot-tall by two and a half feet wide. This allows enough space to engrave the name of the deceased, their birth and death dates, and usually, some form of personalised message, quote or poem. Some people also choose to engrave pictures or designs into the headstone for an added decorative touch.


Memorial plaques are usually made from a metal such as brass and can be placed in a wide variety of locations. Some people choose a grave plaque to honour their loved one, but you could attach this type of memorial to a wall, a bench, or in a place that had special significance to them. Plaques can also be made of wood, slate, aluminium or stainless steel.

Memorial headstone

A memorial stone is very similar to a gravestone but they are often smaller. Like a gravestone, you can add a personalised inscription or design to reflect the individual who is missed. Memorial stones also come in different shapes, aside from the traditional rectangle of a gravestone, such as a heart or a circle.

Planting a tree

A memorial tree is a lovely way to remember a loved one and many people find that the act of nurturing the tree and watching it grow gives them comfort. You can choose to plant a memorial tree in your garden, or on a plot of land specially set aside for this purpose.

Fruit trees are a very popular choice, especially if you plant the memorial tree in your home, as you can enjoy the spoils for years to come. Another popular choice is a silver birch tree as they are said to symbolise new beginnings, renewal and protection.

Memorial bench

Memorial benches offer a special place to sit and remember your loved one, either alone or with other family and friends. You’ll need permission from the council if you plan on placing a bench in a park or other public space, but a bench can be the perfect way to honour your friend or relative in the place they loved best. Memorial benches almost always include a plaque, which you can engrave with the deceased’s name, dates of their life and a special quote or description.

Cremation urns

An urn is designed to hold the ashes of the deceased and they are often kept and displayed as a memorial to the person who’s passed. Urns come in many different colours and designs and can be personalised to reflect the interests of your loved one and some types of urn can also be engraved if you’d like to add a special message. If you’ve chosen to have a green funeral, you can now combine a memorial tree and urn by choosing a biodegradable version. This type of urn comes complete with seeds, transforming the container and ashes into a beautiful tree.

Memorial jewellery

Memorial jewellery covers a wide range of keepsakes that can be worn and treasured for years. Many companies offer personalised engravings for lockets, bracelets or pendants, or you could choose a locket with a picture of your friend or relative inside.

Another popular choice is cremation jewellery, which turns a small amount of ashes into a beautiful glass bead or diamond. These can then be incorporated into a ring, necklace, bracelet or earrings, or some people choose to encase a few fragments of ash in resin to make a pendant.

William Kent Memorials - Family Run Memorial Masons in Lincolnshire

If you’re looking for the perfect memorial to remember your loved one, get in touch with the professional and sensitive team at William Kent. We’ve been in the business for over 200 years and our stonemasons have all the skills and knowledge required to create the perfect headstone, plaque or stonework for you. We also offer a range of handmade ceramic flowers which make a beautiful alternative to fresh flowers on a grave.

If you’re in need of gravestone inscriptions, cleaning, repairs or maintenance, we offer these services too, so give us a call today or visit our website to find out more about any of our products or services

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