Cemetery Etiquette

Photo: Love-That-Etiquette.com

Hello, my name is gravetender and I’m a cemetery-holic. And I’m not the only one (phew!).  There are hundreds (thousands? hundreds of thousands?) people just like me all over the world who enjoy visiting cemeteries. And when we visit cemeteries we follow the rules of cemetery etiquette.

‘Cemetery Etiquette: How to Act When Graveyard Hopping’ is an article penned in the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal. And just what exactly is a Graveyard Rabbit, you ask? Well, a Graveyard Rabbit is a member of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits and they are dedicated to the “academic promotion of the historical importance of cemeteries, grave markers, and the family history to be learned from a study of burial customs, burying grounds, and tombstones; and the social promotion of the study of cemeteries, the preservation of cemeteries, and the transcription of genealogical/historical information written in cemeteries.”

So back to the article (which you can read in full here) and the generally accepted rules of cemetery etiquette, which are:

  • Appreciate memorials as they are. Do not add to, take away from, or modify a memorial in any way.
  • Do not intrude on funeral or memorial services.
  • Do not bring alcohol, firearms, or entertainment items into cemeteries.
  • Keep pets leashed and under control. Clean up after them. [If the cemetery has an office, first check to make sure pets are welcome.]
  • Do not litter (this includes cigarette butts), and do not interfere with plants and wildlife.
  • Keep vehicles on designated roadways or in parking areas. Idling vehicle engines can be harmful to landscaping and historical structures.

And here are some more:

  • Move nothing except obvious trash.
  • No loud music. If in your vehicle, the music should not be heard by anyone outside of it.
  • Keep cell phone conversations quiet.
  • Do not do rubbings without permission. Each cemetery has a different stance on this. Some will allow it, some will not. Some will require permission from the lot owner. Always ask.
  • Drive through cemeteries at a slow speed.
  • If asked to put away your camera, do so. Some cemeteries are considered private property. Some consider each lot to be a private property.
  • Never trespass. If a cemetery is located on private property, get permission from the land owner before visiting.
  • Keep conversations with companions at a respectable volume. I don’t think a whisper is required, but shouting is obviously disrespectful and unnecessary.
  • Leave no evidence of your visit.
  • Report fresh vandalism incidents immediately.
  • Cemeteries are not to be used as a camping ground or “lovers’ lane.”
  • Picnics are usually acceptable, but be sure to leave the area cleaner than when you arrived. (I imagine this to be true in the many park-like cemeteries, but I would not assume this to be true at every cemetery.)
  • Do not pick flowers. Not even the ones that are part of the general cemetery landscape. This is against the law in some places.

These are good rules to follow. Do you have good cemetery etiquette?


Coming to a Cemetery Near You: Glass Headstones

Photo-Lundgren Monuments

If you’re pre-planning your funeral (as some people do) and want a headstone that will stand out from the rest, consider this latest trend – glass headstones:

‘When Greg Lundgren started working with cast glass as a young artist, he never imagined a cemetery would become his most popular canvas.

He initially used glass to make furniture, windows, doors and other common pieces of furniture.  But ten years ago, Lundgren was yearning to try something else with his material of choice, so he started to explore items typically made of granite.

“I went by one cemetery and that light went off, and you say, ‘Why not have a cast-glass headstone?’” Lundgren said.

So he made his first glass headstone in 2002, something that was not quickly accepted in a conservative industry accustomed to marble and granite.

Even today, some question if something so seemingly fragile can hold up during cold winters and hot summers.  But Lundgren said the headstones, which are at least four inches thick, are surprisingly resilient.

“You look at skyscrapers or you look at streetlights or you look at car windshields, and these are all things that we live with on a day-to-day basis and have a lot of faith in,” Lundgren said.

Lundgren hopes to start a dialogue about death, getting people to re-imagine what a cemetery can be.

“You can’t walk into a cemetery and see 5,000 granite headstones that all look the same and imagine that every single one of those people had that type of commonality,” he said.

Lundgren said the cost for such memorials can vary, depending on how much glass is used, but the price can typically fall on the higher end of the memorial spectrum.’ 

What a great idea! For more pictures, visit Lundgren’s website.

What do you think of glass headstones?

Top 5 Funny Epitaphs

Rodney Dangerfield's tombstone at Pierce Broth...
Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever thought about what to put on your tombstone? Assuming you even get a tombstone – some people would rather have their ashes creatively scattered rather than lay six feet under with a stone on top of their head. But if you do get a tombstone, here are the Top 5 Funny Epitaphs to get you thinking about your own final message:

1. ‘There goes the neighborhood.’ – on Rodney Dangerfield’s tombstone in Los Angeles, CA. He was a well-known actor and comedian.

2. ‘Here lies a man named Zeke. Second fastest draw in Cripple Creek’ – allegedly on a headstone in Cripple Creek, CO.

3. ‘Returned – Unopened’ – supposedly on a spinster’s grave somewhere in N. Carolina

4. ‘I was somebody. Who, is no business of yours.’ – unknown

5. ‘I knew this was going to happen to me.’ – unknown

What epitaphs (funny or not) have caught your eye?

Excuse Me – Is That Your Grave?

Graves at Arlington National Cemetery

Image via Wikipedia

Imagine this scenario:

It’s a bright, summer afternoon and you decide to visit your loved one’s final resting place. Let’s call your loved one Bob. You buy a lovely bouquet of Bob’s favorite flowers and are looking forward to spending some quality time at Bob’s gravesite. But when you get to the cemetery, you see someone else sobbing over Bob’s headstone!

“Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt,” you say. “May I ask how you knew Bob?”

“Who’s Bob? I thought this was Pete’s grave,” says the stranger.


(OK, ignore the fact that this whole issue could easily be solved just by reading the name on the headstone. Let’s just pretend it was a blank headstone. Hey, it happens!)

Apparently, this kind of thing happens all the time. Cemeteries across the nation suffer from mismanagement, corruption and non-existent budgets, leading to bodies buried on top of each other, wrong headstones placed on graves and inaccurate record keeping. There are almost too many scandals involving cemeteries to count nowadays, with some of the more notable ones being the Arlington National Cemetery debacle and the Burr Oak Cemetery disgrace.

I think this kind of thing is unforgivable. There is no excuse for cemetery ‘management’ to mess with my loved one’s remains. At least at Arlington and Burr Oak, someone was held accountable for their actions (or inaction). But what about all the other forgotten burial grounds that have been taken over by weeds and trash? Who is responsible for those graves?

We are. And that means we should also be held accountable for not taking care of those cemeteries. The way we treat our dead now is a sign of how our children will treat us in the future. And it’s not looking good, folks.

Do you know of any forgotten or abandoned cemeteries in your area?