What To Write On A Memorial Plaque

What To Write On A Memorial Plaque

How do you condense the life of a loved one into a few short words on a memorial plaque?

Writing an epitaph can seem an impossible task at any time, let alone in the throes and fog of grief. It is of course a deeply personal choice but to help you at this difficult time we, at Furnells, have some tips about what to write on a memorial plaque. 

Memorial Plaque Wording

The reality is that there won’t be enough words to say all that you feel or want anyone reading the memorial plaque to know. The key is to be concise and avoid being overly sentimental as much as possible. 

A wise course, especially to ensure the latter, is to wait for a period of 6 months to a year after someone passes to settle on the right words for a memorial plaque. This gives you, and anyone else who is part of the decision, the time to find the emotional clarity to find the most suitable words, quotes, or poem. It also gives you time to finalise all the other necessary arrangements so when you come to think about what you are going to write you can give it your full attention. 

When you do come to think about the wording there are some key things to consider.

  • Did the deceased leave instructions for what they wanted as an epitaph? Or speak to anyone about what they wanted?
  • Who are the words on the memorial plaque or grave marker to – are they speaking to the deceased? To visitors? Or to passers-by?
  • Consider voice. Will the words be in the third person, an omniscient voice. Or will they be from you as the deceased’s loved one, family member, or friend? Will they be in the first person, as if the deceased is speaking? – this is more unusual but can sometimes work very well. A notable example is the well-loved comic Spike Milligan, whose grave reads ‘I told you I was ill’, an example not only of how first-person voice can work but that capturing the essence of who somebody is, can be light-hearted if it is something the person would have appreciated. 
  • What is the purpose of the memorial plaque? To remember the things the person did, the people the person loved and was loved by, to show and share their beliefs? To honour them or praise them? Or as a reminder of mortality or indeed immortality.
  • Usually, the most basic components of a memorial plaque or grave marker include the person’s name and the dates/years of both their birth and their passing.
  • If the deceased was religious then is a quote from a religious text appropriate or a religious symbol?
  • It should be tasteful and respectful – even if you do choose to inject some lightheartedness or humour into the wording, it is important to ensure that it is gentle enough to not cause offense or be deemed disrespectful. You must also consider what is allowed in the place where the memorial plaque is going to be. 

Memorial Plaque Wording Ideas

 Many people stick with traditional wording, such as:

  • In Memory.
  • In Memorium.
  • Never Forgotten.
  • Beloved or Dearly Beloved.
  • Rest in Peace.
  • Gone but not Forgotten.
  • Much Loved (insert relationship/s such as Mother, Father, Grandad, Daughter, Wife etc).
  • Sometimes a nickname is included sometimes inbetween the first and last names, or after/underneath both names and can be either in italics or inverted commas. For example, Paul ‘Dusty’ Leach or Cecilia Cissy Fredericks.

People also often use quotes from religious texts, poems, song lyrics, or film quotes. Sometimes poems or readings from the funeral are used, such as:

  • “Peace perfect peace” Edward Henry Bickersteth.
  • “Look for me in rainbows” Vicki Brown.
  • “Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees, I’ll wait for you. And should I fall behind, wait for me.” Bruce Springsteen.
  • ‘The song has ended but the melody lingers on.’ Nat King Cole.
  • “Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep. I am the thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints in snow.” Elizabeth Frye.
  •  “Sleep on now, and take your rest.” Matthew 26:45:
  • “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” A. A. Milne.

Notable Epitaphs

  • Mel Blanc ‘That’s All Folks’.
  • Jim Morrison ‘True to himself’.
  • Bette Davis ‘She did it the hard way’.
  • Frank Sinatra ‘The best is yet to come’.

If you would like to discuss having a grave marker or memorial plaque engraved, please contact us at Furnells. 

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