Step 1 - Decide to do something. Sometimes the most difficult part of a task is simply to decide to do it. You will know when it is time. Don't let outside pressures force you to do something before you're ready but, in the same token, you will have to face it sooner or later, so don't get into the mindset of "I'll never be ready". If you think you will never be ready, you never will be, and you can talk youself into never putting out a memorial. Time goes by faster than we realize, and if you don't erect a memorial within a year, the chances become increasingly great that you will never erect a monument at all. Look at the unmarked graves in your cemetery... there may not be a lot of them, but almost every cemetery has some.
Step 2 - Think of it as a project, not as a job. You will be surprised at how satisfying this can be. Remember that you have total control of this memorial. You will even find yourself enjoyng the process, because you are focusing on the good times and funny little quirks. This is how you know you're on the right track toward creating a true memorial - a tribute to life and love, not a reminder of sadness and loss.
Step 3 - Know your cemetery's regulations in regard to memorials. Look at the other stones in your section. Are the stones all flat? Do they all face the same direction? How many graves do you own? what is the maximum size of stone that is allowed on that number of graves. I have seen people who own a single grave purchase another grave next to it so they can have a larger stone. Be careful here... many cemeteries sell monuments and some may try to make you think you have to buy your stone from them. This is not true, and if a salesperson tries to tell you this... RUN. This is one of the most important things you will ever buy, and you don't need the added headache of a salesperson that puts his or her own interests ahead of your own.
Step 4 - Determine a budget. This is a tough one. Most people have no idea what memorial stones cost. I will go into that aspect in the "Pricing - Terms" section, but for now you should know that the cheapest is never the best. A monument company who's business is based on being the cheapest is constantly in situations where they are forced to take shortcuts. Believe me, you don't want shortcuts on something that is supposed to last forever. Decide what you would like to spend, and then determine how much more you could spend if you find what you really want.
Step 5 - Think. Go to the cemetery and look at the stones. You may get some ideas. Draw things on paper, take some pictures, write down sayings and remember to keep an open mind. If your mind is open then things will start to come around. Think about the stone when you're driving, or when you're out in the garden.You might come up with a great idea while watching a movie or when your are making macaroni and cheese.
Step 6 - Look for someone to work with. You need to know that this person has the skill to create what you want. You should be able to talk to them and know that they are listening. You don't want someone who will just do what you tell them... at least not at first. You need advice...you need imput, so this person must be creative and must be able to put your thoughts into ideas, then put these ideas on paper, and finally cut them into stone. Many companies don't even do their own work, and will just send your drawing to the lowest bidder. Be careful of that. Choose someone who actually has a shop and does their own work. Remember this ... The artwork will only be as good as the artist.
If it were a perfect world, I would make absolutely sure that everyone talked to me personally about their memorial, but I know that is unrealistic. So I will leave you with this. I can't create every memorial stone, but I can create yours.