Designing an Upright Headstone Monument

Designing an Upright Headstone Monument

When it comes time to memorialize a recently passed loved one, you can tell their story in no grander fashion than with a beautifully designed Upright Headstone. There are many shapes, sizes and colors, ranging from the very traditional look, all the way to the modern and completely custom upright memorial shape.

In this article, we are going to go over the basic design elements of some of the most popular and beautiful upright memorials that we have had the pleasure of bringing to life. Let Bras and Mattos help you tell the story of your loved one in stone. Schedule time to meet with our design staff today. 

Custom vs. Traditional Upright Monuments

            An Upright Headstone is maybe the most common headstone seen all over North America and into Northern Europe. The tradition of placing an Upright Headstone to memorialize someone can be seen in many religious burial rituals including in  Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths, and is widely celebrated even today.

The upright memorial typically encompasses the whole story of the deceased. Full name, date of birth and passing, a message, prayer, verse, and favorite saying are all traditionally engraved on the headstone. As you start to think about your design, it helps to think of fond memories with your loved one and the mark they have left on this earth.

We have the technology to craft nearly any image in stone, or in a beautifully colorful porcelain portrait inlay. The amount of detail we can pack into these large headstone memorials is purely astounding.

  • Bronze Plaque Memorial Accessories
  • Bronze Plaque Memorial Accessories
  • Bronze Plaque Memorial Accessories Porcelain Portrait
  • Bronze Plaque Memorial Accessories
  • Bronze Plaque Memorial Accessories

Traditionally, an upright memorial will be set atop a 12″ thick base and then placed at the very top of the grave plot. One of the most recognized headstones, uprights typically stand between 2′ and 3′ tall. So, when the monument is completely set up, you can expect it to stand 3-4 feet tall. The top of the upright headstone will likely be oval as seen with many white marble military headstones or with a serpentine top or “serp top” for short. 

For those looking to tell the story of a strong and prominent individual, an upright headstone is our recommendation. The height of the headstone, combined with the overall surface area to tell their story is the perfect combination. Being one of the most common also means that you may be able to build your loved one’s monument for less than you previously thought.

The only thing grander than a Traditional Upright Memorial is one with a completely custom shape and color. Both are unique to the loved one or loved ones lost and aid in helping to tell their story. 

Keep in mind, if a custom headstone is what you are looking for, that once the initial design is done and the proofs are finalized, these headstones can range from 3-6 months before they can be fully set on the burial plot. Another factor to consider is that the more unique and rare the stone or material, the more expensive it will be. 

If neither time nor money is an issue for telling your loved one’s story then we highly recommend designing to your heart’s content. In most cases, any shape and size can be built.

Choosing Your Material

If you or your family is ready to begin actually designing a memorial then this is always a good place to start. 

Throughout North America, the most chosen material to build these types of memorials is granite. Granite is a natural stone mined from select portions of the world. Granite is long-lasting and tough. 

With proper engraving techniques, you can expect your chosen memorial to last for an industry average of 7 lifetimes. Bras & Mattos has made it a tradition of crafting beautiful upright headstones for people throughout the Bay Area.

Other but far less common materials used for upright monuments are sandstone, limestone, and other natural stones. Being less common, you will likely pay handsomly to build your chosen memorial in anything other than granite.


As far as upright headstones are concerned, they typically stand between 3-4 feet tall once complete. The upright is placed on a base which is likely to be 6 inches to 1 foot wider on either side of the memorial. Thus, centering the upright in the middle. (2-5 inches on either side if you will not be incorporating flower vases.) 

For Single Upright Headstones, they typically range between 1.5-3 feet wide. For Companion Upright Headstones, they would likely exceed the 3 feet depending on the design. 

Upright Headstone Memorial

Choosing Your Top Style

Flat top

Flat top upright monuments are most commonly used in conjunction with other memorial designs like pagodas and mausoleums. If you are looking to make an attractive modern statement with your loved ones upright, then a flat top maybe your edge. Typically smooth and polished, this design style adds the touch of class your clean cut loved one always had. 

Serpentine top

The serpentine top is “THE” headstone topper for 85% of all upright memorials. Typically incorporated with a rock pitch finish, the serpentine is a centered and tapered design element. Almost all serpentine tops start from the top middle of the headstone and taper down 1.5-2 inches at the outer edge of the headstone. The Serpentine Style is shown in the Paine Cross Upright Gravestone.

Rock Pitching

This is the name for the “natural finish” incorporated in many an upright headstone design. Natural and longest living, a rock pitched side of a memorial is one that has been set and literally broken away with hammer and chisel. To craft this design element, the monument builder must set a precise line and break the stone by tapping each point one after another until the stone naturally cracks. No two rock pitches are the same, thus adding a level of uniqueness to each stone.

Single Headstone Designs

As far as single upright headstones are concerned, they typically stand between 3-4 feet once complete. Typically, the upright is placed on a base that is likely to be 6 inches to 1 foot wider on either side. Those measurements leave adequate room for vases.

All this will likely center the upright in the middle. (2-5 inches on either side if you will not be incorporating flower vases.) For Single Upright Memorials, they typically range between 1.5-3 feet wide. For companion upright headstones, they would likely exceed the 3 feet depending on the design. 

The options are pretty much endless when you have the whole polished face to design on. We wrote another article here to help you take a deeper dive into Single Person Upright Headstone Design.

Here is a little snippet from the single person memorial deep dive.

“Marking the grave of a single individual is a burial practice that dates back to our prehistoric ancestors. We understand that if you are seeking advice on a Single Memorial Upright Headstone then you may have suffered a loss recently, and if so we mourn with you. We hope our staff here at Bras and Mattos Monuments can help make you feel at home enough to celebrate your loved one’s story with us. “

Companion Upright Memorials For Two People

Aligning with more of a traditional design, a double upright headstone, also known as a companion upright headstone, is a singular headstone that spans the space of 2 burial plots or graves. Likely a loving couple or potentially a whole family’s names may adorn this design. The last name or surname tends to be the prominent large letters engraved across the top with each birth and passing date engraved on either side of the front face.

Truly One of A Kind Custom Upright Memorials

These designs are ones that we truly had the pleasure to design. Many shown below will call upon one central element, a favorite flower, tree, sport, or life’s calling, to center the design around. 

Speaking with one of our expert staff is key in getting them to show you everything possible with a custom upright memorial. Where you might have one idea sitting down with our Bras and Mattos team will illuminate the full world of memorial design. 

A custom headstone memorial is your unique story told in beautiful granite stone. We here at Bras & Mattos are here to guide you in telling that story in stone. 

*Please note that unless you are placing the monument in a private estate or cemetery where they have no restrictions, we will likely be limited to what the cemetery allows. 

Granite Colors

The color of the stone is what we call the headstone’s “Body Language”. By this, we mean that the color is the first thing that anyone will notice about the stone, and lends itself very well to representing your loved ones personality. The color of the granite typically corresponds to the price point, much like what we spoke on in the materials section. Most of the “colorful” granite used for upright headstones come from outside of the United States. (I.e Black from India, Blue Pearl from Norway)

The most common colors of granite are white and gray, both are typically mined in the hills the Sierra Nevada mountains as well as parts of Minnesota and the North East United States. China and India both supply similar white and gray granites.

Granite Color Options

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3

Tier 4

Prices for Traditional and Custom Upright Headstones, What to expect.

Prices for traditional Upright Headstones

As far as traditional upright headstones go, you can expect to pay somewhere between $2000 – $5000+ depending on size, shape, color, and amount or personalization. As mentioned before, color plays a huge factor in how expensive an upright headstone might be. Gray and white will likely be the most cost-effective while Blue Pearl and Emerald Pearl, with their iridescent flakes, can potentially increase the price of the same design 4 fold.

Prices for Custom Upright Headstones

When we say “you can design to your heart’s content” know that the price for such designs will reflect the amount of work and materials that will be needed to accomplish your vision. A completely custom headstone typically starts at the $5000 mark and could cost as much as $100,000 for the most elaborate of upright setups. If you are serious about using every inch of the stone to celebrate your loved one’s life then we highly recommend you give us a call so that one of our expert memorial designers can cater the stone and design experience to your loved one’s unique story.

In Conclusion

We at Bras & Mattos are here to help. We believe that every life has a story tell and each should be celebrated. We hope we helped you understand the basics of upright monuments and if you are willing, we would love to set a meeting to design your loved one’s story in stone.

"A quality Upright Memorial Design requires a quality Monument Builder"

At Bras & Mattos monuments, we pride ourselves on delivering Upright Headstones at affordable prices. No matter the monument or memorial, you can be sure that with your help on the design, your loved one will be remembered with the perfect headstone for their memorial plot. Thus allowing future generations to remember the legacy and story through their quality memorial. To learn more and see our full memorial design process, please view our Youtube Channel

We cannot wait to help you memorialize your story. 

Schedule time for a memorial design session