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What to Leave at a Grave: Practical & Meaningful Ideas

flowers and candlesticks on tombstone

Trying to decide what to leave at a grave doesn't need to be complicated. You can quickly determine if an item is practical and if it is meaningful.

What to Leave at a Grave

Check with the cemetery guidelines for what to leave at a grave. Some cemeteries don't allow many decorations on a grave. Be sure that you don't leave something that will interfere with the groundskeeper's routine upkeep. This is especially true of decorations that you put into the ground as stakes. Most cemeteries have guidelines against stake decorations.

Things to Leave at a Grave

Some of the easiest and simplest things to leave at a grave are everyday articles. Items such as flowers, stones, pebbles, coins, and flowers are perhaps the most common things people leave at a grave.

What Flowers Are Best for Graves?

Some cultures use flowers to decorate graves. This practice is viewed as a respectful and beautiful way to honor the deceased. You must follow the cemetery's guidelines, if any, about leaving flowers on graves. Some cemeteries only allow fresh flowers, while others allow artificial and fresh. Cemeteries that allow fresh flowers see that once the flowers are spent, the groundskeeper collects and disposes them.

Woman leaving flowers at grave

How to Leave Flowers at a Grave

You can place flowers on the ground by the headstone or in front of it. You can also place a fresh bouquet on top of the headstone. You can lay a wreath or cross on the ground near or against the headstone. Most cemeteries allow plastic vases that are secured with a self-stake into the ground by the headstone. You may lay a bouquet on the headstone or the ground of the headstone.

Unique Grave Decorations

Some cemeteries allow items to be left on the ground in front of the tombstone. This can be holiday decorations or other items that have special meanings to the family or friends. You may decide to place a photo of your loved one or a family photo on the gravestone.

Leaving Food on Graves

Some cultures leave food on the grave. There are many reasons for this practice, and it depends on the culture and/or religious traditions. Many American cemeteries don't allow food and drink to be left on graves. Such offerings attract all kinds of animals and insects that can create maintenance and health issues.

Gravesite Landscaping

Some countries and cultures have traditions of gravesite landscaping. This can be small gardens or elaborate designs. However, some cemeteries ban this kind of individuality, preferring a uniform look to the overall cemetery.

Stones and Pebbles

You might have seen small stones or pebbles left on the top of a headstone and wondered what the meaning was. This ancient tradition is found in the Jewish religion and others. It evolved from the necessity of covering a fresh grave with rocks or stones to prevent animals from digging up the corpse. With each person adding a stone to the burial site, the grave was quickly covered by stone/rocks. Today, leaving a small pebble or stone on top of the gravestone is a sign of respect and lets family members know someone visited during their absence.

Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day

It is a common practice in the United States to place a staked small American flag by a headstone. This is practiced not just for deceased service personnel or veterans. It is often placed on the gravestones of deceased patriots.

Other Items to Leave at a Grave

Some other possible items you may choose to leave at a grave include ornaments, crystals, small toys, pumpkins, and various seasonal decorations. Place these on the headstone or on the ground in front of the headstone. Again, check with the cemetery guidelines.

National Cemetery Guidelines

If you have a loved one interred in a national cemetery, guidelines only allow you to decorate the grave around the holidays. Some of these include Easter, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Christmas Day, and possibly other holidays depending on the cemetery, so be sure to check the guidelines.

National cemetery

What Does It Mean to Leave Coins on A Grave?

In many of the countries in Latin America, leaving a coin is a commonly accepted practice of showing respect for the deceased. Other countries reserve this tribute for the military.

Military Tradition of Leaving Coins

The military has a long-standing tradition for leaving coins on the graves of those who have served. Traditionally, the groundskeeper accepted the coins as payment for the upkeep of the graves. In modern times, the coins are collected and donated to a charity/organization that benefits veterans. The denomination that you leave is determined by your relationship with the deceased.

  • Penny: You don't know the deceased, but you wish to demonstrate appreciation of their service.
  • Nickel: You went to the same boot camp as the deceased.
  • Dime: You and the deceased served together.
  • Quarter: You were present when the deceased died.

Grave Blankets

A grave blanket is a unique item to leave at a grave. This evergreen floral arrangement covers the gravesite and is a standing tradition in many mid-west states.

Practical Ideas for Things to Leave at a Grave

There are many practical things you can leave at a grave. Choose something that best personifies your feelings about a loved one or symbolizes something about them you wish to remember or pay tribute.

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What to Leave at a Grave: Practical & Meaningful Ideas