The Importance of Cemetery Design

Choosing the right headstone is essential to honoring your loved one. There are many different styles to choose from.

Cemeteries are increasingly being treated as landscapes with graves rather than as empty expanses of land. New sections can be designed to have different vistas and places.

The cemetery can also be more environmentally friendly by utilizing cremation services.

Master Plan

A well thought out cemetery master plan allows the client to identify short and long term needs, map an overall strategy, and provide a logical and realistic implementation plan for the entire property.

It provides a road map to guide future growth while optimizing land utilization and improving aesthetics. It is also an effective tool to help market the cemetery.

Meisner: A cemetery should revisit its master plan on a regular basis. It should be a part of the overall business/financial plan, demographics assessment and marketing update.

The master plan includes site development and design plans for roads, drainage piping, earthwork, water supply, landscape schemes and supporting facilities (i.e. office, maintenance center). The systems are properly sized during the master planning process to minimize up front costs and prevent future costly replacements. The plan also provides a framework for addressing potential issues down the road. For example, if full body burial sales are dropping and cremation interments are rising, it may be time to consider a new approach to the memorial park.

Landscape and Architecture

A cemetery is more than a tranquil place to lay down a headstone, it’s a vibrant celebration of life, family, history and individuality. The landscape and architecture must reflect this and meet the needs of today’s families.

Traditional cemeteries are designed based on efficiently laying out graves and then landscaping around them to add definition and beauty. However, this can result in long vistas that can be unattractive. Newer designs allow for a variety of monuments and burial options to create more attractive vistas, as well as provide a greater sense of place.

Mourners often leave flowers or other items beside the graves and columbarium walls. The newer design of columbarium walls takes this into account by incorporating a clip or loop beside each plaque to hold a single stem or small posy. This eliminates the need to constantly maintain a mound of wilting flowers or to have them disposed of by staff. Mourners will also appreciate the natural beauty of a cemetery that has ponds and other water features.

Green Footprint

Cemetery design often requires attention to forestry, water quality and ecological sustainability. This can include developing reed beds, surface and catch all drainage systems to ensure the burial grounds do not leak into groundwater supply. It may also involve preserving or restoring natural features and integrating them into the design of interment options like gardens, columbaria, ossuaries and monuments.

Cemetery layout design should incorporate natural and flowing landscaping to provide for cleaner mowing lines, lower maintenance, less cleanup and enhanced aesthetics. This can also mean carefully selecting plantings that will thrive in your area, such as trees that do not drop fruit or nuts and will be a good fit for your visitor demographic.

An aesthetically pleasing cemetery increases its value and marketability, which can lead to an increase in revenues and profitability. It can also help mourners move through the grief process more quickly.


Providing a safe and accessible space is essential for any cemetery. This means that each grave should have a clear path to get there, as well as sidewalks to allow people to navigate the entire property. It also means that a cemetery should have curbs that are low enough for wheelchairs to roll over.

Memorials have a significant impact on mourners during the grieving process and are an important part of a cemetery’s design. Many cemeteries have dedicated memorial specialists on staff to help individuals select a memorial that meets their personal expectations.

In addition to addressing the physical needs of a cemetery, it is essential to consider the impact on the environment. This includes reducing the amount of land that is used for conventional burials and exploring alternatives to ground burial. This will not only be more environmentally friendly but it will also reduce the competition over limited resources.

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