Cemetery Etiquette

Are there any rules for tombstone tourists? Sure.

Number one – respect the living and the dead. Common sense, right?

Cemeteries often post information they think visitors need to know. Read the signs and follow their rules.

Respect each grave site and any remembrances left around it. Don’t touch or remove anything. What looks like a piece of trash to you could be a loved one’s favorite candy bar wrapper, a tattered love letter, a toy.  Many people place rocks on tombstones each time they visit. Leave them there.

I’m often asked, is it okay to walk on the grass around the graves? Yes, of course. Sometimes you have to walk right up to a stone to read the epitaph. Just try not stepping on the graves. You’ll be hop-scotching through the cemetery. Not a particularly peaceful way to visit. Don’t lean on the stones or dig holes and you’ll be fine.

Very old stones are delicate. People used to take rubbings. That’s a no-no! Even the most careful contact can crumble ancient surfaces. The best way to make those worn-away epitaphs legible is to shine a very bright flashlight across them sideways. Even in the daytime, creating shadows will help you read that faint writing.


Respect the living. Give other visitors a wide berth. Grief and remembrance are private things. You can’t tell by looking at a person how raw their feelings are. Don’t stare, don’t take pictures, don’t approach. A simple nod or wave as you pass is fine.

If you enjoy music along with your stroll through a cemetery, wear headphones. If you’re with a friend, you don’t have to whisper, but keep the volume conversational.

That’s about it. Follow the posted rules, be respectful. Enjoy your visit!