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Keeping the Peace in Cemeteries

graves in a cemetery with spring flowers
Most, if not all cemeteries in use today have rules about what you can and can not do to decorate the plot of a loved one.

The English author and publisher William Tegg, wrote in 1876, "There is perhaps nothing else so distinctive of the condition and character of a people as the method in which they treat their dead.

This is never more true when applied to cemeteries. There are over 40,000 cemeteries in use in North American today and there are guidelines that are in place to keep them visually appealing and easy to maintain. Just because a person buys a plot in a cemetery does not mean that they have the right to do what they want on their bit of land. Think of cemetery plots as being more like condominium living than like owning your own home - you have to follow the rules for the collective good.

Most cemeteries, if not all, have rules set out by a board if publicly owned or a management team if privately owned that outline exactly what you can and can't do in a cemetery. Tombstone material, sizes and even inscriptions may need to be approved by a board. Read the rules carefully when purchasing a plot to save yourself unnecessary expense.

Basic Cemetery Maintenance Rules

Many cemeteries have designated clean up times during the year and ask people to remove all decorations so that upkeep and maintenance can be undertaken.

In most cases, fresh, cut flowers can be placed on a grave throughout the year however many cemeteries require that vases, that can be inverted into the ground be used and glass vases are discouraged or not allowed. Some cemeteries will only allow vases that families procure from the cemetery.

Some cemeteries allow you to bring potted plants on special occasions like Christmas or Mothers' Day but the cemetery reserves the right to remove them and does not have measures in place to save the plant for families.

Check with your cemetery before you plant flowers or bushes permanently. While some cemeteries allow this, the type of plant is restricted. The cemetery is not responsible for the upkeep of the plant nor is it responsible if the plant is damaged by nature or vandals.

Some cemeteries allow artificial flowers, wreaths, solar lights, hanging flower pot holders, statues etc. but have rules about sizes and the time they are allotted to decorate the plot. In most cases fencing or lattice of any kind is not allowed as it presents problems for regular groundskeeping. Other cemeteries do not allow decorations of any kind.

Flags are one exception and most cemeteries at least allow flags to be displayed on Memorial Day.

Cemetery photo by Jürn Hocke


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