Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Headstone protocol


We are about to have my son's headstone engraved.  His father and I are divorced and he wants his name putting before mine.  I can't see a reason for doing so on the grounds that he is a man but is there etiquette involved.

Dear Marie:  Thank you for sharing your question with me.

Please allow me to begin by extending my condolences to you and your family on the loss of your son.

I don't believe that there are any established rules that govern the text on a headstone.  Each family must make these decisions based on various criteria:

-Who had the closer relationship to the deceased?
-Who is paying for the headstone?
-Did the deceased leave any last wishes to direct loved ones?

Traditionall, when a headstone includes the names of the parents of the deceased, the mother's name is placed before a father's:

For example:
John Jones
Son of Mary and Matthew Jones
Born March 30, 1987 - Died October 23, 2012

In the case of divorce, I would suggest the above with one slight variation, if your last name is no longer the same as your ex-husband's:

John Jones
Son of Mary Andrews and Matthew Jones
Born March 30, 1987 - Died October 23, 2012

That said, it truly is your and your family's decision on how the text should read.  The headstone engraver may have other examples for you to consider.

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Nancy Mitchell


Social etiquette; Business etiquette; Entertaining etiquette; Wedding etiquette; Protocol, domestic (US) and international; Flag etiquette; Dining etiquette; Restaurant etiquette; Spa etiquette; Travel etiquette


Nancy R. Mitchell is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol consultant and trainer with more than 30 years of experience in the field. She owns the firm The Etiquette Advocate and is an owner and founding partner of the firm Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at The George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses in the School of Business and the Career Center, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was director of special events and protocol at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other distinguished visitors, galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, Mitchell served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, embassies, academia and corporations.

Protocol and Diplomacy - International Protocol Association

Mitchell is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by CNN, ABC Nightline, Martha Stewart Living Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Washington Business Journal, the Associated Press and Washingtonian magazine, has been featured on ABC Good Morning America, Fox News and National Public Radio, and is an etiquette columnist for, etiquette consultant to Alexandria Woman and to Engaged! magazine, and technical editor of Wedding Etiquette for Dummies (Wiley, 2010).

B.S., University of Utah, 1969

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