Commemorative Plaques Show Honor, Recognition

commemorative plaque made of bronze in front of a historical landmark

Commemorative or dedication plaques are the perfect way to mark a special occasion, honor an individual, or recognize a milestone in someone's life. Whether you are dedicating a monument, commemorating a wedding or anniversary, memorializing a historical building, recognizing excellence in service or achievement, or just wanting to show appreciation and gratitude for someone, creating a commemorative plaque is an excellent way to showcase your tribute. Personalized cast plaques are one-of-a-kind and leave an impression for many generations.

Typical Materials for Commemorative Plaques

A dedication plaque is typically made of metal or stone and can feature custom designs, text, logos, images, or artwork. For outdoor plaque installations, choose materials that can withstand weathering such as bronze or aluminum. Indoor recognition or memorial plaques can be made from a variety of substrates. For metal plaques, choose aluminum, bronze, or brass. Marble, granite, acrylic, or wood are other options used for indoor memorials.

Bronze Plaques

Cast bronze plaques are custom manufactured in a foundry, where bronze is melted down and poured into molds made of the personalized plaque art work. Plaques made of bronze have a beautiful, warm-toned sheen that is created from a mixture of copper and other metal alloys. Bronze is one of the most popular of commemorative and memorial plaques due to its many advantages.

  • Long Lasting in any environment

    • Bronze plaques are extremely durable for use outdoors in parks and gardens.

    • The bronze metal alloy is harder than copper and brass making it incredibly strong.

    • Bronze is resistant to corrosion and can last outdoors for hundreds of years.

  • Low Maintenance

    • If you are looking for a permanent plaque that is easy to care for and will look great outdoors for years to come, a bronze plaque is the best option. To clean a bronze plaque, simply wipe it down with mild soap and a soft cloth or brush.

  • Customizable

    • Due to its lower melting point, bronze is great for adding details to your plaque such as custom fonts, symbols, and other unique markings to make your bronze plaque stand out.

Aluminum Plaques

Plaques cast from aluminum metal are also a very durable outdoor option. Aluminum is much lighter in weight than bronze so it is ideal for larger plaques. Polished aluminum plaques have a silvery luster on the raised areas. If you prefer not to have the natural metal look for raised areas, an aluminum plaque option is to have it painted a color to contrast the background color finish. The casting process for aluminum plaques allows for finer detail of the text than it does for bronze plaques.

Marble, Granite, Acrylic and Wood Plaques

Plaques made of marble or granite can be personalized using a precision-tooled laser for engraving. Marble can corrode if exposed to rain over time so it is not recommended for outdoor use. Due to their weight, marble plaques are usually made in a smaller size (under 12" x 12").

Acrylic and wood are the most affordable, but the least durable of all the options you could choose for a plaque. Dedication plaques made of wood and acrylic are personalized with laser engraving. There are plaques made of just wood or acrylic as well as some that include acrylic mounted onto a wood placard.

Note: Signature Streetscapes does not offer marble, granite, acrylic, or wood plaques. 

Commemorative Plaque Design

When deciding on the design of your plaque, there are several factors to consider. These include the size, shape, and color of the plaque as well as any images or logos. Plaques can also be customized with special colors, finishes, and textures to give them a unique look. There are also pre-designed plaque templates for you to fill in specific details. Templated plaques help to keep costs low, are quicker to produce, and are great for gifts for weddings and anniversaries.

Size and Shape

When deciding on the dimensions of your plaque you should first consider its location and how it will be displayed. Larger plaques will most likely need a sturdier structure to support them. If you are considering a podium mount, there may be minimum and maximum plaque size and weight requirements. The material also determines the ability to create certain shapes. The most popular shape is a standard rectangle, but plaques made of bronze and aluminum can be cast into just about any format imaginable.

Here are some of the most popular, standard sizes and shapes of cast bronze and aluminum plaques.

  • Vertical and Horizontal Rectangle Plaques

    • 18" x 24" rectangle plaque - on the large end of the standard sizes and can contain a title line and couple paragraphs of text as well as a photo to display nicely at the top.

    • 12" x 18" rectangle plaque - a good standard format for a dedication plaque that is posted on a building wall or a podium. This size will also fit a photo, name and/or title, and a paragraph of text or quote.

    • 12" x 3" and 8" x 3" rectangle plaques - standard bench plaque sizes which contain a name or title line and a short phrase or quote. Sometimes a small icon or graphic can be included on a small plaque this size.

  • Square Plaques

    • 12" square plaque - can fit a title and a few lines of text or a title and an image or graphic

    • 24" square plaque - large enough to fit a photo, title line, and a few short paragraphs of text

  • Circle Round Plaques (Seals)

    • 12" diameter circle plaque - can fit a line of text around the outside edge, and a title and graphic in the middle

    • 18" round plaque - display a small image or graphic and a short title and quote

    • 24" circle plaque - a larger round plaque that can hold a few short paragraphs, an image or logo, and a name or title

  • Bell Top Plaques

    • style has similar dimensions as rectangle plaques as well as similar space for images and letters

  • Oval Plaques (same dimensions as rectangle plaques)

    • also similar dimensions as rectangle plaques but a little less space for letters and other content.

Borders and Background

border options for cast bronze memorial plaques

Different border designs and background textures and colors are options to add more detail and character to a cast commemorative plaque. Depending on the style you would like to represent, borders can make your plaque look more decorative. You can even forgo a border for a minimalist-looking plaque. The same is true for choosing your background texture. A leatherette background works great for historic commemorative plaques and a smooth background may be best for a contemporary artwork dedication plaque.

Portraits or Images

bronze memorial plaque with metal photo

Adding a portrait to a dedication or memorial plaque is perfect for immortalizing the individual you are honoring, or to display a historical landmark in its former glory. Metal photos and bas relief sculptures are customization options for cast metal plaques. Other plaque styles made of wood or granite can have images laser etched into them.

Messages for Commemoration

It is also important to consider the message or text that will appear on the plaque. This should include information about who or what it is dedicated to as well as contact details if appropriate. Besides choosing the highest quality materials and an appropriate design, the message is the most important part of a commemorative plaque. Research other dedication plaques that resemble the type of event or person for which you are writing your message. Then create something unique and meaningful that will inspire and last for years to come.

Example Messages

Wording Examples for Dedication & Memorial Plaques

  • In memory of (insert name here), whose legacy will forever live on.

  • Celebrating the life of (insert name here), who brought joy to all who knew them.

  • Remembering the victims and survivors of (event name here).

  • In memory of those who have passed, but will always be in our hearts.

wording examples for Donation and Recognition Plaques

  • Honoring the contributions of (insert group or business name here) to their community and beyond.

  • In recognition of (insert name here's) tireless dedication to their profession.

  • Paying tribute to the sacrifices made by our first responders.

  • (Building or place name) made possible by a generous gift from (donor names here)

For more ideas on types of unique wording to use on a plaque read our blog post creating the perfect memorial plaque.

Adding the Message in the Casting Process

Once the design is finalized and approved, it is ready for production. Different styles require different production processes.

As mentioned above, substrates like marble, granite, acrylic, and wood are laser engraved, whereas cast metal bronze and aluminum plaques go through a metal casting process. Engraved plaques result in a design that is etched into the material, whereas cast plaques result in raised text, icons, and borders.

Cast Plaques

Figure Caption: Examples of Bronze (top) and Aluminum (bottom) plaques with polished raised text.

Cast metal aluminum and bronze plaques end in raised text and design elements, as well as the border - if you choose to have one. After a plaque is cast, it goes through other stages like cleanup, polishing, and finishing. Since cast plaques are custom manufactured, they are in production for about 4-6 weeks to assure the best quality plaque.

Cost of Commemorative Plaques

Pricing depends on the size and material of the plaque, as well as the colors, logos or images desired. A small 12" x 3" cast aluminum plaque that is meant for a park bench might run around $150, while a larger 24" x 36" bronze plaque with a basrelief portrait and a longer message could be $2000.

A Work of Art

Ultimately, commemorative or dedication plaques are a timeless way to recognize and honor special occasions, individuals, and milestones. With the right design and materials, the plaque produced with care and quality craftsmanship can become a beautiful work of art that will last for years to come.

When it comes to high-quality aluminum and bronze plaques and other decorative signs, Signature Streetscapes manufactures the best in the USA. They have a full-service foundry, including a finishing department in one building. For more information on creating personalized plaques for your special occasion, contact Signature Streetscapes today.

About Steve Snuffer

photo of author, Steve Snuffer, Sales Manager at Signature Streetscapes

Steve has worked in the architectural sign industry for 31 years beginning in operations and focusing most recently on sales. His knowledge of project management, design, quality and fulfillment gives our clients peace of mind throughout their entire experience. Steve holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Western Michigan University.