How to Plan a Funeral Service

Things to consider when planning a funeral service

Last updated: 16 March 2017

You will need to plan a funeral service with your funeral director and the person who is leading the service (for example the minister or funeral celebrant). Unless you want a very basic service, you will need to make some decisions about the funeral order of service and what you and your family would like to be included.

If you are planning a religious funeral, be aware that some religions have guidelines for the order of service. Some more devout religious branches may require certain prayers or ceremonies to be included. Many religions, however, are now quite flexible about what can be included in a funeral service and are happy to discuss special requests.

Music

Music is often considered a key part of a funeral order of service. Increasingly the music included in the service is used to reflect the personality and tastes of the person who has passed away. Choices vary widely, from religious organ music to rock and roll.

If the funeral is taking place in a church or place of worship, there may be some restrictions on what music can be played. This may depend on how strict that particular religious branch may be. Generally, however, popular music is allowed, as long as it isn’t giving an anti-religious message.

It is common to have a piece of music played as the coffin is carried into the venue when the service is being held, and a different piece of music as the coffin is carried out. Songs may also be played during the service.

Hymns

Christian funerals often incorporate one or more hymns sung by the congregation. Hymns traditionally give a message of faith in God and trusting that the person who has died will find peace in heaven. Hymns can vary widely in tone, from more traditional and sombre, to positive and hopeful.

Even if you are not arranging a strictly Christian service in a church, you might want to include a hymn. Many people in the UK grow up singing hymns at school or remember a favourite hymn from attending church, even if they weren’t a devout Christian. It is completely acceptable to include a hymn in an otherwise non-religious service, if it has meaning for you and your loved one.

If you are planning a funeral, browse our collection of popular funeral hymns for more ideas about what to sing during the service.

Readings and poems

Readings and poems are usually relatively short compared to the eulogy, with a thoughtful message about life and death, or with a special meaning to the person who has died.

Incorporating readings and poems into the order of service may allow friends and family members to have a part in the funeral. Drawing on the words of others can also be a helpful way of expressing a certain ideas and bringing comfort to mourners.

For religious funerals, readings may be taken from religious texts. These readings usually highlight that religion’s beliefs about death and the afterlife.

Browse our collection of funeral poems and verses to get some ideas about what you could include in the service.

Prayers

Religious funerals may include one or more prayers. You will be able to discuss suitable prayers with the minister or religious leader who is conducting the funeral service. They may recommend particular prayers, or your loved one may have had a favourite that you wish to share.

As previously mentioned, some religions may require that certain traditional funeral prayers are included in the service. Speak to the person conducting the service about which religious elements have to be included.

The eulogy

The eulogy is the speech given at a funeral honouring the life of the person who has passed away. Usually the eulogy is written and given by a close friend or family member.

Eulogies can be in many different styles, depending both on the personality of the person who died, and the personality of the person giving the speech. If you are deciding who should give the eulogy at your loved one’s funeral, think carefully about who knew them well and who is likely to write a fitting tribute to their life. You might choose to have more than one person give a speech at the funeral. Bear in mind that there is a time limit, so their speeches will need to be shorter than a standard eulogy.

Remember, you can discuss all these elements in depth with your funeral director and the person who is leading the funeral. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or make requests, even if they seem a little unusual. You can work together to plan the ideal funeral service to honour your loved one.