How to write a eulogy
If you’ve been asked to write a funeral eulogy, or you’d like to say a few words at the ceremony of a loved one, it can be a daunting prospect. If you’re grieving, you may not want to think about the person you've just lost, so getting your thoughts and memories together can be a tough ask.
Here we answer your questions including 'what is a eulogy?' and 'how long should a eulogy be?'. We've also included a few tips for writing a eulogy that is both heartfelt and meaningful, as well as informative for guests who may not know the person as well as you do. Read on to find out how to write a funeral eulogy that best commemorates their life.
What is a funeral eulogy?
A eulogy is speech or piece of writing that pays tribute to the person who has passed away. It is usually read aloud at a funeral service, but it can also be common for eulogies to be read at the person’s wake. Eulogies don’t always have to be religious or serious - they can even be full of humour. A good eulogy is heartfelt, honest and personal. The key thing with writing a eulogy is creating a farewell that both commemorates and praises the best things in the person’s life, giving everyone who is listening a moment to both remember and cherish.
Eulogy writing tips
Knowing how to start a eulogy can be difficult, as everyone is different. Here are some tips on how to write a eulogy:
1. Keep it brief
Eulogies need to strike a balance; including every detail of the person’s life isn't necessary and may result in a eulogy that is drawn out and loses meaning. The purpose is to summarise their life and achievements. Pick one or two qualities that you’d like to talk about, perhaps a story or an experience that you shared with the deceased, or maybe speak about a good deed or cause that they cared about.
How long should a funeral eulogy be?
There isn't an official limit, but between 3 and 5 minutes is a good guideline.
2. Try not to read the eulogy from a sheet
Some people prefer to deliver a eulogy that is conversational and sometimes even improvised. If you don't feel comfortable with this, jot down some notes and practice on other family members to judge reactions and get their feedback. As with any public speaking, reading out loud from a sheet of paper can be uninspiring and may get lost on those towards the back of the room. Instead, you might want to use notes that can be glanced at rather than a script. Make sure to look up at the congregation and speak clearly and use notes that can be glanced at rather than a script.
3. Don’t worry about getting upset
There's no need to worry about getting upset during a eulogy. Funerals can be deeply distressing and will naturally affect the way you deliver a speech, especially if you have lost someone who you were particularly close to. Don’t worry at all about taking a moment to gather your thoughts, and don’t worry if you’re unable to finish the eulogy. It's a good idea to practice your eulogy in advance and to take a bottle of water with you when you give your speech. We guarantee that there won't be a single person in the room who will judge you for stopping, pausing or not wanting to continue. We guarantee that there won’t be a single person in the room who will judge you for stopping, pausing or not wanting to continue.
If you are struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one and don’t feel that you have anyone to talk to about it, then take a look at our Grief & Loss support page. Our specially trained bereavement councillors are available from 9am to 9pm and can be reached via our GriefChat service.
4. Make a eulogy personal
Remember that eulogies are about the person who has passed away. When writing a eulogy, try not to be tempted to go off on a tangent about other family members, their work / friends / sports team or even yourself - Instead, stay on track with anecdotes and messages that only involve them. This will also help your eulogy to stay on track from a time perspective.
How to write a eulogy - things to include:
- Where they were born and their early life
- Names of close family
- Notable jobs / military service
- How they met their spouse or partner
- Your relationship with them
- Their favourite activities and pastimes
- Their favourite TV shows, films or music
- Charitable or volunteering work
- Any other achievements
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Not many people will know how to write a eulogy, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Religious figures are a good starting point if they are conducting the service, as they will likely have experienced many eulogies in services they have delivered, but you may want to speak to others who have recently delivered eulogies too. First-hand experience always wins.
6. Plan it out
For many people, the hard part of writing a eulogy is the structuring of what you’re going to say. Instead of trying to get everything down all in one go, try building out a planning board or mood board to help you compartmentalise each section of the eulogy. Maybe get some photos of the person who has passed away, as well as any letters they wrote or even print-outs of meaningful texts or emails. Then, put them together on a blank wall or spare noticeboard and start organising each item by importance.
Use a timeline and lay out the things you’d like to mention in the funeral eulogy and perhaps use post-it notes to mark out the most important parts. Planning the eulogy ahead of time will help you to realise which parts of the person’s life were most memorable, or which parts you feel need to be shared with fellow mourners.
7. Keep it light if you feel like it
Despite funerals being solemn occasions, many people feel that they’d like their funeral to be a happy occasion and more of a celebration of their life. When writing a eulogy, don’t focus too much on the sadness of their passing, and think instead of happy or funny moments that could raise a laugh in the room. That humorous quip or downright hilarious moment from their life could help to lighten spirits even for a short amount of time and will help the audience to connect with the person through laughter or even just a knowing smile.
Tips for delivering a eulogy
Our tips for delivering a eulogy might be familiar to those who are used to speaking in public, but at such an upsetting time, it's worth taking the time to remember to:
Public speaking doesn’t always come naturally to many, and it’s easy to start fidgeting with notes or try to move around. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, fold your hands loosely in front of you and concentrate on moving your head around the room, looking at each member of the audience as you speak – this will help you to take your attention away from your feet.
Speak clearly and with enough volume
You've thought long and hard about what you want to include in the eulogy, so make sure those at the back can hear you clearly. If you have trouble speaking loudly, then don’t be afraid to ask the venue if they have a microphone.
Pause for thought
Although it may be tempting to get through what can be a difficult moment as quickly as possible, taking your time when delivering a eulogy will actually help it to become more meaningful. Even a pause of a few seconds between sections will help mourners to process what you have said and spend even a very small amount of time remembering key moments they may also have been involved in.
Hopefully these tips should give you some guidance on how to write a eulogy that will both do justice to the person who has passed away and to help mourners to remember the best parts of their life. If you need any further help and guidance on organising a funeral or just need to find out what to do when, then head to our guidance and advice section.
To arrange an Attended Funeral for your loved one with a service led by you and your family, call Simplicity Cremations today on 0800 484 0260.