Oamaru Marriage and Family Celebrant

Top Tips For Speaking At Funerals
Categories: Funerals

Taking part in a funeral is one of the most difficult things for members of a family to do during one of the most emotional times of their lives. 

You are faced with so much to do and organise. You want to honour and farewell your loved one with love, respect and dignity. When all of a sudden you are faced with having to publicly talk about the relationship. Read on to find a few tips and suggestions that I have found useful when organising a funeral. 

Remember there are no rules. 

In my experiences when working alongside families creating a ceremony to farewell a loved one. One of the most daunting and frightening thoughts are having to speak in public. Not knowing what to say or becoming too emotional all add to the anxiety and stress. All these feelings and emotions are very real. Experiencing the pain of losing loved one leaves us feeling inadequate and confused. My job is to work along side you and other professionals, funeral directors to guide you through the process so that your celebration and farewell to your loved is all that you wish it to be.


The first thing I do when asked to represent a family for a funeral is to meet with them. We talk about the deceased and any wishes that they may or may not have asked for. We then try and decide on a format for the ceremony, what you would like included things like prayer, hymns, poems. Some people are very specific on the type of ceremony they would like.  Other families are  faced with the task of trying to find all elements, readings, music etc themselves. I suggest ways to personalise the ceremony to reflect the persons character and personality with respect and care. From decorating the casket, flowers, video, music and tributes all these are used to carefully represent the life of the deceased. For instance covering the casket with crosswords, magazines or items of clothing that were favourites. A hat they always wore or a scarf that was a special gift, all tell stories and memories, a display of flowers either from the deceased garden or professional florist, a bouquet of vegetables are all great options that find their place in personalised funeral ceremonies.

Eulogies and Open Tributes 

Eulogies are designed to give a short story of a persons life history and are often a timeline through important event ie. recollections of moments from their childhood through to the present day, school, work life ,marriage, family, community interests, sports etc.  Whilst all these have purpose and memory, often it is beneficial to hear the family stories and significant lessons, moments and love they each hold personally for the deceased. This can be done collectively or individually. Some families I have assisted, all the grandchildren aged 5 – 14years all wrote a short memory of grandad this was then read as a collection of sentences almost like poetry.  The children’s words were beautiful and painted a lovely picture of their granddad. Another suggestion is that you can  audibly record your words spoken as reflections and tributes that can be played at the service. This avoids the shyness and anxiety of standing up in a room full of people. It works really well and allows you to tell your story your way. Whilst tears and emotions are accepted and often therapeutic not every one is comfortable at showing them publicly. 

If any of the family have any disabilities it is also good to invite them to take part and arrange an interpreter or assistant to come along. My heart melted when a 9 year old granddaughter who is profoundly deaf shared with the guests how much she loved her grandad and would miss the things that they did together. A moving and treasured way to ensure nobody from the immediate family whatever age are overlooked when preparing. 

Some families choose to include the guests, allowing opportunity for people to come and share their memories and stories through open tributes. These are often moving, funny and insightful as you learn something new about the deceased.  The only thing with opening up the ceremony to open tributes is that they can often be a bit long and sometimes repetitive for instance people from the same sports team reminiscing. Narrowing this down to inviting one or two specific people to take part is a good way to avoid this. However, a lot of families feel the pressure and often get asked by individuals if it ok for them to come and say a few words. In fear of hurting feelings, families say yes, which often snowballs into several well meaning and caring friends sharing extending the ceremony to a longer time. When I have come across this I always liaise with the immediate family and follow their wishes on the matter. It sometimes means that not everyone is able to have their moment. They are gently reminded that although they have not been able to share during the service, there is always opportunity to share their memories with the family either at the refreshments following the service or a later date. 

A memory container or notebook can be offered as a way for everyone attending a farewell to be included, recently during a ceremony honouring a farmer, the family chose an old milk can to be used as a vessel to collect peoples thoughts, wishes and memories written down on ready available paper during or following the service and posted in the milk can for the family to read later.

When I spoke to the deceased wife a few weeks later she said that the family have found a lot of comfort from picking out a few pieces of paper and reading the notes. A lovely way to share and keep memories alive into the future. 

Keepsakes and Forget Me Not’s

I can think of hundreds of suggestions to use as keepsakes for the life of a loved on. Often families give out little packets with the deceased favourite flower/vegetable seeds in, a bookmark with a special saying or quote that the person used. A recipe card with a favourite recipe, pebbles gathered from a families favourite beach and samples of delicious biscuits/sweet treats that they loved. A small toast at the end of a service using their favourite tipple. All serve as a beautiful personalised way to reflect and remember a loved one keeping their legacy alive.

These are just a few thoughts to help you when you are planning farewells and goodbyes, I hope that you have enjoyed reading them and that I have given you a few Ideas on how you can get rid of the public speaking nerves and focus on truly reflecting the love you have for your loved one. Remember to breathe and take your time, There is never any real hurry. If you or someone you know would like to talk more about the ideas in this blog, please contact me.