7 Tips from Celebrants on Writing a Great Funeral Speech 0

Eulogy examples: a microphone in front of a blurred background

Giving a funeral speech can be a nerve-wracking experience. Public speaking isn’t everyone’s forte — and there’s always the question of what you should (and shouldn’t) say.

So, what makes a great speech at a funeral? We spoke to four experienced celebrants — people who write and deliver eulogies professionally — to get their top tips on writing a funeral speech that feels right.

 

How to write a funeral speech, according to real celebrants

We spoke to Clive, Melanie, Kate and Adrienne for their tips on writing a brilliant funeral speech.

 

  1. writing a funeral speechWork out the length

“A five-minute speech would typically be 600 to 650 words,” says Clive Pashley, from Premier Celebrants. Most people talk at a rate of about 125 words a minute, he explains. But the more nervous you are, the faster you’ll speak.

If you get to choose how long your speech will be, ask for only as much time as you can manage. “Remember: you’re grieving, and the longer you’re up there, the harder it gets,” says Melanie Sopp, celebrant and interfaith minister. “Even two minutes can feel like an eternity.”

 

  1. Choose a topic

“Start by sorting out what the theme is,” says Adrienne Hodgson-Hoy, a celebrant from East Yorkshire. “What do you actually want to get people to understand, what is the whole basis of the speech?”

  • Eulogies are where you tell the life story of the person who has died, from beginning to end.
  • Tributes are typically shorter — 5-minute speeches on a treasured memory, anecdote, or theme from the person’s life.

“When you’re talking about somebody’s life, you talk about their passions: follow what they loved and what their strengths were,” says Kate Mitchell, who leads ceremonies in the South East. Eulogies follow a certain pattern (from birth to death), so it’s simply a case of pulling out those key moments that really reveal something.

For tributes, Melanie recommends writing about “things that mean something to you — whether it’s a personal memory, an anecdote, gratitude, or acknowledging somebody’s courage in the face of a long illness.” Family gatherings, holidays and first meetings are all good starting points for a funeral speech.

The most important thing is to tell the truth as you see it,”

  1. Follow your instincts

Not sure what to say in a funeral speech? Go with your gut.

“Just sit down and write what’s in your head, even if it’s a jumbled mess,” says Melanie. “Then go back through it to revise it and pick out what needs to be said on the day.”

Clive adds: “Don’t second guess yourself. If you think of a memory and it feels right, it’s important to you and it’s something that you shared — and if you think your friend or loved one would like you to share it — then I would go ahead and include it.”

 

  1. Be even-handed

Eulogy examples: a microphone in front of a blurred background

“Make sure your speech is as unbiased as possible,” says Adrienne. “Gather information from different parts of the family, so you actually get an accurate picture of what happened and what [the person who has died] was like.”

To get the information you need for your funeral speech, you may have to put your own opinions to one side. “Don’t be argumentative when you are taking the information, and don’t put your viewpoint first,” Adrienne stresses.

Clive agrees. “Some people use their time at the microphone to try and settle a score or get one up on someone. That’s obviously a real no-no,” he says, adding that such funeral speeches can be “excruciatingly embarrassing.”

 

  1. Be honest — even about the difficult bits

Talking about someone with a complicated or difficult history? All our celebrants agreed on one thing: not to flinch away from talking about it.

Person leaning against a fence by a lakeThe most important thing is to tell the truth as you see it,” says Kate. “To honour the person who has died, you need to talk about who they are, and not what people might want to hear about.”

“That doesn’t mean a litany of things that they did wrong — and it doesn’t have to be the gory details. It’s about telling the truth but being kind.”

“Acknowledge that they did have issues,” says Adrienne. “I lead a funeral service once for someone who was an alcoholic, and the family said that yes, he had issues with alcohol, and he tried to turn away from it, but unfortunately the issue was too big a problem for him to overcome. There are tactful ways of saying these things.”

Honesty can be cathartic. Melanie gave a difficult eulogy for her father and says that the experience was “Liberating. It was an honest account of that relationship. I don’t regret it.”

 

  1. Remember, it’s not all about you

Man and woman at a funeralIf you’re writing a funeral speech after losing a friend or family member, you’re understandably going to be in a lot of emotional pain. But while you should feel open to expressing how you feel, it’s important not to make the speech all about you.

“Just be careful not to make it too centred on yourself, and make sure it really does focus on the person who’s passed away,” says Clive.

When talking about others, specific names also are important, he stresses. “Try to avoid saying ‘we’ or ‘they’ unless it’s obvious who you’re referring to. Otherwise, it can be a little ambiguous and hard to follow.”

 

  1. Don’t be flowery, be specific

A lot of people feel that since a funeral is a serious occasion, funeral speeches should use serious, impressive language. Not so, say our celebrants.

“If their name was David, but they were known as Dave, call them Dave! Keep it personal,” says Adrienne.

“Don’t try and be clever and write flowery phases! Everybody thinks that they need to, but someone isn’t suddenly different because they died,” Kate explains. “If you can be specific, and base your speech on real things that happened, that’s best.”

“The songs you used to listen to together, the ways he used to stir his tea — those are the sorts of details that are specific to that person, and that’s what makes a great eulogy.”

 

For more inspiration…

For more ideas on things to say in a funeral speech, you can’t go wrong with our article on funeral speech examples. It’s filled with touching and sometimes even funny eulogies from real people.

Feeling nervous about an upcoming funeral speech? We followed up with Melanie, Clive, Adrienne and Kate to find out how to overcome your jitters. Check out their tips and tricks here.

 


 Meet the celebrants

Clive Pashley started Premier Celebrants with his friend, James Greely, in 2016. They were later joined by Rachel Nussey. He and his team offer professional and bespoke funeral service planning across the Midlands.

Rev. Melanie Sopp is a celebrant and interfaith minister, working across the Midlands and the South coast. Melanie runs the excellent Celebrant Academy, which trains celebrants to create ceremonies and lead services of all kinds.

Adrienne Hodgson-Hoy was inspired to become a celebrant after losing her husband. Now, she leads unique, personal funeral services across Hull and East Yorkshire. With a friend, Adrienne runs Memories of Me, a service that allows people to plan their own funeral services.

Kate Mitchell is a creative independent celebrant working in the South East: her stomping grounds include Kent, Surrey and Sussex. As well as funerals, Kate leads thoughtful wedding and baby-naming ceremonies.

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6 Inspiring Eulogy Examples to Draw From 0

Eulogy examples: a microphone in front of a blurred background

Writing a eulogy is widely (and perhaps rightly) thought of as one of the most difficult tasks out there. Not only does it involve public speaking, but it asks you to communicate how you feel about a loved one at a time when your emotions can be overwhelming. If you’ve been asked to deliver a eulogy, you might be feeling understandably nervous about the whole thing.

Don’t worry. We’ve put together some eulogy examples to show that you don’t have to be Shakespeare to put together a powerful, moving speech.

6 of the best eulogy examples to watch for inspiration

Remember, eulogies don’t have to be that long to be great, and you certainly don’t have to stop yourself from crying. If you’re struggling for words or you’re not sure where to start, here are some long, short, and even funny eulogy examples to get you started.

“He got me ready to be a strong, upstanding man.”

No two people get on one hundred percent of the time. If you’re looking for eulogy examples for a father, this speech about a man who spent some years “butting heads” with his son is a heart warming place to start. By acknowledging that history of conflict in this short, witty eulogy, the son tells the story of how it ultimately strengthened their relationship and helped him be a better version of himself.

“I want my father’s memory to help you and others.”

Here’s one of our short eulogy examples for a father who always kept his promises. Not only has this man picked out a positive character trait and focused on that, but he’s also used it to spark action and conversation among the other people attending the funeral. His father’s memory will inspire guests to follow through for their own loved ones.

“We were the light of her life, and she let us know it ‘til the end.”

“I know it may sound greedy to want more days with a person who lived so long, but the fact that my mother was 92 does not diminish, it only magnifies the enormity of the room whose doors have quietly shut.”

Not all of us will be lucky enough to have someone who can eulogise us on national television, but this tribute from American comedy legend Stephen Colbert is a fine eulogy example: a mother who taught her children to sing, dance, and pray in German is commemorated briefly but beautifully in his speech, which you can read in full here.

“She was my first teacher.”

In one of our longer funeral eulogy examples, a mother who believed in making things work is touchingly remembered. This feels like a complete picture of the person who’s died: someone vivacious, entertaining, community-minded, and endlessly resourceful. If you have the time, you can take it to show as many aspects of your loved one as you can.

“She had some trouble with technology.”

Good funny eulogy examples show that you don’t have to tell a long, complicated story with a setup and a punchline to get your audience chuckling – sometimes, just a phone call is enough. In just under four minutes, we learn that the person who’s died was intelligent, sweet, and caring, but she’s also left some laughter behind.

“That’s the kind of man I want to be.”

“Show, don’t tell” is good advice for eulogies as well as fiction. In this often funny, always touching eulogy example, a grandson describes his grandfather through a series of anecdotes that perfectly describe a man deeply loved by, and devoted to, his family.

If you can learn anything from the funeral eulogy examples you’ve seen here, let it be this: eulogies can be sweet or sharp, funny or sad, or all of those things at once – but they’re at their most effective when they’re spoken from the heart. Start with honesty, and mould it from there.

And now for something completely different.

When asked to eulogise his friend and colleague Graham Chapman, John Cleese realised he had a vitally important duty to carry out: to be the first person to drop the F-bomb at a British memorial service. We’re not suggesting this as a template, but think of it as some light relief as you search for a eulogy sample that inspires you.

For more funeral arrangement inspiration, check out our Advice Centre here.


Have you delivered or heard a great eulogy? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us all about it in the comment box below.

Missouri Storm Chaser’s Ashes to be Released into a Tornado 0

Tornado

What would you say if you could write your own obituary? For a creative option, you can’t beat Jim “Mad Dog” Sellars’ self-penned goodbye, in which the adventurous former ice cream dipper, butcher, weatherman, telephone lineman, reserve policeman and veteran storm chaser from Missouri announced that his ashes would be released into a twister.

“My friends the ‘Outlaw Chasers’ will launch my cremains into a tornado at a later date”, Sellars wrote. “That’ll be fun!!!!”

The scattering will be a fitting tribute to a man who chased well over 100 tornadoes in his lifetime. Speaking to the Kansas City Star, Sellars’ older brother John described Jim as a dedicated and generous person who approached all his hobbies whole-heartedly. “If he knew (a tornado) was going to set up somewhere, in Oklahoma, or Alabama, he would load up with a couple of people and go chase.”

“If he found something that interested him, he jumped into it all the way up to his neck.”

Even when Sellars was confined to his bed due to illness, he continued to track tornadoes for the National Weather Service’s SKYWARN program, also sending out radio reports to help his fellow storm chasers.

“It was a tough time for him, but he spent every waking hour helping people all over the radio”, said John. Condolences on Sellars’ memorial page describe him as both “fun loving”, “generous” and a “big hearted guy who was very devoted to helping others”.

Jim’s self-written obituary tells the story of a busy life well lived, with memories of family, friends, and a range of careers:

“I remember the 1960 Winter Olympics we had in our snowy backyard, sitting with Dad watching the satellite Echo 1 flash through the night sky.

“I was honored as a Policeman to have met and protected … Presidents Reagan and Ford, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, George Carlin, Dolly Parton, Mac Davis, Kenny Rogers, Tom Jones, Elvis and many more.”

It also paints a portrait of a self-deprecating man with a strong sense of humour. “I had a few tryouts with the Reds, Phillies and Cardinals. … I was either too drunk or too hung over to do much good … But I had fun.”

Yet, as you might expect from a long time storm chaser, the weather seems to have been Sellar’s enduring passion. “I saw my first tornado in Sept 1975 and my last 30 years later … I liked all kinds of weather, rain, snow, sleet, hot, cold … I really didn’t care as long as I was here to see it.”

Despite the unusual nature of his brother’s last request, John has promised to launch the ashes into a tornado as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Jim Sellars is survived by his two children, a son and a daughter, and four grandchildren.

“I loved all my family, friends, caregivers, and the people that made my world turn.” Sellars said. “So, as we move forward on our path around the sun at 66,660 mph, let’s all pray, hope, or wish for peace and love for our world.

“Bye for now. … See ya on the other side.”


Do you have any unusual wishes for your own ashes? Make sure your family know what to do when the time comes by sharing your funeral wishes in your will with Beyond. It’s free, easy and takes just ten minutes. Start writing your free will here today.