How To Choose People to Deliver Eulogies and Speeches at Your Funeral or Memorial Service

At your funeral or memorial service, people can deliver eulogies and other speeches reflecting on you and your life.

Delivering a eulogy is often seen as a great privilege. At the same time, for many people the experience of delivering a eulogy can be emotionally overwhelming. As you think about the people you'd like to have speak at your funeral or memorial service, consider who would be able to rise to the occasion while maintaining the emotional wherewithal to do a good job.

Who can deliver a eulogy

Family members, friends, clergy, and/or funeral conductors often give eulogies. At very religious funerals it is common for only clergy to deliver eulogies. However, even at many religious funerals it is common for others to deliver eulogies as well.

For many people, writing and delivering a eulogy is a deeply emotional experience, and though it can be a positive experience for some, it can be too difficult for others. Talk to the people you’re considering as speakers to make sure that they are comfortable with the task. Some people may be too emotionally overwhelmed at the funeral to carry out the task and may know this about themselves ahead of time, so be prepared for some people to decline your offer.

Eulogy topics

The focus of a eulogy should be on you and your life. A religious leader might speak about your religious faith, a business colleague might speak about your professional life, and a family member might speak about your personal life. Many people share memories or tell stories in a eulogy, to help illustrate the nature and character of the person they're speaking about.

Sometimes the topic of the eulogy is left up to the speaker to decide, while other times the topic has been chosen for the speaker. Whether speakers will have assigned topics or may speak about whatever they choose is entirely up to you. If you would like to choose topics for the people who will be delivering eulogies, talk to them about that ahead of time. Let them know why you've chosen them to focus on a particular topic, and be open to answering any questions or addressing any concerns they might have. This way, when the time comes, the people you've chosen to speak will be prepared, and will fully understand your wishes.

How many people should deliver eulogies

Unless you will be following strict religious customs, the number of speakers at your funeral or memorial service is entirely up to you. One way to determine how many speakers you should have is to think about how long you'd like the service to be. Another way is to think about the people who are most important to you, and ask those people to speak. A third way is to consider the topics that you'd like people to address, and choose specific people to speak on each of those topics. It is also entirely appropriate to have only one person deliver a eulogy.

Religious considerations

In many religions, the eulogy is delivered by the clergy member who is officiating the service. In many cases, a religious eulogy will focus on the role of God and faith in your life, rather than any secular accomplishments. If you have a close relationship with your religious leader, you might consider meeting with him or her to talk about any specific issues you'd like to have addressed or avoided in the eulogy. If you would like to have a religious funeral or memorial service but don't have a relationship with a religious leader, you might consider beginning to build a relationship so that he or she can speak knowingly about you at the service.

If you're planning on having a religious funeral or memorial service that might prohibit friends or family members from eulogizing you, you might consider planning events before or after the service where people can have an opportunity to speak. Events before a funeral or memorial service commonly take the form of a wake, viewing, or visitation, and events after a service usually take the form of a reception.

To learn more about different religions' funeral customs, see our article Religious Funeral Traditions.

Other opportunities to speak at a funeral or memorial service

Aside from a formal eulogy, there are many opportunities to speak at a funeral or memorial service. People can say prayers, recite poems, or tell stories about you and your life. If there are any special readings or anecdotes that you’d like to have shared at the funeral, think about what you'd like those readings to be, and who you'd like to share them.

If there are specific people who you would like to have speak at your funeral or memorial, think about whether you’d like to choose readings for them or whether you’d like to let them choose what to say. Depending on the amount of planning you're doing, you may want to ask people ahead of time if they'd be open to speaking at your service. Or you can let your family know the specific people you'd like to have speak, and your famliy can reach out to those people when the time comes.

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