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Sharon Hunter - March 2022

How to choose funeral speakers

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Funerals are slowly shrugging off historical “rinse and repeat” formats and becoming a more authentic reflection of someone’s life. Bespoke caskets, unique venues and gorgeous themed settings come together to create one-off funerals that truly live up to a Great Goodbye.

For all that, it’s the people giving the eulogies who really tell the story of the life lived and now passed on. If the speakers don’t fire, the best setting in the world won’t rescue a service that’s floundering. Like everything else, putting in some effort when selecting speakers will take a funeral from good to great.

Here are a few steps to help you choose speakers for the funeral service.

1. Choosing the Officiant

This is the person who will welcome everyone, guide proceedings and introduce others. They will also set the tone, so choose someone who can carry this role, and will be comfortable speaking several times, who can think on their feet and step in if someone is struggling.

2. How Many Speakers Are Needed?

This depends on the length of the service; the less restricted you are to time the greater the opportunity to have more people take part in the service. It also dials down the stress if aspects go over time. Three eulogies for 10 minutes each is half an hour. Add the officiant and 40 minutes will have flown by. Think of all the components you wish to include such as prayers, committal, singing, the photo montage and work from there.

3. Choosing Who Should Speak

Being asked to give a eulogy is a privilege. If there is a large family and friendship group, it’s hard to accommodate everyone who would like the chance to say a few words. Here are a few tips to enable plenty of people to have a say, and ensure you get a variety of stories and perspectives.

  1. Choose people who shared different parts of life with the deceased. Siblings, an old school friend, a work colleague, children or other family.

  2. Avoid people doubling up on telling the same story. This can often happen when family members speak. Instead, ask people to speak to specific anecdotes such as a favourite family holiday, a special Christmas, a prank that was shared.

  3. Get more people involved with two or three speakers sharing the podium together. Each takes a turn to speak to a component of the eulogy.

  4. Children will surprise you at their capability. Have an adult guide those who are younger to write the eulogy, but keep the essence of what they want to say. Telling the story of a favorite memory is perfect for children to share. It’s unique to them, and they can share the details confident in the knowledge that it’s theirs alone to tell.

  5. Readings are another opportunity for people to become involved without giving a eulogy. Sometimes people have noted down their favourite passage in a funeral plan.

Bespoke caskets, unique venues and gorgeous themed settings come together to create one-off funerals that truly live up to a Great Goodbye.

4. Following The Deceased’s Own Instructions

If your loved one had a personal funeral plan there may be instructions on who they want to give the eulogies. Unless their choice would cause tremendous upset, follow their wishes. Some people also write a eulogy of their own, which might be read in part or in its entirety at the service. What brought them joy, the battles they fought, and the dreams they chased. The things they were grateful for, and a message to those they love. Make sure you allocate time.

5. How Long Should People Speak For?

It all depends on how good the speaker is. We will happily listen to a captivating speaker for 30 minutes, but be squirming after five if someone is floundering. Be honest about the abilities that people have. A short anecdote told really well is better than rambling 15 minutes covering ground we’ve already heard.

6. What if People Miss Out on Speaking?

Not everyone who wishes to speak at the funeral may get the chance. There are any number of reasons this happens. Time may be limited. It could be there’s a risk of doubling up on the same stories so the honor goes to just the one person. Sometimes a judgement call is made that speaking just isn’t someone’s greatest strength.

Missing out on the chance to say a few words can rob people of the chance to pay respects. If you are having a function after the service, use this time to have another few speakers. Set up an honor page so people can write a tribute knowing that other viewers of the page will read it, and the family will have it forever. For those who aren’t confident speakers, this can be the perfect way to have their say.

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