Writing the Perfect Eulogy

Jul 11, 2021
Stationary lying on a cloth, an open book with words 'write shat shouldn't not be forgotten'

A eulogy is the funeral speech in which you pay tribute to a person who has died. The word itself comes from the classical Greek for "well" or "true", or "text", together with "praise". The act of delivering a eulogy goes back centuries, but traditionally would have been written and spoken by a close family member. In modern days, many people look to the celebrant to write a eulogy.

Although eulogies tend to be short, it can be difficult to know where to start with writing this summary of someone’s life, passions, and character, especially if you have never met. Our guide to writing the perfect eulogy will help you pen a personal and fitting farewell.

The Eulogy

There is no right or wrong way to write a eulogy. Eulogies are unique, and something that perfectly suits one funeral service may not be appropriate at another. For example, if the deceased had a quirky sense of humour, including a favourite joke may be an apt way to honour them. At another funeral service, including jokes in the eulogy might be inappropriate.

If you’d like inspiration, here is a list of some famous eulogies to give you ideas.

What to Include in the Eulogy
Most eulogies will include some basic information about the deceased. This could include:

When and where they were born
Where they grew up
Some brief information on their education and career
Any siblings, children or grandchildren
Achievements and awards
Hobbies or interests

Although it can be tempting to make your eulogy into a timeline of their life, many of those listening will prefer to hear anecdotes of their lives, or stories that summarise the essence of the person. As humans we have evolved we engage with stories. It’s a hangover from our early man ancestry, when storytelling was frequent.

If they loved walking or woodwork, you might like to remind your audience that they could always be found in the nearby fields or pottering in the shed. Does anyone have any fun stories that can be included? Perhaps the time the deceased fell in the river during his annual fishing trip or the time he got on a plane to the wrong holiday destination? Including simple imagery can also conjure up lovely images of the person at their most content.

 

Length
Once you get started with writing, you may find you have plenty to say. Conversely, you may find it hard to get a single sentence down. Around 500 to 1000 words is plenty, as this will take around four to seven minutes to read. A eulogy of this length is long enough for most funerals.

Remember to include a clear ending, such as a farewell sentence. A lovely way to end a eulogy is to introduce a piece of music, which can be played for the guests to sit and reflect with.

Practice
It is one thing to write a eulogy, and quite another to read it. Public speaking can be nerve wracking at any event, but this may be amplified by emotive content. Reading such a personal tribute can take courage, so it is therefore wise to practice reading the eulogy out loud beforehand.

When you begin reading, do so slowly. The eulogy is not a race, and those in the audience will be keen to hear what you have to say.

It is ok to feel emotional whilst reading. Guests will not judge you if you do look or sound sad by what you are reading. If anything, they’ll respect you for caring. Saying that, you must remain professional.

Final Thoughts
Writing a eulogy is an important part of publicly saying goodbye to someone who has died. A celebrant plays a crucial role in ensuring families feel well served by a fitting funeral.

To find out more about what a celebrant does, or about celebrant training courses offered by the ICPC, visit our website 

www.internationalcollgeofprofessionalcelebrants.org