A eulogy is a funeral reading that tells the life story of the person who has died. Writing and delivering a eulogy can be done by a friend or family member, a celebrant, or a minister. Being asked to write a eulogy is an honour. It’s a chance to reflect on the life and achievements of a loved one, paying tribute to their memory, and sharing their best qualities.
If you’ve been asked to write a eulogy, you may be wondering where to start. Ease the pressure and read our tips for writing a good eulogy, including how to go about gathering information, and what to be aware of when putting pen to paper.
A eulogy usually talks about a person’s life history, highlighting important moments, achievements and commitments. Think about their youth right through to when they passed away. If you’re unsure of any specific details, check facts with close friends and family members. It’s also a good idea to seek input from loved ones, as they may have different insights into memories or events that you’re not aware of.
Make it positive
Primarily, funeral eulogies should reflect the person’s life. If you were close to the person, you may wish to share stories and include heartfelt memories. Think about how they would like to be remembered, and the stories that reveal who they were.
Remember, people attending funeral services want to hear the positive things about the person who has passed away, but you should be honest. Be selective about the information and stories you share and capture the person’s positive essence. Share what makes them special.
Think about delivery
Public speaking can be intimidating, especially in sensitive situations like a funeral. Here are some things to remember to make delivering a eulogy as smooth as possible.
Speak slowly. Nerves can make us rush through a speech, but a speedy delivery may disorient the audience. Take a few deep breaths beforehand and speak slowly.
Take pauses. With an emotional address like this, moments of silence allow the audience to take in what’s been said, and even laugh during moments of humour.
Give eye contact. This will keep the audience engaged and make them feel like part of the eulogy.
Keep it short. People may struggle to listen to a lengthy speech at a funeral, so keep it snappy and to the point. A eulogy should be no more than a few minutes long – any longer and you’ll lose people’s attention.
Leave out clichés. Everyone knows why they are there, so there should be no need for introductions such as ‘we are gathered here today…’
Think about audience. Starting off a eulogy by broadly addressing the people in attendance, especially those who have travelled to be there, helps make a connection with the guests.
Eulogy writing checklist
Follow our tips below when planning and writing the eulogy and your reading will be reflective, smooth and respectful.
- Consult with family and friends. Even if you have all the information you need, another friend or family member may be able to suggest further details and check facts for you. Getting facts wrong can be a distraction to the audience, so making sure all information checks out is vitally important.
- Think of the person. As well as the defining moments in their life, think about the smaller things that made them who they were – their habits, hobbies, likes and dislikes. These small but significant details can truly capture the essence of a person, and bring them to life in the audience’s imagination.
- Set a structure. Decide how you’d like to tell the person’s story. Will it be chronological, starting from their childhood and moving through their life’s highlights? Or reverse chronological, moving backwards from the present? Another option is to choose a theme and give stories and examples to support it.
- Decide on the tone. The most touching eulogies will be written in a way that reflects the deceased. There’s no need to be overly formal, and you can include humour where it feels right.
- Start writing. Once you’ve decided on the above, it’s time to begin writing. This can feel like the most difficult step, but it will feel easier once you have your key points and basic structure figured out.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Writing and delivering a eulogy can feel like a huge responsibility, but you don’t have to do it alone. Ask friends, family members, or your funeral director for help and the chances are they’ll be happy to step in and offer advice.
- Practice makes perfect. There’s no pressure to memorise the eulogy word for word, but the more you practice in advance, the more likely it is that the delivery will go smoothly at the memorial service.
How to wrap up a eulogy
End your eulogy with a brief goodbye statement. It doesn’t have to be big or elaborate – it just needs to acknowledge that the person who has passed away will be missed and remains an important part of their loved ones lives.