Funeral Decisions: Who Delivers a Eulogy?

Freeman Brothers was first established as a funeral director in Horsham, West Sussex, in 1855. The company remains independent and family-run, and now has a further three offices across the county in Billingshurst, Crawley, and Hurstpierpoint. Funeral service content is something which is much-debated and today, Community Co-Ordinator, Becky, discusses the topic of eulogies. In […]

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Internal shot of the Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors Hills Cemetery Chapel

Freeman Brothers was first established as a funeral director in Horsham, West Sussex, in 1855. The company remains independent and family-run, and now has a further three offices across the county in Billingshurst, Crawley, and Hurstpierpoint. Funeral service content is something which is much-debated and today, Community Co-Ordinator, Becky, discusses the topic of eulogies.

In England, there are no compulsory elements of a funeral service in legal terms. You don’t even need to have a funeral, as the only legal requirement is that the Deceased person’s body is correctly disposed of, which can be done without a service or ceremony. However, many people will choose to have a service of some description, whether it is directly linked to their burial or cremation and takes place beforehand with the coffin present, or at a later date in a more contemporary celebration of life or thanksgiving-style.

Some religions and cultures will prescribe a particular service format, and how strictly this is adhered to often depends on the choices of those arranging the service, plus the person leading it. Whether the service is to be religious or not, a very common element is for a eulogy – a speech about the person who has died – to be delivered.

What is a eulogy?
As previously mentioned, a eulogy is a speech, and whilst the term may be attached to events such as a retirement, it is most often used in relation to death and funerals. Eulogies will typically tell the story of the person’s life, and are often humorous as well as serious. In this way, they can offer both moments of levity, and perhaps new information to some of those in attendance – I learned quite a lot about my own Grandad via his eulogy!

Who delivers a eulogy?
The choice for who delivers a eulogy is entirely personal. It may be the person leading the service – a religious leader or celebrant – or it could be a mourner who has agreed to take on the task. Many people like to have someone the Deceased person knew read the eulogy, as this adds a personal element; these days, it’s not uncommon for the service leader not to have met the Deceased person, which some feel means that they are too distant for this highly personal task. It might be that a speech is not even read at all, and instead printed for people to read at their leisure.

Decisions to consider regarding a eulogy
Funerals can be emotional occasions, and the advice given regarding eulogies is similar to what we share about carrying the coffin – you may think that you will be ok to do so, but things may change on the day. Either circumstance is acceptable, so the best thing to do is have a backup plan in case you change your mind.

For this reason, we will always supply the appropriate number of bearers, in case the mourners who had been willing are not able to at the last minute. We would advise asking someone else in advance to be prepared to read the eulogy just in case – even if this is the service leader – and it’s another reason for perhaps choosing to have printed copies of the eulogy for your guests too.

Just writing a eulogy can be a daunting task, particularly if you aren’t used to writing speeches, and this is again where a service leader can help. Part of the role of a religious leader or celebrant is to help you prepare for the funeral by determining the content of the service, from choosing songs, the running order, and other readings, to writing the text for any speeches. Again, if you initially think that you will be able to do this yourself, only to change your mind, it’s ok to say so. Contacting the service leader in advance won’t bother them, and they will be pleased to help you complete the task.

It may be that all they have to do is give you a framework, or suggest who else within your friendship group or family to speak to in order to broaden out your picture of the person. They might also review your speech once you’ve completed a draft, and offer their thoughts on what might improve it.

A eulogy with a real difference
And, if you really want to call the shots, ensuring that what’s said about you is favourable – you can always write your own eulogy! There have been several instances of this happening, and the only suggestion we’d make here is that hopefully you trust the person tasked with reading it to do so faithfully… or go even further and pre-record it yourself too (something which wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste!).

Ultimately, the best decision is the one which is right for you – whether it’s someone who knew the person who has died, or the steady hand (and voice!) of an experienced celebrant or religious leader, a bit of thought beforehand will ensure that you get what you need from a funeral service.

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Written by Becky Hughes

Community Co-Ordinator

June 7, 2023

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