23 September 2019

Advice on writing a eulogy

Writing a eulogy might seem like a daunting responsibility, but once you’ve overcome any nerves, it’s a fantastic opportunity to pay tribute to someone close to your heart.

Whether you’re a natural or novice at public speaking, our guide may give you some ideas to help you deliver a fitting eulogy for a family member or close friend.

What are eulogies for?

A eulogy is a funeral speech that honours the memory of the deceased and paints a picture of their life. The tone can be solemn, honest, and even funny – a great eulogy can bring a smile to people’s faces and a tear to their eyes.

What to include

While there are no strict rules for writing a eulogy, they often contain anecdotes, reflections on the person’s life, and words of comfort to those listening in the audience. Your speech doesn’t need to follow any particular chronology; you can focus on the deceased’s happiest moments, personal qualities, and reflect on any memories that the audience may also share. There are plenty of eulogy examples online if you need some inspiration.

When writing a eulogy, you may want to contact other people for written contributions which you can include in your speech. In doing so, you’ll create an inclusive atmosphere, build a connection with your audience, and ensure that there’s a breadth to the stories you’re telling about the person. Of course, you don’t have to sugar-coat everything; a bit of honesty about their foibles and pet peeves helps to break the ice and could bring some laughter to the room on what may be a difficult day.

Things to avoid

Getting the tone right is a balancing act, but there are subjects to avoid when delivering your eulogy. Nobody’s perfect, and a funeral is probably not the time to dwell on past mistakes, family secrets, nor contentious issues that may divide the audience. Even if you had a difficult relationship with the person, there should always be positive qualities you can talk about.

Whether you’re writing a eulogy for your dad, mum or someone else, you should think carefully about how they’d like to be remembered. For example, would they like people to celebrate their life and not just mourn their passing?

How long is a eulogy?

A eulogy usually lasts about 5 minutes, which gives you enough time to share your memories without losing the audience’s attention. And course, it’s likely there’ll be other tributes and formalities to fit in.

How to structure a eulogy

When writing a eulogy you should outline the structure with a beginning, middle and end. You should open your eulogy with an introduction, explaining your relationship to the deceased for the benefit of those in the audience. Then you can begin to pay your tributes; remember, the format can be anecdotal and doesn’t need to track the person’s life story from childhood to adulthood. In the middle of the speech you can lighten the atmosphere with your memories of the person’s likes and dislikes. It’s a good idea to end your speech on a high note, as this is the lasting memory your audience will take with them.

Rehearsing your eulogy

After writing a eulogy, it’s really important that you take the time to rehearse. Even if you’re a confident public speaker, it’s worth practicing the speech to familiarise yourself with the cadence of the words, and to decide when to break for a pause. This gives you a chance to make any revisions and figure out whether the length of time is right. Also, it’s worth asking a trusted confidant to listen to your rehearsal, which provides a valuable opportunity for any feedback and amendments.

Of course, there is no way to replicate the nerves you might feel when it comes to making the speech itself, but your rehearsals will give you the best chance of delivering a confident, fitting eulogy on the day.

Delivering your eulogy

Before giving your eulogy, spend some time at the venue to familiarise yourself with the setting. See if you can request a lectern to rest your notes on so you don’t have to rustle a piece of paper. If the room is large, you may prefer to use a microphone to project your voice.

When it comes to making your speech, don’t worry if you feel overcome with emotion – it’s perfectly natural and your audience will be feeling the same way. Take a deep breath, have some tissues ready, and remember, you don’t have to rush. It’s a good idea to speak slowly when delivering a eulogy, making sure the words are crystal clear. For extra support, you could invite a family member or friend to stand beside you. Once you feel relaxed and comfortable, you will be able to speak confidently and deliver a eulogy that makes everyone proud.

Writing a eulogy is no easy task, but with careful planning, rehearsals and input from others, you can overcome any nerves and do justice to the person you fondly remember.

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