If someone you love passes away and planning the funeral falls to you, you might feel overwhelmed. There is usually a short timeframe to accomplish the planning, and there is much to consider.
You’re thinking about venues for services, planning meals with family and friends, and comforting emotionally distraught loved ones. You may also have guests coming from out of town. You need quick answers for your questions about what to include in the funeral service.
Let’s look at an order of service template for a funeral and the purpose behind each part.
Printing a Program
Printing an order of service for a funeral often helps with the flow of the service. Others know what to expect and appreciate knowing what comes next. It is essential for the participants in the service who may feel nervous and uncomfortable about speaking or singing parts. You don’t want anyone to feel uneasy because they are unsure when to stand up and do their part.
Program Live Feed Link
A livestream setup with a link given out to family who cannot attend allows loved ones to view the service from anywhere in the world. Often long lost relatives and childhood friends attend funerals. Your family around the world want to see the friends and loved ones who attend. This may be their best and only chance to see everyone. Funerals are once in a lifetime events and the whole family dynamic changes with the loss of your loved one.
Order of Service
Consider including some of the choices below in a traditional funeral service. You may work with your funeral director or spiritual leader to narrow down what is crucial for your family, religious, or cultural traditions.
Keep in mind that any of these items for an order of service may or may not fit with your family’s traditions. In that case, your funeral home director may advise an appropriate substitution or an omission of that part entirely.
Generally, a funeral begins promptly at the listed time by an usher leading in the family and close friends to sit in a reserved section of the venue. The spouse, any children, or parents will sit in the front row.
Often, a funeral will start with a prayer or scripture reading by the spiritual leader for the family. In many families, a pastor, priest, or another spiritual leader for the family may pray. If there is no religious preference, a funeral director or chaplain may lead the congregation in prayer, or you may skip this entirely.
Prayer may help set the tone for the funeral by acknowledging the deep grief and emotionally difficult journey that loved ones now face. It is also a time for everyone to breathe and rest before God, who recognizes their pain and struggle.
Scripture or Guidance Reading
Many people adhere to a faith in God or a philosophy for living. At this point in the service, it is common to include a reading. This reading could be a:
- Passage by a poet
- Scripture from a holy text
- Section of philosophy
- Writing by the deceased.
Usually, this reading gives a sense of the deceased’s life’s meaning or reason for living.
You may plan a musical selection next. Often, family or those who worked with or socialized with the deceased may feel honored to perform a piece for the funeral. If the family or deceased loved music and had a favorite song or style of music, this is a perfect time to include a piece.
A mother and grandmother who recently passed in South Carolina grew up in Alabama singing spiritual songs with her brothers, sisters, cousins, and extended family. She asked that several nieces sing songs with her living brothers and sisters at her funeral. They began the song portion of the funeral by leading a congregational song from her Presbyterian Christian church’s hymnal.
Someone could lead a song here for all to sing together as a congregation. You could also choose to play a musical selection through the speaker system.
Reading of Condolences
Often, a pastor or speaker may read a few cards or condolences written to the family. The idea is to remember well the person who has passed on. Condolences give a sense of who the deceased was. The thoughts of others help mourners see the decedent through others’ eyes.
Remembering the good times together may help everyone to feel grateful for the time they had with the deceased, however short.
You may wish to include a soloist for another song selection at this point. Music soothes the soul and may give those gathered a chance to reflect. There is time to ponder the gift of life and mourn the loss of their connection with the deceased.
After the musical selection, some guests may feel ready to share their memories. You may include a time where the mic is open for guests to share thoughts about the deceased. If you do choose to open the mic, you’ll want to have a strong leader in place who can help those who share to keep the comments short. You may want to include a note in your order of service that states, “keep comments to 2 minutes please.”
Most will naturally not want to stay in front of the mic for an extended time. However, occasionally, someone may not realize they are speaking too long. A funeral director or religious leader may step in and tactfully help move the service along.
An alternative is to plan who will speak and let them prepare a specific-length eulogy ahead of time. Perhaps have each child of the deceased speak briefly instead of an open mic for anyone to come and remember aloud.
When the guest eulogies are over, the pastor or officiant will again take the mic and express thoughts that sum up what they’ve heard so far.
Eulogy and Remarks
As the pastor or officiant takes the mic, this is an excellent place to ease into their own eulogy. Generally, the speaker chosen will weave together bits and pieces of stories about the deceased’s life to show the essence of who this person was.
A eulogy is a time to remember but also to feel inspired by the deceased’s life. Perhaps they were a rock to those around them, always ready to listen and stay calm and centered when others were falling apart. Or maybe they were fun and exciting and helped others to see the joy of fully living. Perhaps they were kind and loving, always ready with words of encouragement, refusing to recognize the bad in others. Whoever they were, their life meant something. Now is the time to reflect upon that.
A Song or Slideshow
Again, a song can help those in attendance to reflect on what they’ve heard and digest what they are feeling. A slideshow or video montage is another option if you have digital arts gurus in your family.
Prayer or Reading
At this point, another reading or a short prayer can end the service. Leave the attendees with one last thought to take with them. Perhaps a reading or prayer about hope for the future or about creating a life that is about love going forward.
At the end of the prayer or reading, the speaker will ask the congregation to stand. Often, a musical selection plays on the speakers, or an organist may play a song.
The usher leads the family out of the building first. If a casket is present, the pall bearers will lead the way out down the aisle. The usher will then show the family out behind the casket. Others will slowly follow.
Often the graveside service follows immediately after a funeral service. If this is the case, you’ll want to mention that in the order of service.
If you’ve chosen not to have a graveside service, you may plan a reception instead. You’ll want to mention the reception in your order of service if you’ve invited everyone. If you’ve planned an event for family only, you’ll let them know in advance, but not in the order of service.
A funeral is more than just a time to grieve a loss. It may also be an uplifting time to remember the decedent’s love, laughter, best traits, and good character.
The funeral order of service is a way to gain closure. Remembering well helps us feel as though the person’s life was not in vain. Our relationship with them was meaningful, and our time with them, valuable.
We Can Help
At Renaissance Funeral Home, we understand you want to plan the celebration of another’s life well. Remembering your loved one together is a precious sacred time. The service you plan gives hope to those grieving and inspires them in their own lives going forward.
If you need help making your plan or with any arrangements for a loved one’s service, contact us at Renaissance. We work with families to create memorable occasions together so that you can fully grieve your loss and find inspiration as you continue living your lives. Contact us and find out how we can help.