When it comes to funeral services and other forms of remembrance for a dearly departed loved on, there may be a few different written or spoken memorials that are given. Perhaps the most common such memorial is an obituary, but another very common type that’s given at a number of funeral services, typically via a speech, is a eulogy.
A eulogy refers to any spoken or written memorial of someone who has passed on. Eulogies are often given as part of funeral services just before the final farewells, and in most cases they will be read by a close friend or family member (typically someone who knew the decedent better than most people). Some eulogies can be long and detailed; others may be shorter and more compact.
If you’ve volunteered or have been asked to give the eulogy for a friend or loved one, this is an important honor that should be taken seriously. Here are some general themes to consider as you go about composing the eulogy for any funeral.
As we alluded to above, there’s no set length of time that a eulogy should run for. Some may be very short, barely breaking into minute-long segments, while others may be longer and broken up into mini-speeches. If you’re giving the eulogy yourself, keep in mind that people are often listening to other speeches at the funeral service too, so you’ll have to compare your speaking time to how long other people are taking.
In addition, eulogy length may depend on the situation. For example, if the funeral service is part of a day-long or week-long celebration of that person’s life, then your eulogy should probably be more concise than it would be for just one speech at the end of the night during which friends and family gather around to pay their respects.
Another important consideration is the speaking style in which the eulogy will be delivered. This can range from formal to informal, depending on how much thought has been put into the speech prior to delivery. For example, if you’re delivering a well-thought-out eulogy with plenty of time for writing and rewriting before it’s given, then your words should be delivered in a formal style that is well-organized and polished.
However, if you’re delivering an impromptu eulogy with minimal time to prepare—perhaps immediately after another speaker has finished at the funeral service—you may want to use less formal language and even incorporate some humor or casual references in order to keep your speech from feeling too stiff and unnatural. Either way, try to keep your style appropriate for the funeral setting and for the person you’re speaking about.
One important tip: Don’t be afraid to be funny every now and then. While it’s true that funerals are generally somber and serious affairs, it’s also true that some people were very funny in life and would want their friends and loved ones to remember them as such. If you can find a way to sprinkle in a joke or two without seeming too insensitive, go ahead and try it!
Simply put, we realize that most people who are giving a eulogy are not professional public speakers. First and foremost, know that no one in the audience is expecting perfection here — it’s okay if you trip up every now and then! This is also a difficult speech to be giving.
The one major piece of advice we’ll give here: Maintain eye contact with your audience. Avoid looking down at your notes or computer screen during the eulogy. It’s not necessary to memorize every word, but you should at least make sure that you know where each segment of the speech begins and ends (including when and where to pause for effect). Between looking down, try to make eye contact with various members of the audience.
These are solid tips to follow for anyone writing a funeral eulogy for a friend or loved one.