Writing a commemorative speech takes a different approach than crafting a eulogy. Eulogies focus on the events of someone’s life. What did they love? How did they live? By contrast, commemorative speeches memorialize values. In society, people tend to honor values such as kindness, dignity, bravery, and honesty. These positive traits from a loved one can serve as a centerpiece for a commemorative speech.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Template to Commemorate Mom or Dad
- Template to Commemorate a Sibling or Step-Sibling
- Template to Commemorate a Friend
- Template to Commemorate a Colleague
When writing a commemorative speech, note that emotions are valuable in the text. The deceased may have died in Pittsburgh and had three siblings. Commemorative speeches, though, may not even mention those facts. They serve as a celebration of values and relationships. As such, a commemorative-style speech may be a great choice for a celebration of life service.
Whether you’re writing a speech for a parent, friend, or colleague, the highlights remain the same. Usually, you would give these speeches at funerals, college graduations, and weddings. This means many tips are available. A common one to bear in mind when you review the templates below is the value of specifics. Being very specific and personal is what sets the best commemorative speeches apart.
Template to Commemorate Mom or Dad
“We’re gathered here today to celebrate a woman who packed so much life into her ninety-four years. We’re here to celebrate an entrepreneur, a race-car driver, and a mother. My mom was one of the strongest, most independent women I ever knew.
She had goals, and one of those was to raise self-reliant, happy kids. Relying on others for happiness doesn’t make sense. She taught me that. Most parents say that there’s no limit to what you can do. My mom showed me that was true.
Since she drove and sold sports cars, my mom was the one who taught me to drive. Most kids are scared to drive for the first time! My mom wouldn’t hear of it. She wanted me to realize that cars were a powerful tool that could be a lot of fun.
Before long, our driver’s ed sessions were taking place on the racetrack. There were no limits on my skills or the fun I could have, once I decided no limits were holding me back. Of course, as Mom got older, she still didn’t believe in senseless boundaries. Since she was in good health, she never stopped driving. She raced and sold sports cars well into her eighties!
My mom’s lack of fear and willingness to do things that might seem unusual to others left a legacy to us, her children. She built her own business, modifying and selling sports cars.
As a woman-led business, it was unusual in the car industry. Even so, it still took off because of my mom’s attitude and commitment. She left the business to her children, a legacy that we’re still running and profiting from today.
If my mom were here today, she wouldn’t want a grand speech. She’d want us to talk about the speed records she set or the number of cars she sold from her own business. She’d want to be remembered for who she was and what she did. I’m forever inspired by the attitude she approached her time on earth with.”
Tip: This template works because it’s tied around two traits: a lack of fear and self-reliance. These inform the anecdotes mentioned in this template.
Rather than providing a biography of your mom, focus on the results of her most positive traits. In this case, she raised successful children and left the business to them.
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Template to Commemorate a Sibling or Step-Sibling
“My sister, Hailee, was always the one comfortable speaking in front of a room. When it came to presenting to others, she glowed. Most people hate public speaking, but she wasn’t one of them. That was because Hailee was a teacher, one of the best I’ve ever met.
Most people know that she taught first grade for many years. It was something she’d wanted to do since she was a first-grader herself. Most people don’t know, though, that Hailee started early. She was the one who taught me to read! Hailee wanted to practice on someone, and I couldn’t escape. When Hailee taught me to read in a few months, anyone could tell she was good at it.
After college, Hailee became a teacher, like we all knew she would. Once she got to her dream goal, though, you could tell that she wasn’t satisfied. Nothing was as she pictured it, and Hailee always loved a good challenge. When she got to the elementary school, class sizes were huge and there weren’t many resources. Kids were being shoved from grade to grade and not learning much. Hailee was a teacher, but that meant she was an advocate and a volunteer, too.
The best teachers are those willing to lend a hand to those who need help getting back up. That’s exactly what Hailee was good at. During her first year as a teacher, Hailee drew up proposals and led teachers on strike. In the end, she won most of the things she asked for.
Throughout her career, Hailee touched hundreds of kids. She always wanted to make the world a better place, and that’s exactly what she did. Because she was Hailee, though, she wasn’t happy with stopping there. Hailee wanted to do more, so she ended up adopting kids of her own. Her teacher’s mentality meant that they were always at the top of their classes!”
Tip: This one is centered around a career choice. If you’re having trouble picking out positive traits, consider their career.
What did they do, and what does that say about them? Does their career need diligence, or attention to detail, or a big heart? Sometimes, their line of work is a dead giveaway. It clues you in about what themes you can use to tie your commemorative speech together.
Template to Commemorate a Friend
“We’re gathered here today to celebrate the person who decorated this building. Her name was Maggie. If you look around, you can see her work everywhere. The tablecloths are embroidered. The signs are in the calligraphy font that she designed. The reason we had access to so much of Maggie’s work is that she was a lifelong artist. She created enough to decorate entire buildings.
I’d known Maggie since elementary school, and she was the star of art classes even then. Back in the days of finger painting, everyone else was making stick figures and eating glue. Maggie was creating masterpieces. People tossed around the words ‘child prodigy’ and it was true. By the time we got to high school, everyone wanted Maggie on their side when it came to illustrated lab reports. Maggie was creative, though. She wasn’t willing to use her talent in ordinary ways.
That's when Maggie started copying the masters. Not for profit, not for illegal activities. She did it to see how good she was. Soon, Maggie's talent grew to where it was hard to tell the works apart!
She was so creative that she knew enough not to match colors. She had to get the soul and the mood of the painting right—and finally, she did. Some of her pieces are in museums now, as copies, and Maggie got to see those exhibits before she died.”
Template to Commemorate a Colleague
"As most people know, this is an industry where people step on your toes. We live in an ambitious city, where everyone wants to climb to the top. Everyone thinks they have what it takes. Of course, not everyone does. As someone who worked with Victoria for three years, I can say that was the most diligent person I’ve ever met.
Most people go for flashy jobs, ones where they get recognition and titles and their own offices. Victoria achieved all those things by being a diligent, detail-oriented person. She was always the first one at her desk and the last one to leave.
Sometimes, I wondered if she ever left the office! As our proofreader, she always double-checked her work. She made sure that our company looked good when our articles went live online. Her work elevated the company, which in turn, elevated her career."
Crafting Your Speech
Writing the perfect commemorative speech is an art form. Centering it around values and your relationship requires emotional vulnerability. Combining these two things is a recipe for a poignant, emotional speech that no one will forget.
If you're looking for more tips, check out our guide to speaking at a funeral.
- “Commemorative Speech Objectives & Tips.” University of Hawai’i Maui Community College Speech Department, Ka Leo Kumu, 16 January 2002, www.hawaii.edu/mauispeech/html/commemorative_speech1.html
- “Commemorative Speaking.” University of Pittsburgh Department of Communication, University of Pittsburgh, www.comm.pitt.edu/commemorative-speaking