You’ve been asked to speak at a funeral. You have a basic idea of how to write a tribute speech, but you need some inspiration. Perhaps you are struggling to put into words how exceptional your mom was.
Maybe every time you try to write about the characteristics of your sister, the words sound generic and hollow. It could be that you haven’t written anything but emails since high school or college, and you are uncomfortable putting your thoughts into words.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- For a Parent
- For a Sibling
- For a Partner or Spouse
- For a Friend
- For Another Close Family Member
- For a Mentor
- For a Colleague
- How to Choose the Right Words
Let us help. Here are some short tribute samples. We’ll try to give you examples of how to begin, portions from the middle of a speech, and how to conclude your tribute. We hope that reading these short excerpts will inspire you to be able to write a speech for someone close to you.
COVID-19 tip: If you're speaking at a virtual or live streamed funeral using a service like GatheringUs, you can still share your thoughts or eulogy with your online guests. Coordinate with your planning team, make sure you have the right microphones and other audio equipment, and send online guests digital funeral programs with the full speaking schedule.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, handling a loved one's unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
For a Parent
"Good afternoon. I am Peter, Mary’s oldest son. My sister Patricia and I would like to welcome you to the memorial service of our mom. I’m going to be honest. I’m a high school teacher, so I am used to public speaking. But presenting this tribute will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Please give me grace as I struggle through my thoughts and ideas and try to articulate what an amazing woman my mom was.
Instead of giving you a list of adjectives to describe my mom, I would like to tell you a few of our favorite stories about her and let you draw your own conclusions.
First, you probably didn’t know this, but my mom has been quietly working with the homeless population for years. She didn’t talk about it. In fact, she never said anything to my sister or me about her work. Instead, she would quietly prepare bags of snacks and toiletries every Sunday evening, and then several times throughout that week, she would distribute the packages to the homeless communities downtown. I see the looks of surprise on some of your faces, and you probably are asking yourself how you didn’t know this about my mom. That’s just the type of person she was—selfless and humble."
Tip: You can set up a memorial fundraiser to help with funeral expenses or to donate to your loved one's favorite charity on a platform like Everloved.
For a Sibling
"Shawna had such an exuberant spirit. I see many of you nodding your heads because you know this may be the understatement of the century.
Even though I was two years ahead of Shawna in school, people in my class would ask if I was Shawna’s brother. It used to infuriate me, but I understand why it happened. Shawna made a point to learn everyone’s name. Not only that, but she would also learn everyone’s siblings’ names, how long they had lived in the area, and whether they liked chocolate or strawberry ice cream.
Shawna was a natural-born public relations director. She loved people, and people loved her. It’s no surprise there’s not an empty seat in the church today. This packed house means a lot to my parents and me. We can’t tell you how much we have appreciated all the messages we have received in the last week. Your support has been overwhelming."
For a Partner or Spouse
"Finally, besides being grateful for my amazing children and close friends, I am thankful for the treasure trove of memories that I have of my life with Michael. Even though I feel as if my right arm has been removed, I know that someday I may again laugh when I remember some of his god-awful jokes.
Eventually, I will be able to use his Graceland coffee cup without breaking down into tears. There will come a point when I will be able to look back at our lifetime of memories together and smile. Until then, I would love for you to share your memories of Michael with me. It comforts me to know that there are others out there thinking of and mourning for this great man."
For a Friend
"The first thing I noticed about Carol was her big mane of red, curly hair. It didn’t take long to discover that her hair matched her personality. And it’s that personality that I would like to celebrate with you today.
Let’s start by remembering her laugh. I always knew where Carol was when I entered a restaurant for a lunch date with her and our high school friends. I only had to pause at the entrance of the dining room and listen for her loud, contagious laugh. I never had to wait long to hear it because Carol was always the life of the party."
For Another Close Family Member
"My mom has shared a lot of stories about Uncle Ralph through the years. My favorite stories were about his adventures when he was a young adult—before he married Aunt Rita.
Apparently, Ralph had an adventurous spirit back in the late 1960s. He spent his summers hitchhiking across the country, with his old Boy Scout pack slung across his back. Ralph was able to get rides from other hippies, truck drivers, ranchers, and once a cult leader.
He slept under the stars in the Sierra Nevada mountains and woke up once to see a bear rummaging through his pack. I wasn’t around back then, but I’ve seen photos of Ralph from this time. He was almost unrecognizable. The Uncle Ralph that I knew was a clean-cut Presbyterian minister. "
For a Mentor
"Today I would like to pay tribute to a great woman and mentor, Julia Price. Julia was born to a Missouri farm couple in 1958. Her parents, Sam and Glenda Smith, had struggled to conceive, and when Julia finally arrived to complete their family, they were delighted. They treated their daughter as a princess, and she loved them with her whole heart.
Although she didn’t want to leave home, her parents convinced her to enroll in the University of Missouri after she graduated from high school as valedictorian. There, she studied journalism and became the first female editor of the college newspaper. She loved her new-found career, and when she graduated, she received an offer from major newspapers in St. Louis and Chicago.
She began her career covering city hall in Chicago. You know she met a lot of interesting characters from this experience—many of whom are currently serving time in prison. Regardless, she remained unintimidated by these high-profile public servants and worked hard to make sure the local population knew what was going on behind closed doors."
For a Colleague
"It is my honor to speak today about Bill. Although I wish I were talking at his retirement party instead of his funeral, we all know that life isn’t fair sometimes. It’s not fair that Bill was taken from his wife Carol after only 27 years together. It’s not fair that Bill wasn’t able to live long enough to see his first granddaughter born next spring. And it’s not fair that our office will be without Bill’s booming voice and contagious laugh. Things won’t ever be the same.
No one worked harder than Bill. He knew every aspect of the business, which is not a surprise since he started in the warehouse when he was 23 years old. He worked his way up to warehouse supervisor, and then distribution manager, and finally, one of the vice presidents of the company."
How to Choose the Right Words
We hope these short eulogy samples will help you get over your writer’s block. But don’t beat yourself up if you really struggle to write a fitting tribute to your loved one or colleague. You are undertaking a difficult and important task.
- Give yourself plenty of time to write your speech. Begin jotting down ideas as soon as you are asked. You may want to speak to others who knew the deceased to learn stories and gather ideas.
- Write out a draft of your tribute, using as many specific examples and stories as possible. Avoid making general statements about the person’s personality without having a particular memory to share.
- Also, remember that a funeral is not the appropriate place to share someone’s secrets. It’s not the time to make a bombshell announcement or reveal a life-long secret.
- Finally, once you have your draft, share it with several other people. Ask for suggestions and be open-minded with their edits.
Writing a tribute is a lot of work, but it is a great honor to be asked to speak at a loved one’s memorial service.