One of the most remembered parts of any funeral service is the eulogy. A eulogy is a speech given at a funeral that sings the praises of a person who dies. The text of a eulogy is unique to each funeral. It should not be confused with the liturgy or readings that may be read at a religious funeral service.
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Since the eulogy usually includes details of a person’s life, it’s typically written by someone who knew the deceased.
The purpose of this article is to give you some general guidelines on who usually does the eulogy for a funeral. Keep in mind that each situation is unique and no funeral etiquette suggests a certain person would be better over another.
If you're in charge of preparing a eulogy, you might have other complicated tasks on your plate, too. Our post-loss checklist can help you work through all of the steps involved.
6 People Who Usually Prepare a Eulogy
The person who prepares the eulogy depends upon many factors, but the most crucial consideration is the religious faith of the deceased. Some faith organizations have scripted funerals that don’t allow for much personalization.
Other factors that determine who prepares the eulogy may include the traditions of the local community.
Here are some of the people who may be considered.
1. The deceased’s religious leader
In many communities, the deceased’s priest, pastor, rabbi, or minister writes and gives the eulogy at the funeral. If the religious leader knew the deceased personally, he or she would probably add personal stories, especially those that tell the story of the person’s faith.
At times, a funeral is performed by a religious leader who never knew the deceased. In this case, the priest or pastor may interview the survivors to try to understand the individual’s personality, habits, and beliefs.
2. The spouse of the deceased
There are certainly no rules against a spouse speaking at a loved one’s funeral, but it does not seem to occur very often.
Often, the spouse’s emotions are too raw to focus enough to write a speech. The spouse is usually in charge of overseeing the details of the service and writing a eulogy on top of gathering photos and making arrangements for out-of-town guests may be impossible.
3. An adult child or grandchild of the deceased
Eulogies written by a child or grandchild of the deceased often offer a unique perspective. They often share personal stories that may not be known by a clergy member but may include details of the deceased’s faith as well.
4. Friend of the deceased
Sometimes nobody in the deceased’s family is willing or able to write the eulogy. This may be because nobody’s comfortable with the writing process or feel that the task is too emotionally demanding.
If this is the case, sometimes friends are called upon to write and share memories of the person who died. These individuals may get a list of details to include or they may be left on their own to find the perfect words to honor their friend.
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5. A business associate of the deceased
Maybe the deceased had an impressive career. He or she may have held a public office or was a business owner active in the community. If this is the case, it may be appropriate for a colleague to write the eulogy.
While this eulogy may focus more on the deceased’s professional and personal life, it may have little to do with the person’s religious beliefs.
6. The funeral home director
Perhaps the deceased did not have any religious beliefs and family or friends are unable or unwilling to write the eulogy. In this case, a funeral home director may be called upon to say a few words at the funeral.
These statements may be brief and general, especially if the director did not know the deceased personally. But much like a minister, the funeral home director can also interview family members to get a sense of the deceased’s personality.
How to Pick Someone to Write a Eulogy
If you have never attended a funeral and you find yourself having to plan one for a family member, you may be concerned about the process. Read as much as you can on what to expect at a funeral if that is the case. You may also want to read short eulogy examples to help you understand the wide range of topics that they can cover.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with what happens at a funeral, you may consider who would be the best person to write your loved one’s eulogy. Here are some general steps to consider.
Step 1: Look for end-of-life plans of the deceased
Some people make detailed funeral plans for themselves. While he or she may not have assigned the task of writing a eulogy to a specific person, the funeral plans may include burial locations, songs to be played, or flowers to be purchased for the service. You may even find that the deceased had already written an obituary for himself.
Step 2: Consider the faith of the deceased
If the person who died was an active member of a religious group, you may assume that the priest, pastor, or rabbi would be the one to give the eulogy.
Of course, you will need to contact the individual to make sure this is true. Let the leader know if you have details that you would like him or her to share in the text of the speech.
Step 3: Ask the person closest to the deceased for ideas on who should write the eulogy
If a religious leader is not a part of the funeral and there are no predetermined plans, the person who was the closest to the deceased may need to decide who should write the eulogy.
Determining who is “closest” to the deceased may be tricky. If the deceased was married, the apparent decision-maker should be the spouse. If the person was not married but in a relationship, there may be conflict over who should plan the service (or write the eulogy). Estranged relationships can complicate this matter.
Step 4: Ask for volunteers
There may be someone in your circle of friends or family members who wishes to write the eulogy for the deceased. If this is the case, and you know this person’s motives are pure, the person in charge of the funeral may agree to this arrangement.
Several people may ask to write the eulogy. If this is the case, you may consider having several people give a small speech about the deceased’s life. This would be especially appropriate if those volunteers came from different areas of the deceased’s life.
Sometimes the Choice is Difficult
You may find that choosing the right person to write a eulogy is difficult, especially if the deceased did not have any specific religious beliefs. You may also not like the idea of someone writing about your loved one who never had the opportunity to meet the deceased.
You may consider researching how to write a eulogy if you find yourself in this position. Some people write the text of the speech but ask a funeral home director to read it. This may be a good compromise for someone who wants to share specific insights but knows that it would be too hard to read the speech in front of a group of people.
It’s also helpful to know that there are no requirements to have a eulogy at a funeral. You could simply have someone read the obituary and open up the room for comments.
The most important thing to remember about choosing a person to write a eulogy is that the person should not use the opportunity to express grievances against the deceased. A person’s funeral is not the time or place to share secrets or air dirty laundry. The words shared at a funeral can never be unsaid and should be chosen with care.