funeral order of service

Planning the Order of a Funeral Service: A Guide

Learn about Better Place Forests sustainable Memorial Forest and find your perfect tree

How do you navigate planning a funeral service while dealing with the complexities of grief and loss? Planning a funeral involves more than just logistics; it’s about creating a space that reflects the life, values, and memories of someone you love. It’s a ceremony that intertwines sorrow with celebration, memory with hope, and farewell with remembrance. 

This delicate balance is what makes planning a funeral challenging.. It’s an opportunity to honor the deceased, provide comfort to the bereaved, and mark the passage of life in a way that resonates with those who gather to pay their respects.

In this article, we will delve into the various aspects of planning a funeral service. We aim to provide practical advice and thoughtful tips to help you craft a service that is both meaningful and healing.

Pre-Service Arrangements

The pre-service arrangements set the tone for a funeral service. Ideally it reflects the wishes of the departed and meets the emotional needs of the attendees. 

The gathering of family and friends before the service is a time for quiet reflection, shared memories, and mutual support. It’s essential to consider the space where this gathering will take place. Whether it’s at a funeral home, a family residence, or a place of worship, the environment should be welcoming and comfortable. Providing a space for people to come together, share stories, and offer condolences as part of the healing process.

order of service for funeral

Music has a profound ability to set the mood of this gathering. The selection of music should ideally reflect the tastes and personality of the deceased, or it could be chosen for its soothing or uplifting qualities. Whether it’s live music, a playlist of favorite songs, or traditional hymns, the right music can offer a sense of calm and reflection.

Lastly, ushers or greeters can help guide guests, provide programs, and assist those who may need special accommodations. The process of ushering attendees to their seats is not just a logistical necessity but also an opportunity to show care and respect. This is also a moment to ensure that close family members and friends are seated in places that allow them to participate in the service entirely.

Opening of the Funeral Service

Here are the basic steps and key considerations to ensure this part of the service is conducted smoothly and meaningfully.

1. Welcome and Acknowledgments

The opening of the service usually begins with a welcome message and acknowledgments. This task often falls to someone who was close to the deceased and who can speak comfortably in front of a gathering, such as a family member, a close friend, or a religious leader. 

The message they deliver should be concise yet heartfelt, acknowledging the loss and expressing gratitude for the presence of those who have come to pay their respects. It’s essential to ensure that this message is inclusive, recognizing the diverse relationships the deceased had and the various ways in which attendees might be grieving.

2. Opening Remarks or Prayer

You may decide to include a prayer, a moment of silence, a spiritual reading, or a secular reflection, depending on the nature of the service. The content chosen should hold significance to the deceased or their family and align with their spiritual or secular beliefs. 

Preparation is key for whoever is delivering this part of the service. They should have a clear understanding of the tone and content of their message. 

3. First Readings or Eulogies

Selecting individuals to deliver the first readings or eulogies is a crucial step. These speakers should be significant figures in the deceased’s life and capable of articulating their memories and feelings effectively. 

It’s helpful to guide these speakers on the length and content of their speeches, encouraging them to share personal stories and reflections that highlight the character and impact of the deceased. If possible, speakers should rehearse their eulogies or readings beforehand to ensure comfort with their delivery and appropriateness of content.

Key Considerations

  • Timing: Keep a close eye on the timing of each segment to ensure the service flows smoothly and stays on schedule.
  • Emotional Support: Be prepared for emotional moments. Having tissues available and a supportive environment where people feel comfortable expressing their grief is essential.
  • Accessibility: Ensure that the venue is accessible for all attendees, including those with mobility issues, and that the audio is clear for everyone, including those with hearing difficulties.

Main Service Components

This part of the service typically includes a blend of music, readings, eulogies, and possibly spiritual messages or sermons. Each element contributes to creating a meaningful and personalized tribute.

1. Musical Interludes or Hymns

Music plays a vital role in the funeral service, offering a way to express emotions that words alone cannot. The selection of hymns or musical interludes should reflect either the preferences of the deceased or the tone of the service. Live performances by musicians or vocalists can add a deeply personal touch, while recorded music can also be used effectively. The choice of music can range from traditional hymns to contemporary songs that hold special meaning for the departed or their family.

2. Readings and Reflections

Readings and reflections offer a moment for contemplation and remembrance. These can include religious texts, poetry, literary excerpts, or personal writings that were significant to the deceased or their loved ones. The readers might be close family members, friends, or religious leaders. The selection of readings should resonate with the attendees and reflect the life and values of the deceased, providing comfort and insight into their journey.

order of service funeral

3. Eulogies and Remembrances from Loved Ones

Eulogies are a central part of the service, allowing those who were close to the deceased to share memories and celebrate their life. These personal remembrances can be delivered by family members, friends, or colleagues, each offering a unique perspective on the impact and legacy of the departed. 

Eulogies should be heartfelt and genuine, capturing the essence of the person being remembered. It’s often helpful for speakers to prepare and even practice their remarks in advance to ensure they convey their message clearly and within the allotted time.

4. Sermons or Spiritual Messages

In many funeral services, especially those with religious elements, a sermon or spiritual message is delivered by a religious leader. This message often reflects on the meaning of life and death, offers comfort in the face of loss, and provides hope and encouragement to the bereaved. The content should be in line with the beliefs and values of the deceased and their family, offering a sense of solace and perspective during this difficult time.

Closing of the Service

The closing of the funeral service is a crucial phase where final respects are paid, and a sense of closure is provided to the attendees. This part of the service typically involves a concluding speech, musical elements, and guidance for the next steps, such as moving to the committal service or reception. The aim is to end the ceremony on a note that offers comfort and a sense of peace.

1. Final Blessings or Words of Comfort

This closing message is an opportunity to offer solace, summarize the collective feelings of the gathering, and provide a sense of closure. 

The words chosen should reflect the spirit of the service, acknowledging the grief of the loss while also celebrating the life that was lived. In religious services, this may take the form of a prayer or blessing. In secular services, it might be a final reflection or a poignant quote that resonates with the attendees.

order of funeral service

2. Musical Conclusion

Music at the end of the service can be a powerful way to evoke emotion and aid in the healing process. The closing music might be a favorite song of the deceased, a traditional hymn, or an instrumental piece that provides a backdrop for reflection as the service concludes. 

This music serves as a transition, helping attendees to process their emotions and prepare to leave the service. It’s essential to choose a piece that aligns with the overall tone of the service and offers a sense of peace and hope.

3. Guiding Attendees to the Committal Service or Reception

The final part of the service often involves guiding attendees to the next stage of the farewell process, whether it’s a committal service at a graveside or crematorium or a reception where memories can be shared in a more informal setting. Clear instructions should be provided on how to proceed to the following location, and assistance should be offered to those who may need it. This transition is an important logistical aspect but also a continuation of the journey of mourning and remembrance.

Post-Service Events

After the formal funeral service concludes, post-service events offer additional opportunities for mourning, remembrance, and communal support. These events, which often include a committal service and a reception or gathering, allow attendees to continue honoring the deceased in a more informal or intimate setting. Handling these events with care is essential for providing a complete and comforting farewell experience.

1. Committal Service at the Graveside or Crematorium

The committal service is a more intimate gathering where the body of the deceased is laid to its final resting place. This event usually takes place at a graveside, mausoleum, or crematorium and is often shorter and more private than the leading funeral service. It typically involves final prayers, readings, or rituals specific to cultural or religious practices. 

The tone is usually more somber and reflective, marking the physical farewell to the deceased. It’s essential to ensure that this part of the service is conducted with dignity and respect, providing a space for those closest to the deceased to say their final goodbyes.

2. Reception or Gathering

Following the committal service, a reception or gathering is often held. This event allows friends and family to come together in a less formal environment to share memories and support each other. 

The reception can be held at a family home, a community hall, or any place that feels  comfortable. It’s an opportunity for attendees to connect, share stories, and celebrate the life of the deceased. When planning this event, consider aspects like catering, seating arrangements, and whether any memorabilia or photographs of the deceased will be displayed.

3. Sharing of Memories and Support

Both during and after the reception, there’s often an informal sharing of memories and support. This can be facilitated through activities like a memory book for guests to write in, a space for sharing stories aloud, or even a video tribute. These activities provide a way for attendees to contribute their memories and reflections, creating a collective homage to the deceased. It’s also a time for offering and receiving emotional support as friends and family come together in their shared loss.

Final Thoughts

As we reflect on the journey of planning a funeral service, it’s essential to consider the lasting impact of commemorative activities. These moments, whether they are candle lighting ceremonies, multimedia presentations, or the sharing of heartfelt eulogies, offer a profound way to honor and remember the departed. In this spirit of meaningful remembrance, Better Place Forests presents an innovative and environmentally conscious option. Their approach of using memorial trees in serene forests as living tributes provides a natural alternative to traditional burial practices. 

By choosing a memorial tree, families create a lasting legacy in a protected forest, turning memories into an enduring part of the natural world. This concept not only resonates with nature lovers but also offers a unique and peaceful way to celebrate a life, ensuring that the essence of the loved one becomes forever intertwined with the beauty and tranquility of a forest.


What is the structure of a funeral?

A funeral typically follows a structure that includes pre-service arrangements, an opening segment with welcome and acknowledgments, main service components like eulogies, readings, and music, followed by closing remarks or prayers, and often concludes with post-service events like a committal service and reception.

Who does the eulogy at a funeral?

Eulogies at a funeral are usually given by close family members, friends, or colleagues of the deceased. Sometimes, a religious or spiritual leader may also deliver a eulogy, especially in formal religious services.

What does a funeral program look like?

A funeral program typically includes the order of the service and names of participants (like speakers or musicians) and may also feature a brief biography of the deceased, photographs, and special messages or quotes. It serves as a guide for attendees and a keepsake to remember the service.

Share this article
Image of a large evergreen tree

Tree or tombstone?

Learn more about Memorial Trees with Better Place Forests

Explore available trees with a Guide

Find the tree that speaks to you by exploring trees online.