Planning a funeral service

When it comes to planning a funeral service, it can often be hard to know what needs to go into the schedule of service and in what order.

Where should you have readings or poems, when can family and friends play tribute, should you play music and what hymns or songs or prayers are most suitable for the occasion?

Plus it changes for different faiths, with some religions having guidelines that need to be followed for the Order of Service, with certain ceremonies or prayers that must be included.

The starting point when planning

First of all, it’s important to know how much time you’ve been allocated by the church, crematorium or place of worship. If you only have half an hour, there’s no point in planning a service that takes twice as long. If you do that, you may find another funeral party waiting to come in the door behind you!

We highly recommend you work with your Co-op Funeral Director and your chosen minister or celebrant to plan a funeral that best reflects the life and times of the person who died, and injects some of their personality into the proceedings. This is an opportunity to honour and celebrate their life while allowing for grieving and reflection.

The Order of Service

A sample half hour Order of Service could be as follows (or the components could be in another order):

  • Music when the congregation enters

Sometimes the deceased will specify in their will what music they would like played at their funeral. Alternatively, family members or the funeral organiser may be expected to choose something. It is best to keep any music choices throughout the service to around three minutes each.

  • Music to accompany the coffin

When the Funeral Director and pallbearers accompany the coffin into the church or crematorium, it is usual for another piece of music to be played. This can be anything that reflects the individual person – and be as light-hearted or as serious as you wish it to be. It could be heavy rock or a piece of calming classical music or it could be a song with words that have meaning, as long as it isn’t offensive. You might even have a singer or musician. The coffin will be placed in front of the congregation and any funeral staff will retreat.

  • Welcome from the minister/celebrant

A minister or celebrant will usually visit or call you some days before the funeral to find out more about the deceased. This will allow them to personalise the service when they welcome the congregation, giving a feel for who the deceased was, what they did for a living or if they were retired, where they lived and the key members of their family. They will also enquire about hobbies and interests and any other relevant facts.

  • A hymn or song

At this point, the mourners may be invited to stand to sing a hymn for a Christian funeral, or a song, accompanied by an organist or pianist, CDs, or recorded music using the Wesley music system, which offers a vast selection of music for use in services. There may also be time during the service for a second hymn or a reflective piece of music.

Read more about hymns for funeral services.

  • A reading or a poem

Many funeral services contain an emotive reading or a poem that reflects the solemnity of the occasion. This could be read by a family member or friend.

View our selection of readings and poems for funeral services

  • A eulogy

This is a personal tribute, usually from a family member or good friend, about the person who has died. It can be full of anecdotes and stories, evoking memories and reminding people of the person who has passed away.

Read our guide on writing a eulogy

  • Prayers, committal and blessing

The minister or celebrant may say prayers and invite the congregation to say the Lord’s Prayer, then commit the body for burial or cremation and give a blessing.

  • Thank yous and good-bye

The minister or celebrant will thank everyone for coming and the mourners will leave the venue.

  • Outgoing music

Often a more upbeat or modern song is chosen as people leave the venue, while they reflect on the service they have just heard.

Please note, the above is just a guide and it is important you discuss your choices with your Funeral Director and or minister/celebrant.

Finally, please read our guide to designing and printing Orders of Service.

Further information

If you have any questions about creating an Order of Service, please do not hesitate to speak to one of our Co-op Funeral Directors.