How To Prepare & Write a Funeral Speech That’s Meaningful

How To Prepare & Write a Funeral Speech That’s Meaningful intro image

Saying goodbye is never easy, but we’re sometimes left with no other choice. To help make the grieving process easier, loved ones may choose to deliver a formal speech about the deceased person.


In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know to pen a heartfelt funeral speech. We’ll also discuss the importance of giving a eulogy speech and acknowledge the differences between a eulogy, elegy, and obituary.

Eulogy Overview

Microphones on the funeral podium

Death is a solemn matter. It forces us to bid farewell to our loved ones and let go. Eulogies help people to say goodbye to someone who matters to them. Giving a speech about the deceased’s life allows them to relive their life through the speaker’s words.

Let’s explore what this speech is all about and how best to deliver it.

What is a Eulogy?

Eulogy readings are a widespread practice observed in many parts of the world. A eulogy is a formal speech written about a loved one who has recently passed on. It typically includes praise for the deceased individual and serves as a dignified, solemn tribute to the life they lived.

Eulogies are typically read out at funeral Mass in front of a grieving audience. They may evoke emotions of love and even serve as a reminder of the loss recently suffered by the living. However, allowing oneself to feel this loss on an emotional level is the first step to healing from it. So, in that way, eulogies are not only for paying tribute to the dead but also to help the living grieve. Still, the primary purpose of these speeches is to remember a deceased loved one. Hence, the speech should always be centered around that topic.

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Who Gives a Eulogy at a Funeral?

Eulogies can be given by anyone who has something meaningful to say about the departed soul. Close family members are generally the first ones on this list. In fact, some traditions dictate that the deceased’s family must give a funeral speech to help honor their passing.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that only family members can give a funeral speech. Close friends and coworkers may also step up if they wish. However, out of respect, it’s always best to take permission from a family member before giving a eulogy.

Reading out a eulogy about someone you deeply cared for can be a daunting and emotionally challenging task. Hence, many people request a stand-in to read their speech out for them. A stand-in can be anyone, as long as they’re willing to read the speech on your behalf. This could be anyone from a Pastor to a distant family member or friend. 

How Long Should a Eulogy Be?

While there is no strict limit when it comes to funeral speeches, there are certain rules that must be followed.

A eulogy can be as long as you like, as long as you remain respectful towards the audience. Avoid giving long speeches that lack substance. Such speeches can quickly bore the audience and take away meaning from the funeral service instead of adding to it. Plus, they waste everyone’s time, which the audience won’t appreciate.

However, this doesn’t mean you should shy away from speaking your heart out, even if it takes a couple of minutes. Just be sure that every sentence you speak adds value to the service. Meaningful speeches will keep the audience members engaged, and they won’t mind listening to you for an extended period. But if your speech lacks substance, you may be asked to step down before your speech is over.

This brings us to the next point: be mindful of other people’s speaking time! If you’re at a funeral Mass, you likely won’t be the only speech-giver present. Hence, you must moderate your speech’s length. Try to keep your speech short enough to get your point across while leaving enough time for other speakers.

You should also try and cut down parts of your speech that are similar to other people’s points. Try to avoid sounding repetitive, except when you’re emphasizing something that truly matters.

But of course, eulogies are laden with emotion. So, if a specific part of your speech is close to your heart, go ahead and read it out. You don’t need to skip over it just because someone else has already talked about that same point. The key, however, is to eliminate any unimportant repetitive phrases. Ultimately, though, it’s up to you to decide what does or does not count as important.

Eulogy Speech Outline

A good funeral speech should include the following:

  • An opener
  • Body paragraphs
  • A short, heartfelt ending

Most people like to open with a short introduction about themselves. A simple one-liner should suffice. For example, you can say “My name is Amanda, and I was a close friend of Carl’s throughout high school.” This will let everyone know who you are, plus give a clear idea of your relationship with the deceased individual.

Funeral speeches aren’t structured like the average essay. So, you don’t need to worry about writing an engaging introduction passage or anything of the sort. Instead, focus on clarifying your identity and relationship, then dive right into the heart of the matter.

There are many ways to continue your speech after the opening statement. For example, some people like to explore the nature of their relationship with the deceased a bit further. This method is often employed by those who shared an intimate or complicated relationship with the person who passed on. Those people have the most to say, which is why it’s natural for them to dive into the more tedious elements of the relationship.

If that sounds like something you’d like to do, go for it. However, be sure to avoid mentioning overly personal things about the nature of the relationship. This includes talking about extremely sour or low moments you may have shared with the deceased. You must do your best to maintain their respect and integrity after their passing, even if they left with some unsettled qualms.

However, if you’re not keen on dissecting your relationship with the deceased, you can opt for a different speech tactic. Many people prefer to talk about their loved one’s qualities, particularly those that stood out from the rest. For example, everyone is kind to a certain degree, but some people are especially known for their kindness. You can talk about such characteristics in your speech. To make things more personal (in a healthy way), why not add in a short story about them. For example, you can talk about that time they adopted a wounded cat from the street or any kind thing they did for someone else.

The exact content will likely differ from the above example, but the point still stands. Ideally, a funeral speech should successfully recount all the things that made this person so special. It doesn’t matter if the deceased individual was a quiet homebody who lived a mundane life. There must have been something about them that stood out, no matter how small. Such small things come together to make a person who they are. So, consider talking about them in your speech if you would like to.

You can also talk about how this person made a lasting impact on your life. Talking about their role, be it an active or relatively passive one, can help you honor their contributions.

On a side note, it’s also important to know that you don’t need to sugarcoat your speech. Eulogies should be honest and come right from the heart. However, just be sure to wisely sift through potentially negative sentiments so as not to shame the departed soul.

After covering all you needed to talk about, start wrapping up your speech. There’s no need to prepare an extensive conclusion. Many people choose to end their eulogy with a simple prayer or message. Something like “I wish the departed soul eternal peace” should suffice.

How to Write a Eulogy

Eulogies are interesting because they are both formal yet personal. They are one of the few examples of emotionally-charged formal literary pieces out there. But that’s what makes them so powerful!

Writing a eulogy isn’t a simple task. You may have to expose yourself to the painful feeling of loss. Hence, before you sit down to write a eulogy, try and make sure you’re in the emotional position to do so. Writing a funeral speech can make you feel vulnerable. Still, it is also an excellent way to keep the memory of your loved one alive. This is what makes eulogies so popular.

Below is a list of tips to help you pen a genuine, heartfelt eulogy for a deceased loved one:

  • Talk about your feelings in your speech. It’s okay to shed a tear or two if needed (though you should ideally avoid outright bawling). Doing so can help you better cope with the emotions you’re experiencing and can help the audience do the same.
  • If you’ve studied writing, you can try structuring your speech like a modified 500-word essay. This means that you should include a short introduction (opener), a body, and a conclusion (final thoughts). Doing so can help ensure you successfully cover all the things you want to talk about without mixing them up. Structuring your speech like an essay may also improve coherence and idea clarity.
  • You can also include a thematic statement to sum up your opinion on death, love, and other topics related to funerals and passing on. You may include this statement anywhere in the speech and not just in the introduction. Unlike formal essays, like a psychology research paper or rhetorical analysis, you can break some literary rules.
  • Set out a few hours to pen the eulogy. This will help ensure you have enough time to write something truly meaningful.
  • Don’t forget to re-read your speech and edit through it. Cut out any potentially offensive or disrespectful statements if found. Consider sharing your eulogy draft with someone you trust. They can help you understand how to edit your speech if needed.
  • You can also try talking to other friends and family members of the deceased party before writing your speech. Doing so can help you process your emotions better and write a eulogy that truly captures the essence of your feelings.
  • Whatever you write, make sure it’s a personal narrative coming from the heart. There’s little point in writing something with no actual meaning. On that note, it’s best to stay away from flowery language and winding sentences. Just write what you mean, and say it with emotion on the day of the funeral.

Eulogy vs Elegy vs Obituary

Sleeping angel with grave lamps

A eulogy is a formal funeral speech. On the other hand, an elegy is a heartfelt poem or song recited to honor a deceased loved one. An elegy can be an original piece penned by a friend or family member or borrowed from a well-known writer. Famous elegy poems include Lord Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” and “Lycidas” by John Milton.

Obituaries are a completely different case. They are penned and published to acknowledge the death of a specific person. Obituaries may contain details regarding the person’s death, including the date, time, and cause. These passages are often published in the local newspaper or posted online for others to see.

Final Thoughts

Writing a funeral speech isn’t going to be easy, but it’s certainly worth it. There’s something powerful and liberating about putting your feelings to paper and eventually reading them out. This feeling is intensified when you find audience members relating to your speech. It brings forth a sense of community strength and may help you realize that the feeling of loss you’re experiencing will eventually heal.

Cite this article as: Jim Peterson, "How To Prepare & Write a Funeral Speech That’s Meaningful," in My Speech Class, December 17, 2021,