Writing a Eulogy

If you've been asked to give a eulogy or funeral speech at a service, you can accept or decline. You may be too upset to do it. Too nervous. Just be honest with the family and explain why you don't want to detract from what's most important: hearing about the life of the person you are honoring.

If you accept the task, focus yourself before you begin. Keep in mind that the average eulogy is about seven to 10 minutes long. The Emily Post® Institute advises that five minutes is the perfect length. If more than one eulogy is to be delivered, keep yours even shorter - but no less than two minutes.

When writing the eulogy, remember:

  • Ask others to share their memories of the deceased with you.
  • Ask the family if there is anything they want mentioned - or not mentioned.
  • Include one or two personal stories; choose a lighthearted story that will make those present smile and remember them in a positive light; maybe mention their favorite hobbies and pastimes. Humor can be useful - but use with caution and know your audience. Some people are offended with any humor at a funeral.
  • Include a poem, quote, or anything else that reflects their life or their beliefs.
  • List the deceased's accomplishments, maybe the personal difference they made in your life. You may want to include what kind of family person they were; or friend. What kind of work did he or she do?
  • Be respectful and affectionate.
  • Acknowledge the family members and their loss.
  • End on a high note - mention the deceased's love for his family or the legacy he left behind.

Remember to practice your speech - maybe even in front of others. Running through your eulogy could help ease your nerves.

Giving the Eulogy

Families often decide who, besides a clergyman, will give a eulogy. A son or daughter may say a few words about their parent. A brother, sister, or best friend may share their stories. There are no rules about who or how many people can speak. If more than one person will speak, the family may prepare a sheet showing the order of speakers so that everyone knows when to approach the pulpit or podium.

When delivering your speech:

  • Try to maintain a conversational tone
  • Take your time, pause when you need to, and take deep breaths to relax.
  • If you choke up while speaking, don't try to continue. If you cannot compose yourself, just say, "I'm sorry" and step down. Your fellow mourners will understand.

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Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th Edition
By Peggy Post
Peggy Post