Music can be one of the most memorable and poignant parts of a funeral service. So it’s worth spending some time thinking about funeral music or songs that suit the person who has died.
Here’s some advice to help you choose music that’s suitable for a funeral.
How to choose music for a funeral service
Follow these tips to choose music that will be a moving part of the service:
Make it meaningful
Most funerals include at least a little music. It gives you a chance to personalise the service and celebrate the life of the person who has died. It’s important to choose carefully though because the music you choose will always be associated with the person.
Perhaps the person who has died had planned their own funeral playlist? Or maybe you know some of their favourite songs? Could these be suitable for their funeral?
If not, you’ll need to choose the songs yourself. Don’t worry though – you’ll find a list of classic funeral songs below. This should help get you started.
Don’t worry about genre
Modern funerals include a wide mix of music. Unless it’s a very traditional service or music isn’t allowed for religious reasons, you’re free to choose from all sorts of songs.
Some of the best modern funeral songs are just as moving as classical music or hymns. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to hear Elton John, Frank Sinatra, Adele or even Monty Python at funerals.
Remember, the music is there to pay tribute to the person who has died. So let their personality guide you.
Strike the right emotion
Think about the mood you want to create. Would you like the music to be moving, nostalgic or comforting? You can even play funny songs if that’s what the person who has died would have liked. This can be a nice way to say goodbye to someone with a great sense of humour.
Make sure they’re suitable songs for a funeral
Before you choose a funeral song, it’s important to read the lyrics carefully. Some songs have beautiful music but unsuitable lyrics. Unless you’re paying close attention, you might not notice until it’s too late.
Make sure the lyrics express the feelings you want to get across. Ask yourself: might these words offend people? And are they in line with my beliefs?
When can you play music during the funeral service?
Most funeral services have at least two slots for music – one for entering and one for the exit. You might also be able to play music during a slideshow of photographs or a moment of reflection.
Funeral entrance music
This is the music played when people file into the funeral venue. Popular choices include classical pieces and gentle tunes without lyrics.
Funeral exit music
Exit music is played when people leave the venue. You might want to choose a favourite song of the person who has died. Or you might want to play a funny or uplifting song to help people focus on happy memories.
It can be a good idea to choose very different songs for the entrance and exit music. This can create a powerful sense of contrast, which many people appreciate.
Funeral music ideas
If you’re looking for inspiration for funeral songs, these ideas might help:
The UK’s most popular funeral songs
If you’re stuck for ideas, why not consider some of the most-played funeral songs in the UK? After all, these tunes are popular for a reason. They express the complex emotions we feel when someone has died.
Frank Sinatra – My Way
‘My Way’ is a long-standing funeral classic. While the tune feels sad and reflective, the lyrics celebrate a life well lived. It’s especially popular as a funeral exit song.
Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli – Time to Say Goodbye
Brightman and Bocelli are trained opera singers, so their version of this Italian song has a powerful and dramatic feel. It was the third most popular funeral song in 2021 (SunLife).
More popular funeral music
- Gerry and the Pacemakers – You’ll Never Walk Alone
- Bette Midler – Wind Beneath My Wings
- Robbie Williams – Angels
The UK’s favourite funeral hymns
If you’re arranging a Christian funeral, you might want to sing some hymns during the service. Most of the time, you can choose which hymns to sing. We’ve listed some of the most popular below.
Singing as a group can be comforting, so you might want to sing some songs even if it’s a non-religious (secular) funeral. The most popular secular songs to sing at a funeral include Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’.
Abide With Me
The lyrics to ‘Abide With Me’ were written by Henry Francis Lyte in 1847. They’re usually sung to the tune of ‘Eventide’, which is a tune by the organist William Henry Monk.
‘Amazing Grace’ was written by John Newton in 1772. It has since become one of the world’s most widely performed hymns – and a favourite at funerals.
More popular funeral hymns
- All Things Bright and Beautiful (Cecil Frances Alexander, 1848)
- Jerusalem (William Blake, 1808)
- How Great Thou Art (Carl Boberg, 1885)
Classical music for funerals
If you’d rather not choose pop music, classical pieces are always a safe choice. These traditional funeral songs are some of the most played at UK funerals.
The Lark Ascending (Vaughan Williams)
With its swooping violin melody, ‘The Lark Ascending’ brings to mind the peaceful sound of birdsong. It’s ideal for a moment of personal reflection or prayer.
Adagio for Strings (Samuel Barber)
‘Adagio for Strings’ has a stirring and mournful sound. It would make for a powerful choice of classical music for the funeral entry or exit.
Uplifting funeral songs
Funeral music doesn’t have to be sad. Lots of people choose joyful, inspiring or even funny tunes. If you believe a funeral service should be a celebration of life, consider some of these happy funeral songs.
Eric Idle – Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life
This song was made famous by the comedy film Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Its lyrics urge us to focus on happy times and try to forget the difficult parts of life.
‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ is a very popular choice for funerals, especially as a piece of uplifting funeral exit music. Be warned, though: the lyrics contain a swear word.
Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World
‘What a Wonderful World’ is about taking a moment to focus on simple pleasures. It’s performed in a jazz style, which gives it a bittersweet feel.
More ‘celebration of life’ songs
- Norman Greenbaum – Spirit in the Sky
- Oasis – Wonderwall
- Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Songs for parents
Losing a parent can be very tough, and it can be difficult to put your emotions into words. Here are some well-known funeral songs for mothers and fathers, which might express the feelings you want to get across.
Funeral songs for mum
Celine Dion – Goodbye’s (The Saddest Word)
Lots of Celine Dion songs are popular at funerals. But ‘Goodbye’s (The Saddest Word)’ might be the best choice to say goodbye to mum. Its lyrics are about appreciating your mother’s love while knowing that one day she’ll be gone.
Elton John – Candle in the Wind
There are two versions of ‘Candle in the Wind’ with different lyrics. The first was released in 1974, while the second was famously performed at Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997. The 1997 version is more suitable as a funeral song.
Funeral songs for dad
Queen – Who Wants to Live Forever
Quite a few Queen songs are suitable for a funeral. ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ is a particularly good choice. Its lyrics look at themes of life and death, while the music has a big, stirring rock sound.
Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven
Eric Clapton wrote this song in memory of his son, who died in an accident. It would be just as powerful as a tribute to a father. ‘Tears in Heaven’ could work well at any point in the funeral.
Find more help and ideas
If you’re planning a funeral service, you might also like to read:
We hope our guide helped you choose the perfect funeral songs. For more funeral planning help, search our advice centre.