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Have you been asked to write a eulogy? And deliver it at the funeral? You might have questions about how to get it right. Here are some tips on writing a eulogy and speaking at a funeral to help you give a heart-warming funeral speech. 

What is a eulogy? 

A eulogy is a piece of writing or a speech that commemorates a person’s life. It’s also called a funeral speech and is usually shared at a funeral or memorial service. You could see it as a tribute to someone who’s passed away and a way to share memories of them. It’s an opportunity to look back at their life and talk about what made them unique.  

How to write a eulogy 

Knowing how to write a eulogy won’t necessarily come naturally. It may feel like a big responsibility. But remember that your funeral speech doesn’t have to be perfect, or formal if that doesn’t feel right. When you’re planning what to put in a eulogy keep in mind that it doesn’t have to follow a set structure or have a sad tone. You can adapt your funeral speech to reflect the personality of the person who passed away and add a little humour if you think it’s appropriate. 

Below is a short video on how to write a eulogy. It’ll give you some ideas about how to write a funeral speech that feels right. 

Writing a eulogy step by step 

If you’re writing a eulogy for a loved one here’s one way of approaching it. It’ll help you take it step by step to make things a little easier. 

Preparing a eulogy 

When you’re preparing the eulogy it’s a good idea to think about it in different sections (start, middle and ending) and then focus on writing each one in turn. You could write one section a day if you’re finding it difficult to sit down and write the whole eulogy at once.  

Before you start writing anything at all, you might like to chat to other friends and family members to hear their memories too. There might be specific things they’d like you to mention in the funeral speech. And if there’s more than one of you saying a few words at the funeral then you might want to get together to talk about what each of you would like to include in your speeches. This’ll help you avoid repeating the same stories and it could help you come up with new ideas too. 

Polly's eulogy

"I did a eulogy for her on behalf of her children [...] I’d spent a long, long time writing and rewriting the eulogy. I wanted it to be spot on, honest and authentic."

How to start a eulogy 

How do you start a eulogy? It can feel like the hardest part. One easy way to begin is with a story about the person who’s died. You could talk about how you met them or share a story that shows the kind of person they were. To find some inspiration, try writing down some of your favourite stories about them. They can be touching, funny, emotional or inspiring. 

Here are a few things you could think about to get started: 

  • The first time I met them… 
  • The thing everyone always said about them… 
  • The last time I saw them they said… 
  • The thing I will always remember about them… 

What to say in a eulogy 

Keeping to a basic eulogy structure will make it easier for you to say, and easier for people to follow. Try to have 3-5 main points, then give yourself 1-2 minutes to say each point. 

Things you could include in your eulogy: 

  • Stories that show the personality and best qualities of the person 
  • Share the person’s favourite poem or song lyrics 
  • Share something that the person said, and that you will always remember 
  • Talk about their favourite interests or hobbies 
  • Celebrate the biggest achievements in their life 

Rather than simply writing a funeral speech that tells the person’s life in order, consider basing the eulogy around the stories and moments that stand out. 

How to end a eulogy 

It’s best to end your funeral speech with something memorable and meaningful. You could end with an uplifting quote from the person who has died, or you could finish with a final story. You could even end the eulogy with a sentence about what you think the person would say to everyone if they were still here. Alternatively, you could finish with a poem, a song or a well-loved quote. 

Quotes to end a eulogy

How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
Only a moment you stayed, but what an imprint your footprints have left on our hearts.
Little Footprints - Dorothy Ferguson
Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.
Oh the Places You'll Go - Dr Zeuss

Tips for speaking at a funeral

In the video below, funeral celebrants Alison Regan, Lyndsey Conquest, Karen Nutton, and Stuart Atherton offer their tips for speaking at a funeral:

Practising how to deliver a eulogy is just as important as writing it. It’ll help you feel more confident about speaking at the funeral and give you the time you need to fully prepare. 

  • Practise the funeral speech as much as you can. Ask someone to listen to you read through the eulogy and give you advice about where you need to slow down or speak more clearly. 
  • Use something to help you remember your words. You may prefer to have your funeral speech written down word-for-word. Others prefer short prompts or cue cards. 
  • Don’t worry about faltering. Nobody expects you to get through a eulogy without crying. You may stumble over sentences, you may become upset. No need to apologise – just take a deep breath and move on when you can. 
  • Bring a copy of your funeral speech written out in full. Even if you don’t plan to use it. That way, if you don’t feel you can deliver the speech on the day, you can ask someone else to read it for you. 

Examples of famous eulogies

Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty. All over the world she was a symbol of selfless humanity.
Eulogy for Princess Diana
It is the end of 95 glorious years of a freedom fighter, a dedicated and humble servant of the people of South Africa.
Eulogy for Nelson Mandela
My Daddy was my hero […] He was working to change the world so everyone would love wildlife like he did.
Eulogy for Steve Irwin

Eulogy FAQs

Have a specific question about writing a eulogy? The answers below could help.

Why is a funeral speech called a eulogy?

A speech at a funeral is called a eulogy because when the word is broken down it actually means praise. The Greek roots of the word eulogy are eu which means good and logos which means speech. So when you are delivering a eulogy you’re praising the person who’s died, and speaking about the good they have done in their life. 

Who reads the eulogy at a funeral?

Close family or friends typically read the eulogy at a funeral. For example, children might give a eulogy at a parent’s funeral. But it can be anyone who was close to the person who died. Speaking at a funeral can be an overwhelming experience, so if you think reading the eulogy will be too much on the day, the celebrant (the person leading the service) can read it for you instead. 

How long should a eulogy be?

Eulogies are usually quite short. Try to write a speech that lasts between 5 and 10 minutes, as a guide. But it’s important to think about how long you feel comfortable speaking for. If you only want to speak for a couple of minutes, that’s fine too. 

Can a eulogy be funny?

Yes, a eulogy can be funny if you think it’s appropriate for the person you’re commemorating. Writing a eulogy is a good opportunity to celebrate a life well-lived and share funny anecdotes that’ll put a smile on people’s faces. But it’s also worth keeping in mind how other people attending will react to a more light-hearted funeral speech.  

Do you have to have a eulogy at a funeral?

You don’t have to have a eulogy at a funeral if it’s not the right choice for you. Each funeral service is unique, and so you might choose to play a song in tribute instead of writing a funeral speech. Or someone could recite a poem that feels appropriate. Alternatively, you don’t have to speak at a funeral at all, if it’s too much. And if you wanted to keep the service simple or have an unattended funeral (a cremation or burial without a service), a eulogy might not be appropriate at all.  

Can you have more than one eulogy at a funeral?

Yes, you can have more than one eulogy. Or you could have 2-3 speakers each delivering a part of one eulogy. Ultimately, it’s your decision as to how many eulogies or speakers you have at the funeral. 

What is the difference between a eulogy and obituary?

A eulogy and an obituary are both written to commemorate someone’s life but a eulogy is usually the speech you’ll hear at a funeral service, and an obituary is written specifically for publication in a newspaper. 

When does the eulogy take place?

The eulogy will be given during the funeral service or memorial service. Lots of people choose to deliver the eulogy towards the end of the service, as a final way of paying tribute. But this is completely up to you. If you’re unsure, your funeral director or celebrant can offer some advice about the order of service.  

What if you can’t deliver the eulogy?

If you can’t face delivering a eulogy at the funeral, that’s perfectly OK. You can ask a friend or the person leading the funeral to read the funeral speech for you. They can also help you to write it, if you’re finding that difficult too. Hopefully our eulogy ideas have helped you understand how to write a funeral speech. You’ll find more tips and advice about planning or going to a funeral in our advice hub. 

What makes a good eulogy?

Ultimately it doesn’t matter which stories or quotes you choose to put in the eulogy. And it doesn’t matter if you choose to keep things formal or go with a lighter tone. As long as your funeral speech is respectful and celebrates the person who passed away everyone else in the room will be grateful for it. If you’re still not sure where to start and need more eulogy ideas our hub of poems, songs and readings might help.