Selecting funeral readings: What to read at a funeral service

If you’ve been asked to choose and do a reading at a loved one’s funeral it can be tricky to know where to start. It’s an opportunity for people to remember their loved one during the service. So getting the tone right is important. To help you narrow down your options we’ve put together some ideas to get you started and some guidance on doing a reading at a funeral service too.

How do you choose what to read at a funeral service?

What do you read at a funeral service? When you’re looking for suitable readings for a funeral you might want to create a certain mood. Or you might want to read something that reflects the personality of the person who’s died. You might even just want to use it as a few minutes for everyone at the funeral to reflect. It’s a very personal decision. And there’s no right or wrong way when it comes to choosing a funeral reading.

To help you find the right funeral reading for a loved one here are a few things to think about:

Different types of funeral readings

To help you narrow down your options a little more here are a list of different types of funeral readings to consider:

Religious funeral readings

If the person who passed away was religious then it may be appropriate to choose a reading from their particular religious text. Don’t worry if you don’t practice the same religion (or if you’re not religious at all). You should be able to get some advice from the religious leader who is leading the funeral service. They’ll be able to give you some guidance on which passages to choose. And they may even be able to help you gain a better understanding of the meaning of the texts too. That way you can make a choice that feels most fitting.

Non-religious funeral readings

If the person who died didn’t have any religious beliefs then it makes sense to choose a reading that reflects their energy or their personality. Did they have a favourite song or singer? Reading the lyrics from a favourite song might be a good way of paying tribute to your loved one. Or you might want to consider one of the other non-religious funeral readings below.

Funeral readings from literature

Did your loved one have a favourite writer? One that they read again and again? Choosing a passage from their work could be a good way of remembering them. But if a favourite doesn’t spring to mind you could choose from some popular funeral readings from literature instead.

Here are a few suggestions:

The Road Goes Ever On. (A poem taken from The Hobbit told by Bilbo at the end of his long journey as he walks back to the Shire.)

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.

Sunflowers. (A poem by Rupi Kaur taken from her collection The Sun and Her Flowers.)

despite knowing

they won’t be here long

they still choose to live

their brightest lives.

No Matter What. (An extract from the children’s book written by Debi Gliori.)

Small said, “But what about when you’re dead and gone – would you love me then, does love go on?”

Large held Small snug as they looked out at the night, at the moon in the dark and the stars shining bright.

“Small, look at the stars – how they shine and glow. Yet some of those stars died a long time ago. Still they shine in the evening skies… love, like starlight, never dies”.

Poems to read at a funeral

Even if a poem might not be an obvious choice it could be a good way of expressing how you feel. Or it could be a fitting way to set the tone of the funeral service. Use our guide to poems for funerals to help you find a funeral reading that honours your loved one.

Uplifting readings for funerals

Is your aim is to celebrate the life of your loved one? And remember all the good they brought to you and the people around them? An uplifting funeral reading could be just the thing. There are funeral readings from the Bible that are positive reflections. (Have a read of Micah 7:7-9 – appropriate for both Jewish and Christian funeral services) Or perhaps an uplifting funeral poem is more suitable?

Here are a few suggestions:

A long cup of tea: A poem by Michael Ashby

Death is too negative for me
So I’ll be popping off for a long cup of tea
Do splash out on two bags in the pot
And for my god’s sake keep the water hot…

Farewell My Friends: A poem by Rabindranath Tagore

Farewell My Friends
It was beautiful
As long as it lasted
The journey of my life…

Pardon Me For Not Getting Up: An anonymous poem

Oh dear, if you’re reading this right now,

I must have given up the ghost.

I hope you can forgive me for being

Such a stiff and unwelcoming host…

An original passage or speech

If choosing a funeral reading that someone else has written doesn’t feel right you could consider writing something yourself. It doesn’t have to be long. It could be a short speech about their life, a poem that describes their personality or just a few lines dedicated to them. Feeling unsure about it? Ask friends and family to read through it for you for some reassurance. It might be the most suitable send-off for your loved one. Find more ideas and advice for writing a funeral speech.

What to expect when doing a reading at a funeral

Doing a reading for a funeral service can be nerve-wracking. But remember that everyone in the room is there to support you in your grief too. So it’s okay to show emotion. If you’re feeling nervous at the thought of doing a funeral reading some of these tips may help:

We hope this guide to selecting funeral readings has given you some inspiration. And hopefully it’s helped you feel more prepared too. Don’t forget that your funeral director or celebrant may be able to help you with these decisions in the run up to the funeral as well.

Updated: 21/12/2022