Last Updated on December 29, 2020
In this article, we’re going to talk about how to write a eulogy.
The eulogy is an important feature in the funeral service. It is a high honor to be chosen to give the eulogy, and you are wise to seek advice on how to do it well.
I am a professional writer who composes eulogies for a living. As a mortuary school graduate who also has experience in the funeral industry, I am confident that the information you find below will provide you with the know-how you need to create your perfect eulogy.
Here is our guide on how to write a eulogy that is beautiful, brief, appropriate, and winsome.
How to Write a Eulogy
- Tips for writing a beautiful eulogy
- Writing a eulogy in 7 steps
- Eulogy outline
- Poems for a eulogy
- Quotes for a eulogy
- Eulogy examples
- Eulogy FAQs
Tips for Writing a Beautiful Eulogy
Eulogies should be brief, poignant, and summarize the individual’s life without going into every detail. A good eulogy should admit the person’s faults but typically focus on their strengths. Be sure to mention their major accomplishments (personal and vocational), spouse and children (if any), hobbies, passions, religion, and volunteer work.
Write it out beforehand, and practice reading it aloud to make sure the sentences flow. Practice in front of a mirror or a family member, and time yourself.
Start with a favorite story or memory, and connect that to one of the person’s defining characteristics. Or, alternatively, do the reverse: think of their most important attributes and then think of memories or quotes which illustrate the attributes you want to highlight. This simple process will give you at least half of your material; from there, just find a good eulogy outline (see below) and begin filling it in.
The day before the service, practice giving your entire speech from start to finish. Practice speaking in a slow and clear voice, and be sure to enunciate your words properly. Then, right before it’s time to stand up and deliver your eulogy, take a few deep breaths. You’ve got this.
In brief, here are the best tips for writing a beautiful eulogy:
- Write it out
- Type it and print it in a large and readable font with double spacing
- Keep it brief – 6-8 minutes is ideal
- Use a central story, phrase, or quote as a motif
- Briefly summarize the person’s family, accomplishments, and legacy
- Don’t get bogged down in details
- Focus on their personality and how they affected the lives of others
- Don’t try to cover their entire life
- Rather, highlight one characteristic and explore it
- Keep it positive
- Remember that less is more
To put it simply, a eulogy typically consists of around 1,000 words and should take between 6 and 8 minutes to deliver. This may sound like a long time at first, but there is no set rule that says it has to be that long.
Next, I’ve put together 7 easy steps to get you started.
Writing a Eulogy in 7 Steps
Step 1: Choose the Tone
Decide on the tone you want to express. Do you want your eulogy to be serious, religious, or even slightly humorous?
To help you decide, consider your audience and also the person who has died. For instance, the eulogy for a young child may be very different than that of an elderly person who have passed away under completely different circumstances.
Step 2: Introduce Yourself
Let’s get to the writing. First, introduce yourself. Of course you’ll want your audience to know who you are, how you know or are related to the deceased, a little about your relationship with the person. But do keep it brief – it’s not about you.
Step 3: Provide a Biographical Sketch
Provide a brief but thorough biographical sketch of your loved one. This can include their date and place of birth, any family members and friends, where they grew up, graduated from, married, etc. It can also include their date of death.
Step 4: Add in Some Favorite Memories
Write about any favorite memories you have of your loved one. This is where you can get into a little more detail than in the biographical sketch. A good story or two can help provide the color and life to your eulogy.
Write about your loved one’s personality, how they met their significant other, any pastimes they may have had, their dreams, friendships, and accomplishments in life. You know, what made them who they were. These stories and memories will make up the bulk of your eulogy.
If you don’t have any suitable stories of your own, you can also collect any stories about your loved from family and friends. Anyone who created special memories with your loved one would no doubt like their stories represented in the eulogy.
Step 5: Organize Your Material
Now it’s time to consider the order of your writing. For many people, this is the hardest part of writing a quality eulogy. To keep it “sweet and simple,” simply put the stories and memories you’ve written down in chronological order. This will make it easier for your audience to follow.
Step 6: Mix in Some Gratitude
Don’t forget to say your thank-you’s toward the end. Showing gratitude for everyone who came to the funeral is always a nice gesture. Remember, too, to thank everyone who has offered support throughout the past several days, as well as the church, funeral home, hospice center, etc. who has been taking care of your family or loved one (if appropriate).
Step 7: Closing & Goodbye
Finally, say goodbye to your loved one. This will mark the end of your eulogy. It may be the most emotional moment of your eulogy, so it will help to prepare for it by practicing saying it out loud.
If you have made it this far and are still feeling overwhelmed over the thought of writing your eulogy, stop right now and just tell yourself, I can do this!
Confidence is key and once you believe you can do it, you are already halfway there.
But when life, being life, intersects with death, things can quickly get overwhelming. If you are sure that you can’t tackle your eulogy right now, bear in mind that help is available. You can ask a trusted friend or family member to help you, or you can even hire me. It is what I do for a living, after all.
There is no set or traditional outline for a eulogy. But as with all writing and public speaking, it is good to have an attention-grabbing opening, a solid middle section in three parts, and some concluding remarks. This is the traditional three-point outline you learned in school, and it will serve you well in writing a eulogy.
- A good introduction can include a funny or engaging story, a meaningful quote, or something that illustrates their personality
- Use the introduction to establish a motif (a theme that you can come back to throughout the eulogy)
- Mention your relationship to the deceased and thank everyone for coming on behalf of the family
- Aim for one to two minutes
- Part One: Life Details
- Keep this section brief; one minute at most
- Include just the highlights; some but not all of: Place of birth, family lineage, education, work, marriage, children, hobbies, religion, community involvement, awards, accomplishments, places lived, travel
- Part Two: Memories
- Share a memory or two that allows one or more characteristics of the person to shine; something that will resonate with anyone who knew them
- Allow a good two minutes or so to properly share some memories
- Part Three: Legacy
- Connect the stories, memories, and introduction to their legacy
- Instead of saying, “She was loving, caring, and kind,” show how she was loving, caring and kind
- This doesn’t need to be long; one minute is perfectly fine
- Same as the introduction, it is good to close with a story, quote, or illustration
- Your closing remarks can be between ten seconds to a minute; just a few brief sentences to wrap things up
- End by simply saying “Thank you”
Here are five beautiful, meaningful, and classic eulogy poems. You can use these in your eulogy, or find many more in our collection of 101 Funeral Poems.
Farewell to Thee! But not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of Thee;
Within my heart they still shall dwell
And they shall cheer and comfort me.
Life seems more sweet that Thou didst live
And men more true Thou wert one;
Nothing is lost that Thou didst give,
Nothing destroyed that Thou hast done.
– Anne Bronte
If only we could see the splendour of the land
To which our loved ones are called from you and me
If only we could hear the welcome they receive
From old familiar voices all so dear
We would not grieve
If only we could know the reason why they went
We’d smile and wipe away the tears that flow
And wait content.
May the roads rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land:
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
– Christina Rossetti
TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON
To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
Find more funeral and eulogy poems here.
A memorable eulogy will often center around a good quote. Below are five of our favorites. You can find more in our collection of 20 Funeral Quotes for a Loved One’s Eulogy.
- Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. – Dr. Suess
- What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us. – Helen Keller
- If winter comes, can spring be far behind? – Percy Bysshe Shelley
- There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein
- We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give. – Winston Churchill
More funeral quotes:
- 20 Funeral Quotes for a Loved One’s Eulogy
- 33 Inspiring Life Celebration Quotes
- 10 Biblical Prayers for a Christian Funeral Service
- Missing You: 22 Honest Quotes About Grief
There are many eulogy examples available on the web. I think you’ll find the best inspiration on writing a eulogy by looking at a few general examples and then also reading a few famous and timeless eulogy examples.
- Lydia: A son’s eulogy for his mother
- Edwin: A daughter’s eulogy for her father
- McKayla: A eulogy for a cousin
I’ve included some of my own sample eulogies at the links above. Read them to see how I practice these tips, then see below for additional eulogy examples.
More Eulogy Examples
Famous Eulogy Examples
- President Reagan’s Eulogy for the Challenger 7 crew
- Oprah Winfrey’s Eulogy for Rosa Parks
- Bob Costas’ Eulogy for Stan Musial
- In Memory of Y.B. Yeats by W.H. Auden (poem)
WHO SHOULD DELIVER THE EULOGY?
Anyone can deliver a eulogy. It is ideal to choose someone who was personally close to the decedent. Often eulogies are given by family members or friends. This can be a spouse, parent, child, sibling, close cousin or other relative, a pastor, or a good friend.
For some close relatives (spouses, parents, or children) the pain is very raw and they may have difficulty composing or delivering a eulogy. It is perfectly acceptable for the closest family members to ask someone else to give the eulogy.
If you are asked to deliver a eulogy, you should be honored. It is a sign of your close relationship with the deceased and the high regard in which you are held by the family.
CAN THERE BE MORE THAN ONE EULOGY?
Yes. Often there are two eulogies given, one by a family member and another by a friend. This gives two different perspectives on the deceased’s life and can greatly enhance the funeral service.
One eulogy is very common. You can do three or more eulogies, but if so it is imperative that the speakers be brief; three to four minutes minutes maximum.
HOW LONG SHOULD A EULOGY BE?
A good length for a eulogy is about six to eight minutes, but no more than ten.
If there are two or more eulogies, try to keep each one at five minutes or less. Or choose one to be the longer “main” eulogy at 5-7 minutes and the others no more than three minutes. Ultimately, it’s up to you, but these are good guidelines to ensure that the audience remains engaged.
HOW MANY WORDS SHOULD A EULOGY BE?
The written eulogy should be about 1000 words. A good range to aim for is 500-1200 words. Do not go over 1200 words; if you go that high, make sure you read it at a good clip otherwise you are in danger of going over 10 minutes.
DO I NEED TO MENTION ALL THEIR PERSONAL DETAILS?
Many eulogies do mention important personal details such as family, vocation, and special accomplishments. But you don’t have to, as most people attending the funeral will be aware of these.
IS IT OK TO SHARE A FUNNY STORY?
Humor is entirely appropriate. Stay away from awkward or embarrassing moments, off-color jokes, and foul language. There will be a wide variety of people in attendance and you do not want to needlessly offend.
Aside from that, keep in mind that life is funny. People are funny. Funerals are mostly serious, so a few appropriately humorous stories and anecdotes can help tremendously to lighten the mood.
CAN I SING OR PLAY A SONG?
Certainly, but first clear it with the officiant, the family, and whoever is arranging the funeral.
Thank you for reading this guide on How to Write a Eulogy. I hope that you found the article helpful as you prepare to start writing your eulogy for your loved one.
Bookmark and refer back to it if you need to at any time during your writing process, and also keep in mind that I am available to help you, too, should you require professional assistance. See here for more information.