How to write a eulogy
Last updated 19th May 2022
6 min read
Being asked to write a eulogy is a sign of how much you meant to a recently departed loved one.
It’s a chance to personalise a funeral and remember the kind of person your loved one was.
But it can be a daunting task – not to mention emotionally challenging.
Our guide is here to help you with writing a eulogy. Read on to find out how to start, what to include, and how long it should be.
Plus, find helpful links to eulogy templates and examples.
What is a eulogy?
A eulogy is a speech delivered at a funeral to pay tribute to the deceased.
It looks back at their lives, sharing stories about their qualities, beliefs, and achievements in life.
The style and tone of this tribute depend on the funeral service, and the person the reading is for. Some can be light-hearted or more solemn, but it will depend on the personality of the deceased, and the preferences of the family and close friends.
How do you start writing a eulogy?
Writing a eulogy can feel like a big responsibility. Making sure your words pay proper tribute to a special person is the ultimate goal.
These five steps should help you begin:
- Talk to family and friends about the person you’re eulogising. They’ll let you in on any special memories and remind you of events that meant a lot.
- Jot down all your ideas for the eulogy. Think of anecdotes, life events, or characteristics you think should be mentioned.
- Organise your ideas. Figure out which stories must be included and what order they should be in. It doesn’t have to be chronological (although many are), as long as the eulogy makes sense and highlights the most important points.
- Think about the style of the funeral and the tone that would be appropriate. Some eulogies call for light humour, while others need you to be straight down the line. Consider how many minutes long it should be.
- Start writing your first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect right away. You can make time to edit later on.
What should be included in a eulogy?
Your eulogy should include special memories and important details about your loved one. It should also mention what they meant to those who’ll be at the funeral.
Start off with a short introduction that recognises the people that have come to the funeral.
Thank them for coming, and explain who you are and what you meant to the deceased. Then you can launch into your first poignant point.
Within your speech, think about whether it’s worth including these details:
- Any nicknames
- Who their parents, brothers, and sisters were
- Any details about their childhood or schooling
- If there were any work-related or sporting achievements they were proud of
- Information about marriages, divorces, children, grandchildren, and any other important relationships
- Interests, hobbies, likes, or even dislikes
- If they were involved in any historical events
At the end, sum up who the person was and say your goodbyes to them in a meaningful way.
How long should a eulogy be?
Around three to five minutes is a good length of time for a eulogy, but it can be up to 10 minutes.
This should give you enough time to share the most important memories, while holding everyone’s attention.
If in doubt about how much time you’ve got for the eulogy, check with your funeral director.
And remember to practice your speech, and speak slowly, to make sure it’s the right length.
If you’ve been asked to speak at a funeral, it’s likely to be for someone close to you, such as your parents or a close friend. You’ll want it to be as meaningful as possible, regardless of tone.
Here are some general points and links to eulogy examples for a father, mother, and a friend.
Eulogy for dad
Writing a eulogy for your father means speaking from the heart.
As one of your closest family members, you can capture the kind of person he was and the lessons he taught you.
Some suggestions of things you could say include:
“Dad was a true family man, who loved nothing more than spending time with his children.”
For some other ideas on how to express your memories and feelings at your dad’s funeral, here are some eulogy examples for a father.
Eulogy for mum
Similarly, when writing a eulogy for your mum, you can share stories about the kind of person she was and what you learnt from her.
With either parent, you can also include readings, such as bereavement poems.
An example of something you could say about mum could be:
“Everything I learned about kindness and strength was from my mother.”
For an emotional eulogy that includes readings, take a look at this eulogy example for a mother.
Eulogy for a friend
Your closest friends can feel like family, so writing a eulogy for them can be emotional.
It’s a chance to talk about how you met, the events that helped your friendship develop, and what you’re going to miss about them.
Here are some eulogy examples for friends to help you get started.
Other things to consider when writing a eulogy
As well as the other points covered, here are a few more things to think about to make sure your eulogy hits the right notes:
- The theme of the funeral. Use this to guide the tone of your eulogy. For example, you could look to things like the funeral hymns that’ll be included in the memorial service.
- How your anecdotes will be received. Be careful not to share anything that would shame your loved one’s friends or family members.
- Does it sound good when read aloud? The only way to find out is to practice reading it out loud. Read it to another family member for an opinion. Sometimes it’ll just be a case of practicing it, but other times you’ll find that certain words or phrases need to be changed or removed.
- How to edit it fairly. If you have a lot of memories and stories to cover, choose wisely to make sure your eulogy fits the time you’ve got.
- What will your final words be? That can be the trickiest part. Aim to bring comfort to the guests, sum up your loved one, and say goodbye to them.
Don’t worry about getting emotional while you’re reading your eulogy. People will understand if you shed a few tears. If you’re struggling to carry on, take a moment to breathe deeply and get ready to talk again.
If you need a steer on the kind of structure your eulogy should take, there are plenty of useful eulogy templates online to help.
Or check out Lastly’s sample eulogy templates for ideas on what to write in particularly tricky circumstances.
Eulogy writing and presenting tips
Here are a few last tips to think about as you’re putting together a eulogy:
- It doesn’t have to be perfect. A funeral eulogy should come from the heart, so it doesn’t have to be a perfectly written speech. And if it doesn’t go to plan, remember that no one will judge you. Standing up and speaking at a funeral is a noble act in itself.
- It doesn’t have to be long. John Cleese did his tribute to Graham Chapman in two minutes. A couple of poignant stories and an emotional finale is often all it takes.
- Think of it as a collage of your loved one’s life. Rather than a life story, it helps to think of a funeral eulogy as a series of anecdotes that highlight the qualities, values and beliefs of the person.
- Be honest. Eulogies shouldn’t focus too much on negative qualities, but the odd ‘imperfection’ or little thing that drove you mad can be heart-warming. It’s likely that others will smile and remember them with you.
- Final words. Wrapping up a funeral eulogy is no mean feat. As a suggestion, ending on a forward-looking note often works well. For example, you could ask everyone to go on telling the stories you’ve told and more of their own – so you can all keep precious memories of your loved one alive.
Your eulogy is a chance to show everyone what your loved one meant to you, and to look back fondly on their lives.