Ideas for Funeral Readings (and Helpful Suggestions)

Updated February 2, 2022
young woman at funeral giving speech

When a loved one passes away, those left behind feel overcome with sadness, and also overwhelmed with planning a proper and meaningful funeral or celebration of life ceremony. If you are thinking of including funeral readings in your loved one's service, these ideas and suggestions will help guide your course.

Types of Funeral Readings

You will want to tailor your memorial specifically to the person who has passed and their family. The funeral should reflect the deceased as well as their loves, values, interests, and beliefs. Funeral readings can be very diverse, which is a good thing because people are diverse. Thinking about the options of what can be included will help family and friends as they prepare for a meaningful service. Some reading suggestions are:

  • Poetry that helps highlight the beauty and wonder that the deceased brought to everyone around them or poems that help the living better cope with loss
  • Scripture verses from the Bible if the deceased person or the family is religious, (especially worth noting for Catholic Funerals)
  • Readings and passages from literature that represents your loved one or from literature they loved
  • Readings created on your own. These can be especially meaningful.
  • Liturgy that pays respect to the deceased's religious beliefs
  • Sentiments from others who loved the deceased deeply
  • Grieving quotes that help capture the profound loss loved ones feel
  • Eulogy that encompasses your feelings about the deceased
  • Memories of the deceased that are touching and heartfelt
  • A favorite quote of the deceased
  • Some of the most important lessons learned from the deceased
  • Prayers that offer comfort to those left behind
  • Words of wisdom that all attending the funeral can connect with
  • Proverbs with special meaning

Of course, you will want whatever you chose to reflect the life of the person who has died. If the person who has passed was full of fun, humor, and laughter, it might be appropriate to have a few lighthearted moments woven into the readings. If the deceased was a deeply religious person, then your reading might be geared towards proverbs, prayers, and Liturgy.

If the deceased knew they were not long for this world, they might have chosen their own selections to be read, or hymns they wanted to be sung and played. Always be sure to consider the wishes of the dying and include them in the service.

Examples of Funeral Readings

man reading at funeral at church podium

Search the Internet, your local library, or even peruse from your own bookshelves at home, to find appropriate sentiments to read at the funeral. You might also want to reach out to other family members who might have ideas to draw upon. When looking for funeral reading inspiration, you can draw upon selections from the following sources:

  • The Bible has plenty of readings, psalms, and prayers to draw upon
  • Excerpts from classics like "The Wind and the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame, "Winnie the Pooh" by AA Milne, and "Bilbo's Last Song" by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Lines from plays by William Shakespeare
  • Inspirational or religious works

To help you, here is one example that will be suited to almost any funeral:

Crossing the Bar

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness or farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar."

Preparing for the Reading

woman practicing funeral reading

If you are asked to present a reading at a funeral, make sure to prepare adequately. After you find the piece that you plan to read, take time to go over it. Practice reading the selection aloud in front of the mirror or in front of family and friends at home. Go over any tricky words or words that are unfamiliar to you. The more comfortable you are with the reading, the better you will be able to present it at the funeral. Remember, the saying, practice makes perfect, is nothing if not true.

Presenting the Reading

As you present the reading of your choice or one that was assigned to you at the funeral, use the following tips to best guide you:

  • Be sure to dress in appropriate funeral attire.
  • Stand tall.
  • Read slowly, loudly, and enunciate the best you can.
  • Keep it short. Read your passage and be done.
  • Keep a tissue or handkerchief at your side should you need it.
  • Place a glass of water by your side as well in case your throat gets dry.
  • Make eye contact with the audience when you are able.

Benefits

The benefits of readings at funerals are many. Both the reader of the selection and the audience hearing the piece will gain comfort and solace. While it is natural for tears to flow, the heartfelt pieces will be well-received by all. Keep in mind that funerals are for the living, so make sure that those closest to the deceased approve of what is read or said at the service. Running ideas by them first will make for a peaceful event. Funerals are stressful, and the smoother the communication between all involved, the better.

Straight From the Heart

Whether you read passages from the Bible, share meaningful moments or stories, or borrow excerpts from timeless tales, be sure that all readings come from the heart. Speaking at a funeral is a great honor, and you can be proud of your words as long as they are chosen with love and intent and shared to honor the deceased.

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