There is a lot to consider for a ceremony and on this page I have set out a few of the options to help get you started.
There are generally four types of music that can be used and you can have as much or as little as you wish. Venues using the Wesley system or something similar will be able to provide the music for you; other venues such as Oxford Crematorium will need you to provide the music on CD.
You may decide to have one, two or even three hymns. Three is unusual, one or two are quite common, although of course you may wish to have none. If you feel you would like a hymn but are not particularly religious, there are what I call the "light" hymns – such as Morning Has Broken, All Things Bright and Beautiful, Jerusalem – these are still hymns and still very popular but not as heavily religious as some others. If you are at a venue with the Wesley system like the Chilterns Crematorium at Amersham, it doesn't matter about how many people may sing as we can normally use what is called a choir version that has half a dozen voices already recorded with it. Some people will join in once they hear someone else singing.
b) Entrance music
This is the music played as people enter the chapel. As people are moving to their seats, you will hear it but you won’t get to concentrate on it much, so better to not choose any piece that’s very important for entrance music
c) Exit music
This is the music played as people leave the chapel. As people could be moving, it is a bit like entrance music but the difference is that the chief mourners really decide when to leave so you could hear more of it. You can chose at the time if you want to move straight away, or listen to some of it or listen to all of it.
d) Reflection music
The most important pieces work best as reflection pieces. You can have one, two or more reflection pieces - this/these should be the most meaningful/important pieces as you get to hear all of them. They could be music that meant a lot to the person or music that reminds you of them or simply music that you like. We pause during the ceremony specifically to listen to reflection music.
2. Other Components of the Ceremony
a) Any poetry
b) Any prose
There are many suitable pieces to be found on line. These could be read out as tribute by family or friends or by me if you would prefer. If you just search for “funeral poem” there are hundreds so you could try refining your search to a particular relationship “funeral poem
granddad” or hobby or place “funeral poem garden”
c) Any prayers
Interestingly even families who say they are not religious often still chose to include The Lord's Prayer. It is of course the most widely known prayer. No-one is obviously forced to say, I simply invite those who want to join together to say it.
As with hymns, not all prayers have to be heavily religious. A very popular opening prayer is:
God our Father,
We thank you that you have made
each of us in your own image,
and given us gifts and talents
with which to serve you.
We thank you for (Name),
the years we shared with him,
the good we saw in him,
the love we received from him.
Now give us strength and courage
to leave him in your care,
confident in your promise of eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
3. The Eulogy and tributes
The eulogy is the memories of the person and his life. There are three options:
a) I write and I deliver
b) One or more people from the family/friends write but I still deliver on their behalf
c) One or more people from the family/friends write and they deliver
Or a mixture of above.
In my opinion, it does make it much more personal if members of the family write the eulogy even if they do not want or feel able to deliver it. This can be shared out and not just taken on one person's shoulders. A nice idea if appropriate is to ask others for their favourite memories e.g. friends, grandchildren etc. I think a better eulogy is one that is less like a CV, a series of dates and places, and more a selection of stories and memories.
Write from the heart and do not worry about the length – never leave anything you wanted to include out because you are worried it will be too long. You can read a lot of words in a very short amount of time and it is almost impossible for a eulogy to be too long. Similarly it cannot be too short – if you write from the heart and it lasts two minutes then those are the two minutes you wanted to say. Better that than five minutes which are only the two minutes you wanted to say padded out with waffle to make it longer.
4. Practical points:
a) Entering the chapel
The usual way is to follow in. This means that once you are ready, the chief mourners will be led forward, the coffin will be carried in first with the chief mourners following the coffin and everyone else following in behind them. Alternatively you can precede in – once you are ready, everyone will be asked to make their way into the chapel and sit down. Once everyone is in they will be asked to stand and the coffin will be carried in. Or there is a mixture, when the majority of the mourners will be asked to precede in and then just the immediate family/chief mourners will follow in.
b) Would you like the curtains to close/stay open?
For a few years now the coffin does not move anywhere at the committal. Whether you close the curtains or leave them open, the coffin will not go anywhere until everyone has left, and then it is only taken into the next room. Some people prefer to close the curtains as it gives that feeling of closure and finality, whereas others prefer to leave them open precisely because they do not want those feelings. Someone once explained to me that she wanted the curtains to close so it didn’t seem that she was leaving him there when she left. Other families have a tradition of going up to the coffin as they leave and so need the curtains open. It is a completely personal choice and is split very evenly.
c) Other things to think about
Are you inviting people back for a gathering anywhere? It can be useful in today’s world of Sat Navs to include the address and postcode on the order of service or to have it handy.
Have you chosen a nominated charity for any donations? Most ceremonies do but not all. If you ask the Funeral Director they can normally handle this for you and will bring their own collection box to the ceremony should anyone wish to make a donation after the ceremony.
Would you like to include a Visual Tribute? Wesley now provides a service where they will prepare a visual tribute to be shown as part of the ceremony from photos that you send them.
There are many other aspects that we can also consider but do not worry of this all seems like a bombardment of decisions to make. I can go through all of these things with you and help you shape the ceremony to be exactly as you would like it. If you have any questions in the meantime, please just get in touch.