The simple answer is no, you don’t need to do anything. When we first talk, I will ask if you have already thought about anything you would like included in the service, such as favourite poems, music or particular readings. If you already have ideas I can make sure that these are incorporated into the service. However, if you haven’t made a decision or just don’t know where to start, please don’t worry – I will help guide you through this and together we can choose what you want to include.
While many people initially find the thought of speaking at the service quite daunting, those who do are often pleased afterwards that they did. I always encourage participation in the service if this is what you want and will do my best to support anyone who wishes to speak. Equally, I understand that it is hard to predict how you will feel on the day. In my experience, the most common fear is that you will be overcome with emotion and struggle to deliver your reading, poem or tribute. This is completely understandable so I would normally suggest that you provide me with a copy of the words you want to deliver in advance, so that I can step in if you need me to. Usually, just knowing that someone else can take over if necessary is enough to help you deliver your words yourself.
Music can often speak to us more powerfully than words alone and some people find it easier to express their feelings through the lyrics of an emotive song. For these reasons, the inclusion of music in a funeral service is a common choice. Whether you want to include music for entering, and/or leaving the service, as well as during the service itself is completely your choice. You may wish to include a favourite hymn or play music which has a strong connection for you or your loved one. You may also want to consider the mood that different pieces of music can create; while some songs are particularly touching and poignant, there are others which are more suited for periods of quiet reflection and others which can create a positive and uplifting feeling, which are perhaps more suited to the end of a service.
Yes, a lot of people choose to have favourite photographs on display or items with personal significance placed on or near the coffin. As with all elements of the service, this is entirely your choice. Having photographs and/or personal items displayed are one of the ways that the service can be personalised and made more meaningful to you. I would usually advise that you choose just one or two favourite photographs at most to display at the service but if you decide to have a reception afterwards it is often a nice idea to put together a photo memory board that can be taken for people to look at together. This is often a lovely way for different generations to share their individual memories with one another.
Some families choose to have a slideshow of pictures playing during a piece of music. This can be very emotional but as the saying goes, ‘A picture tells a thousand words’, so it can be a really good way to show the story of someone’s life. It is also another way that family and friends can be involved in the service, either by supplying photos, or just seeing photos of themselves with the person who has died. However, if this is something you want to include, I would suggest you ask your funeral director about this as soon as possible because inclusion of a slideshow will depend on the facilities available at your choice of venue.
The choice is entirely yours. If you would prefer a non-religious service we can simply include a period of quiet reflection. Alternatively, you may want to include a prayer that is meaningful to you, your family or your loved one. When I meet with you I will ask you about your beliefs and the beliefs of your loved one and between us we will find a way to appropriately reflect your individual philosophies.
It is a common misconception that a funeral service can only be held at the crematorium or burial ground. There is no reason why you cannot have a funeral service in a completely different location, if you prefer, providing you have permission. You may want an end-of-life ceremony or memorial service in a favourite place, such as a park or woodland, on the beach, or even at home, prior to going to the crematorium or burial ground. If this is something you would like to consider, I am happy to discuss the options available to you.
"The individual succumbs, but he does not die if he has left something to mankind." - Will Durant