How to choose readings for your funeral
Readings can be one of the most important parts of any funeral. If you are planning your funeral in advance, you may feel overwhelmed by the plethora of poems, readings and extracts available to you. But it is important to get it right when you’re planning your final send off and it is worth considering a few things before making your final choices.
Questions to ask yourself
There are several questions to ask yourself before deciding upon specific readings or poems for your funeral. Firstly, think about your favourite poems or passages. Are there any that stand out as holding personal or sentimental value? Picking a favourite poem that you want to be read at your funeral can really help make it a uniquely individual event, as well as making it a more meaningful experience for your friends and family.
Another question you may want to ask yourself when deciding on a reading for your funeral is whether or not it will offer comfort to those you leave behind. Whilst a certain poem may seem like a great idea initially, some can hold so much emotional meaning that it may make things harder for those mourning your passing. Similarly, you will need to ask yourself if you wish the reading to be more personal to you or to convey a more general outlook on death.
Understandably, the popular choices for funeral readings will often centre around messages about either life or death. This might mean a passage that celebrates the wholeness and completeness of life or one which discusses the finality, or maybe even inconclusiveness, of death.
There are two main styles to decide upon when choosing a poem or reading for your funeral: The general and the personal.
Plenty of poems cover the topic of death in a more general way, commenting on broad philosophies of life and death. These are relevant in most situations and can be a good choice if you are struggling to think of a reading that carries personal value. More personal choices for funeral readings can reflect your life experience, and these can often be the most powerful.
Religious vs non-religious
Deciding between religious and non-religious readings will often, once again, boil down to personal preference. If you are religious, you may choose a particular passage or verse from the holy book of your faith. For Christians, psalms are some of the most common funeral readings, with Psalm 23 familiar at funerals because of the line, ‘The lord is my shepherd’.
Psalm 46 is another common choice for funeral readings, as is John 14:27 and Isaiah 41:10. Whilst religious passages may not be extremely personal, it can often take a lot of the burden of decision off your shoulders and you may find that it perfectly sums up how you wish to be remembered – this perhaps explains why they are so popular.
Non-religious readings can come from just about anywhere. If you have a favourite poet or writer, you can choose a piece of their work, an extract from a play or novel. However, these days there are more options for you to choose from than ever before. People also chose passages from their favourite films or television shows whilst others will take lyrics from their favourite songs, reading them as if they were poems.
With so much to choose from when it comes to finally selecting specific readings, it may be an idea to talk to family and friends, or even your funeral directors to help you find appropriate readings and make your final decision.
If you are setting out to plan the readings for your funeral and would like some inspiration, have a look online. A search for the word ‘Funeral’ on the The Poetry Foundation website returns almost 550 results and articles like Farewell poetry and readings to remember loved ones by on the Stylist website offer suggestions from Shakespeare to Walt Disney.
Golden Charter has one of the largest network of independent funeral directors in the UK that can advise on funeral readings and poems. Many are long-standing, family-run businesses and all provide a compassionate and professional service. Find out more about how you can plan for your funeral with one of the funeral directors in our network. Request a free, no obligation information pack below or call 0800 111 4514.