How To Officiate a Funeral Service

When a loved one dies, those closest to them must begin the difficult task of planning a funeral. Depending on your relationship to those who have lost someone, you may find yourself in the unique position of being asked to officiate the ceremony. Officiating a funeral is both an honor and a responsibility, but don’t worry. Hollywood Forever Cemetery and Funeral Home can help.

Read on for some helpful ideas for planning the ceremony.

How to Officiate a Funeral Service

Begin Planning

The first step to officiating a funeral service is to speak with the family of the deceased. We suggest having this conversation at the funeral home with a funeral director present. This way you can discuss important details for the ceremony, such as how long they would like the service to last, and the funeral home will be made aware of the details at the same time. Be sure to ask for any specific requests, including music selections to be played and any readings that will be conducted. If the person who has passed away was religious, it’s important to ask their family if they would like any religious passages read or ceremonies performed. Traditions are important to many religions, so this can often be a crucial step. It’s okay if you’re not an ordained officiant — anyone can officiate a funeral service, regardless of religious appointment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more questions you ask, the nearer the funeral service will be to the family’s expectations.

Create An Accurate Service Schedule

Once you’ve discussed the essential details of the service, you can begin to schedule the ceremony. Make sure you have an accurate list of people who will be speaking, singing, or doing any readings. In this way you can begin to create the service schedule. If you need help, speak with the funeral director, especially if there are special requests such as microphones, music cues, or video projections. Based on the time scheduled and the order of events planned, tailor your eulogy or remarks for the service. You may only be asked to officiate the service, with the main eulogy given by another person. Think of yourself as a guide for the service, rather than the focus — take the pressure off of yourself. After all, everyone is gathering to celebrate your loved one’s life.

Lead the Funeral Service

On the day of the funeral service, ensure you arrive early. You’ll need to meet with the family beforehand, as well as the funeral director. You can expect emotions to be running high at this time, so it can be helpful to be as kind, empathetic, and gracious as humanly possible. With the help of the funeral director, walk the family through the service so they know what to expect. For those doing a reading, it can be a good idea to have copies printed for them beforehand. Once everyone has arrived for the funeral, follow your set schedule and guide those in attendance through the service. It’s okay if there are hiccups during the service; just go with it. As long as people feel supported, they will feel more at ease sharing their grief in a safe space.

Make Space For Goodbyes

After the funeral service, there may be arrangements to attend to, such as a graveside service for burial. If this is an open service, you’ll need to formally invite all of the guests present to join you. If the burial or cremation is private, invite the guests to depart in peace and love. Regardless of what plans are set for after the funeral service, be sure to give the family plenty of space for them to say any goodbyes. As a de facto leader of the funeral service, many will be looking to you for guidance or comfort. Do your best to lend a hand or a shoulder to cry on. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, don’t be embarrassed. Take a moment to collect yourself. After all, you’re only human. As long as those around you feel supported you are fulfilling the responsibilities of your role well.

Officiating a funeral service can be a big responsibility, but you can do it. We hope that these helpful ideas may offer some support, and guide you in helping your grieving loved ones and officiating a funeral service.

We want to help you make the best decisions for you and your family to celebrate the memory of a life lived. If you have any questions about our cemetery, funeral home or cremation services, please contact us.


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