Writing a Eulogy

It is impossible to sum up a life story in a few minutes. However, you can tell stories and recall memories in valuable and creative ways.

A helpful eulogy is much more than a list of dates, but it is right to include important ‘milestones’ – birth and marriage, significant moves and changes of career.

Often it may be better to begin with a poem or reading than simply with a birth date. If the subject of the eulogy had a particular spiritual outlook or favourite passage of literature, it may be easy to choose something that sets the tone perfectly.

At other times, a story or a little historical background may help. For example, if a person was born in Masterton in the 1920’s, your talk could begin with a brief description of what life was like in the town in those days.

The eulogy should act as a springboard for others to call to mind their own special memories. So, talk about your feelings for this special person. Tell some stories about your experiences with him or her. Anecdotes are a good way to celebrate life – there is no reason to avoid the things that were amusing or even mildly irreverent!

Many immediate family members may understandably feel unable to speak publicly themselves, yet have important things to say. Check with them. If they want to offer a few words or a precious memory, try to briefly include these.

As a very general guide, we offer the following checklist of things you may want to include…

  • Birthplace and short details of early childhood
  • Educational and sporting achievements, military service
  • Work/career
  • Marriage and family life
  • Hobbies, club memberships, charity involvement
  • Preferences in music, literature, theatre, etc
  • Characteristic words and sayings
  • Personal qualities (perhaps illustrated by stories)

People often ask how long a eulogy should be – five minutes or a couple of typed A4 pages is sufficient.


“A picture is worth a thousand words” – and that is often true. Many families like to display some photographs or other life symbols at the funeral service.

Photographs need not be recent, provided they are characteristic of a person’s life. Sometimes, a family photo or other group shot can be just the thing to capture personality.

Wairarapa Funeral Services can arrange enlargements and enhancements of existing photos easily. This can be really useful if you want to lift a single image from a larger picture.

Other items, such as a favourite hat, prized trophy, art or craft sample, tennis racquet or golf club can all help symbolise a life. The possibilities are vast. Sometimes, family members like to bring these symbolic items with them, and place them on or near the casket before or after the eulogy.

Finally, a carefully chosen piece of music can provide a pleasant reflective space after the eulogy. This may reflect the personal taste of the deceased, or simply be a track that the family find helpful for and appropriate for the occasion.