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Choosing The Right Speaker for a Loved One's Funeral

What makes a memorial service unforgettable? What brings immense comfort and closure to a family mourning a loved one? Most often, it isn’t the floral arrangements or the service itself—but the words spoken, the memories shared, and the extraordinary people who speak and share these words. 

The most precious moments are the stories we tell, the memories we share, the tears, and the laughter during a memorial. But how do we choose the speaker for our loved one’s memorial? 

Memorial Officiant

Choosing a single person to take charge and oversee the ceremony or memorial is a fantastic consideration. Especially for families amid mourning, attempting to keep track of the funeral expenses, paperwork, plot expenses, cremation, or other end-of-life business can feel utterly overwhelming during this tender time. 

Choosing someone responsible for starting and finishing the service, performing official or informal duties, and coordinating any activities in between—is usually called being the officiant.

If your loved one was involved in a religion, the clergy from their church may be a logical choice. Suppose, however, a loved one passes, who was not a member of a specific church. In that case, you can also invite clergy from other churches or choose an officiant with no church connection to perform a religious ceremony. 

Most clergy follow an order of service dictated by their religious rules. This can include prayers, readings, blessings for the deceased, and comforting passages for family members. 

If a loved one is nonreligious, or family members find it challenging to choose a clergy, a professional funeral celebrant may be an ideal solution. A celebrant works side by side with the family to design a fully customized ceremony that can meet a family’s needs. In most cases, a funeral director can help arrange for an officiant.  

Guest Speaker or Eulogist

Another essential choice is who you will have to deliver either a speech about the loved one who has passed or write and deliver a eulogy. This speech should ideally be delivered by someone who knows the person well enough to gather and share memories and highlights of their lives. Sometimes, the choice might be obvious and within the family. One person often knows the deceased well and may be familiar with speaking in front of people. 

Sometimes, a family must look further to find the right person to deliver a speech or eulogy. 

It is important to stress that the speaker you choose, whether a distant cousin, a life-long friend, a trusted co-worker, or a neighbor, has a deep knowledge of the person who has passed and decent writing and public speaking abilities. This is a crucial time for the friends and family mourning the deceased—while perfect isn’t obtainable, no one wants to see the guest speaker or eulogist mumble, mispronounce the deceased name, or worse, read flatly from queue cards. 

Many families also choose to have several speakers covering different aspects of a loved one’s life. One way you may consider doing this is following the main speech or eulogy to allow others to come up and speak on their favorite memories or give a short speech about the recently deceased, such as a grandson sharing a treasured memory, a daughter reading her mother’s favorite poem or religious quote. 

No matter who speaks, please remember that the eulogy part of a service should take no more than 30 minutes. 

One last thing to remember: there is always the chance that whomever you choose to speak may feel overwhelmed with grief, making it impossible for them to speak. It is always a good idea to have someone who can help comfort the original speaker and finish their eulogy if needed. 

Open Microphone

It has become a popular means to close out a memorial service to allow guests to share additional memories with the group. While this practice can provide you, your family, and friends solace, you should also understand that it isn’t without risk. Clear time limits should be set and respected, and the ceremony or officiant should be prepared to politely guide participants who speak for too long, or perhaps a bit inappropriately, to close their speech before it can drag. 

Above all, remember whose life you are celebrating and choose the ideal speaker that suits your loved one.

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