Here’s a guide for how to put together a funeral program that relays information, looks professional, and becomes a keepsake that funeral guests cherish for long after the event.
If you’ve found yourself planning a loved one’s funeral, you know that there are elements of funeral planning that you have never before thought about! Now that the responsibility is on your shoulders, we’d like to help.
Funeral Program Basics
The funeral program is usually a little booklet or brochure that outlines the speakers, musical numbers, and organization of the funeral service. When funeral planning, the actual program can slip between the cracks and become a last minute rush job, but a well-thought-out program can be one of the most important elements of the service for all the guests involved. A basic funeral program should include:
- The full legal name of the deceased
- A photograph (either recent or not—your choice)
- The birth and death dates of the deceased
- Time, date and location of the funeral
- Time, date and location of the internment
- Name of the priest, minister, or other authority officiating the service
- Name(s) of the person(s) delivering the eulogy
- Name of the pallbearers
- Name of all other speakers, musical numbers, etc.
Many traditional funeral programs include a passage of scripture, a favorite poem, or an inspirational quote on the “cover page” of the booklet. A favorite program that I still have from my great-uncle’s funeral had a quote taken directly from one of his journals underneath a picture of him as we remember him—laughing at some joke or pun he just made. Seeing a casual photo of him in his old age, laughing gleefully on a peeling vinyl chair in his living room just set a personal, joyful, and intimate tone for the whole funeral service. Reading his own words about life and happiness and family was the first thing I did when I walked into the funeral home, and I was immediately comforted by his voice of gratitude and joy.
A More Personal Touch
If you are looking to fill some space in the program, or if you want to add a more personal touch to the booklet, consider holding some interviews of family members or friends and including their answers. Short, authentic memories of grandpa from his 6 sons, or funny memories of Uncle Pete from his twin sister. These can be a great way for funeral guests to feel involved in the proceedings and they are great jumping off points for conversations.
Unique Digital Extensions
When I attended a wake for the teenaged daughter of a friend who died tragically in a car accident, I was so impressed by the unique way the family used technology to involve all the guests in celebrating their daughter’s life. On the back of the brochure-style funeral program was a QR code that, when scanned by your smart phone, led to this beautiful slideshow of pictures accompanied by a favorite song. Watching this slideshow on my phone in the back corner of a big, busy, bustling room, I felt like I was given the opportunity for a personal, one-on-one goodbye that I would never get otherwise. It was a beautiful instance of how a simple program choice could make a big difference to my funeral experience as a guest.