Choosing The Best Funeral Hymns for Your Loved One’s Service

For many of us, whether we have strong religious faith or not, hymns are an important part of a funeral, and can help us come together in collective reverence and mourning. Music in all its forms has helped people express and process their emotions for aeons, and often conveys emotion in a way that goes beyond words. It can also bring people together, with group singing an especially powerful way to connect people in moments of belonging.

Choosing the right hymns for you, your family and friends, and the person you are honouring is a deeply personal task, but we hope this guide helps you make a decision you feel confident in.

Traditional Hymns for Funerals

Some of the most popular and traditional funeral hymns include choices such as Amazing Grace, The Lord’s My Shepherd, How Great Thou Art, Abide With Me and Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer. Traditional funeral hymns tend to centre on themes of salvation, the power and comfort of God, journeys or the passage of time, and finding peace. 

Uplifting Hymns for Funerals

It isn’t unusual for people to prefer a hopeful and uplifting choice in funeral hymns, with options such as Morning Has Broken, Jerusalem, The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended and All Things Bright and Beautiful being particularly popular. These brighter, more cheerful hymns focus on celebration, the beauty of life and nature, and renewal. 

How Do You Choose the Right Hymn for a Funeral?

Hymns are sung at funerals to help us reflect, remember, and find solace, and there are no rules regarding what is and isn’t a good choice. They may be spiritually significant, associated with lovely memories (for example, the hymn sung at your wedding) or the words may resonate with you in some way. If you are having difficulty choosing, however, here are some steps you can take. 

Consider what your loved one would have liked or what suits their personality.

Was your loved one a person with strong beliefs? Did they have a hymn they felt connected to, or did they share one that was a particular favourite during school assemblies when they were little? Were they peaceful and reflective, or vibrant and full of enthusiasm? All the small details that make up a person can help guide you in choosing a hymn for their funeral, and inform your choices regarding music in general.

In this, the messages and themes within a hymn’s lyrics can be particularly relevant, and align with the deceased’s unique life and personality. 

Think about the type of day you are trying to arrange.

There can be a tendency to assume that funerals have to be sombre, even stuffy affairs, but as traditions evolve and people embrace the idea of bespoke funerals, this is far from the truth. If your loved one hoped their funeral would have a party atmosphere, or wanted it to be centred entirely on nature, that’s more than possible, and you can make choices to create the kind of day you and your family would like too. 

You may choose a traditionally bright and cheerful hymn, such as Shine Jesus Shine, or a modern hymn such as King of Kings. New hymns are being written all the time, so you will be able to find very specific pieces of music with the message you most want to get across if you wish to. On the other hand, you can also choose the hymns you know will be most well-known to your friends and family as a way to bring them together. 

Setting and tone also play a part here. It may work best for you, for example, to choose a traditional hymn if you are holding a traditional funeral service in a church. But if you are holding a memorial in the open air or at a non-traditional location, you may prefer to have a talented friend (or friends) to lead the hymn on stage.

Think about how the hymn will be performed.

With this in mind, it can be helpful to consider the musical arrangements of a hymn. If, for example, you hope to have a choir sing the hymn alongside a congregation, be led by a soloist, or be accompanied by instrumentalists, this can affect your choices. You may wish to choose a simple melody that’s easy to sing if your hymn will be sung only by the funeral attendees, but become more ambitious if there are musicians to steer the way. 

Choosing a hymn for a funeral is a profound way to honour the memory of a loved one. It is an opportunity to provide comfort to those who are grieving and to celebrate the life and legacy of the deceased through the power of music. By considering the deceased’s preferences, reflecting on the tone of the service, focusing on the hymn’s message, and taking musical arrangements into account, you can select a hymn that truly resonates and provides solace during a time of loss.

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