Choosing Music for a Funeral Service

While funeral services can be a very difficult and emotional time for families and loved ones, they’re also an opportunity to remember the good times. Music often defines the most important moments of our lives, and it’s fitting that choosing music for a funeral service that reflects the individuals’ life and loves adds something special to the end of their journey. 

Understandably, choosing the perfect music to say goodbye with can seem like a side note when you already have so many other arrangements to make. But with a little bit of planning, choosing the music for a funeral service can become a truly cathartic and special experience, and make for a poignant goodbye to your loved one. 

Any Prior Requests?

If you are struggling to find the perfect selection of songs for a funeral service – be it emotionally or logistically – a good first point of call is finding out if your loved one left any requests behind before they passed. 

It may be worth reaching out to family members or friends and finding out whether your loved one ever mentioned what kind of music they might have preferred at their own funeral. While many of us might not be left with detailed instructions regarding music choice, it’s very possible that conversations with those who knew our loved ones best could make the decision easier. 

Searching for some sort of record or suggestion of what music your loved one may have wanted for their funeral can also defuse any unnecessary tension between relatives. It’s not uncommon for people to have different ideas about what songs or orchestration should be used, and precisely how someone would like to be remembered. 

Music is a very personal thing, and we may all have a different recollection about our loved one’s favourite songs. By taking into account any prior wishes (even if they were just mentioned in passing), you can help to create a more pleasant atmosphere amongst your family and friends, putting one unnecessary source of stress to the wayside. 

Setting the Right Mood

The songs or music you choose for a funeral service are largely going to be informed by the type of funeral you are organising. Some songs and music that are appropriate for one type of funeral may be very out of place at another. 

For example, people often now want to use their funeral as an opportunity to celebrate everything that was good and positive about their lives, rather than dwell on the sadness that can accompany the end of someone’s life. These types of services may warrant a slightly happier (or at the very least, a bittersweet) soundtrack to honour the more positive send-off that they wanted. 

On the other hand, there may be situations in which a happier tone is inappropriate. If your loved one has died under tragic circumstances, you may feel uncomfortable in playing slightly more uplifting music, especially if the individual is very young. 

If you have no prior guidance to help you, taking cues from the way in which your loved one lived their life and what kind of music they listened to can help in setting the mood. If you have access to their computer or phone, you may be able to look at their Spotify or iTunes library, assuming you feel comfortable doing so. It’s also possible that they had already prepared a public or private playlist for their passing, or may have one which particularly fits their character. 

Ultimately, funeral music helps to remind family and friends of who their loved one was, and embodies their character and spirit. As long as the mood and genre of the songs reflect this, there is no right or wrong choice to make – be it Sinatra or thrash metal. 

Pay Attention to the Lyrics 

Capturing the personality and spirit of your loved one is not all about the genre of music, however. Lyrics are just as important in creating the right atmosphere during the funeral service – and can just as easily be an unforeseen issue. 

Lyrics are often the most noticeable part of a song, and you don’t want to choose a tune that might cause offence, or that is inappropriate for any younger guests at the funeral. Some songs may even contain lyrics that induce painful memories for those attending, or that have something to do with the way in which your loved one died. 

Certain songs often have a way of catching us out lyrically when we may have never noticed it before, and you don’t want this to happen in the middle of a funeral service. While it’s important to reflect the type of person your loved one was, reading your chosen song lyrics carefully will ensure that there are no uncomfortable or triggering experiences for you or your family. 

Live or pre-recorded?

Once you have chosen a song for the perfect send-off, the next big decision is whether or not you’re going to have live instrumentals or vocals. For some people, live music can feel more personable, emotive and atmospheric, especially in a space such as a church where the acoustics are built for live performance. For others, a carefully selected playlist can provide a more personal touch, and avoid the uncertainty of a live booking.  

In many cases, churches and crematoriums will have an organist or some other kind of musician available, either as part of the funeral package or at an extra cost. Some churches and other religious venues may even also have their own choir available for any choral singing or religious music. Having these services on site can help alleviate some of the stress of finding a musician or performer on top of your other duties. 

If, for any reason, traditional or live music isn’t appropriate, it may be more fitting to select pre-recorded music such as a CD or digital playlist. If your loved one was a fan of classic rock for example, and wanted their funeral set to the sound of electric guitars, it may not be possible to accommodate these musicians in a traditional funeral venue. 

Many venues will have a sound system that allows you to play pre-selected music, whether on a CD or through an auxiliary connector. If you’re unable to track down the perfect musicians to cover your loved one’s favourite song, this can be a stress-free alternative that still allows you to personalise the experience. 

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Whether it’s a traditional church choir, an original song composed by a family friend, or just an old favourite, choosing the music for a funeral service is often a key aspect of the funeral arrangement process. Not only does it help reflect the life of the loved one you are remembering, but it also allows family and friends to come together in a moment of grief, and focus instead on thought and remembrance.

Music is an extremely personal experience, especially during such an emotionally turbulent time as a funeral, and it is perfectly natural for everyone to have their own thoughts and opinions on what music they think is best. While it is important that guests feel comfortable and are given the right environment in which to remember those that have passed, choosing the right music should be a process of honouring your loved one, and being authentic to them and their life. 

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