Family led funerals

What to think about for a Family-led funeral

When you wish to lead the service yourselves, without a celebrant or minister, we often suggest to a family to think of it as more as a Family Farewell than a funeral.

How you plan your time in the chapel is down to what feels right to you, there is no right or wrong way.

Some families choose to just quietly listen to a couple of chosen pieces of music and reflect in their own way, just to be there feels enough. This is the simplest option.

Other families prefer a little more structure and choose to create their own simple service, sharing memories – and we can help you structure this and even open and close the service for you if you wish. We are also able to read anything you would like us to if you’d prefer not to do it yourselves.

The main point is you’re not on ceremony – this is just intimate family time to say farewell in your own way.

Ideas for a Family Led funeral service

  • Choose a music track to walk in to – this can be gently faded out once everyone is seated.
  • If needed, we can open the service for you with a few welcoming words – so you have a few moments to settle when you arrive in the chapel.

What to think about

You don’t have to write a eulogy. Think about character traits and stories to remember that reflect your family member as you know them. For example:

  • 3 things you may or may not have known about …
  • What … taught me about life
  • What I will miss most about …
  • The time …. made me laugh most
  • The lessons ….. taught me
  • What you may not have known about ….
  • How I think …. would have described themselves


  • Perhaps people who can’t attend the funeral may like to send a few words to be read out
  • It is also possible to voice record a message as an MP3 file and it can be played
  • Or read out any specific, poignant sympathy cards/ messages you have received

Poems or readings

  • You can write your own poem – or find suitable poems or readings online
  • You can find many examples at Sympathy Message Ideas.
  • Children may like to read an excerpt from a story important to them


  • A pre 10am service is 20 minutes. Otherwise it is typically 30 minutes.
  • We suggest to write down a rough timeline to include the length of each speech or piece of music to make sure there’s enough time
  • Speaking time – for a main tribute we recommend 3 – 5 minutes. For other tributes 2- 3 minutes. Any longer than this, voices can easily dry up.
  • Anyone who wishes to talk adlib, please make them aware of the time that they will have. They are best to at least write some prompts beforehand – otherwise they may ‘erm’ a lot!
  • Be firm that if anyone talks way over their time limit, it may mean another person’s time is cut short.


Typically 2 to 3 music tracks are chosen:

  • Music to walk in to
  • Reflection music (time allowing)
  • Music to walk out to

Closing the service

We can close the service for you if needed – we just use a few poignant words, or poem (if there is something specific you wish us to read).

A final choice of music would be played, and then the curtains can either gently close around the coffin – or if you prefer, leave the chapel with the coffin in view (the curtains will close afterwards).

Note: the coffin does not leave the chapel until you as a family have left, even if the curtains close, the coffin remains in place.

In a nutshell decisions to make

  • Music choices – we need name of tracks and artists, and order they are to be played i.e. entrance, reflection, exit
  • Poems or readings?
  • Who will speak?
  • The order in which people will speak if relevant
  • Who will open and close the service (we can assist with this if needed)

If you are struggling with what to do or family dynamics make it hard to work together, maybe consider a Celebrant. We can advise.

If you want to discuss any ideas or need more advice, please call us on 020 3281 1045.

White Rose Modern Funerals team

We’re here to help

If you have any questions regarding arranging a funeral or planning ahead, please get in touch. Call us on 020 3281 1045 or send us a message.

Independent funeral director

helping families across London & Surrey

You can speak to us anytime on 020 3281 1045 – we’re open 24/7