Funeral and Memorial Services
Music consoles us when we are grieving. Music expresses what words cannot. Music heals us. Music brings our most treasured memories to the present. Music touches each of us individually, but also lets us know that we are not alone.
There are already many details and orders of business to oversee in planning a funeral or memorial service, so my goal is to help ease the process of choosing music for your loved one's service. The info listed here is intended to help guide you through planning music for a service.
If you are making arrangements for your own service in the future, this process can help you retain control of your wishes. It will also help your family and friends feel closer to your spirit as they prepare your final wishes. While it may be a difficult process for some, it can be transformative also, and aid in finding closure.
A funeral often occurs one to two weeks after a passing. This often means that there is not much time for family and close ones to plan out the service and make meaningful choices. The process is additionally difficult when the emotions are raw. Keeping things more simple will help avoid feeling overwhelmed. Including favorite pieces, songs, or hymns honors the life of your departed loved one, not only on the day of the funeral, but every time the music is played again.
A memorial service can take place anytime after a burial, usually a month up to a year after a passing. While it may still be emotionally difficult, there is usually more time to plan a beautiful tribute to your dearly departed. A luncheon may accompany the service, and will usually includes stories and memories shared by family and close friends, with music offering comfort and peace.
Celebration of Life
A celebration of life service is similar to a memorial service, however, there is an option to celebrate the life of someone while they are alive and able to participate. For those with a terminal illness, gathering with friends can be a poignant occasion. The music adds to the beautiful memories of that day.
A viewing, or a wake is not a formal service, but a time set aside before the funeral for each person to be in the presence of a loved one who has passed, pay respects and say final good-byes. It is also a chance to have a moment with the family or close ones, as there may not be a chance to do so during a formal service. The viewing is typically 2-3 hours, prior to the funeral service on the same day, or on the evening before.
Order of Service for a Funeral
Unless the service includes a formal religious liturgy, there is flexibility to put together a personal dedication in a way that would honor the loved one's desires. Music can play an integral part of the service, and provide solace during the viewing.
A funeral director or clergy member will help you to create an order of service. Here are some outlines for funeral services that you could modify to create a more personal service.
Prelude music begins approximately 15-30 minutes prior to the opening of the service. If there is a viewing leading up to the service, prelude music can begin anytime during the viewing. Friends and relatives attending the service will find the music comforting during this difficult time.
A designated celebrant leads the service. The service may include poems, excerpts from favorite books, stories told by family and friends.
Music can be interspersed during the service to allow moments of reflection, and continue post-service during a reception.
Catholic Service with Mass
Entrance Song: Usually a hymn.
Responsorial Psalm: Sung and led by a cantor, but can also be spoken.
Gospel Acclamation/Alleluia: Sung and led by a cantor, but can also be spoken.
Offertory: Music to accompany the Presentation and Preparation of Gifts.
Eucharistic Acclamations: Holy, When We Eat This Bread, Amen, Agnus Dei.
Communion: Usually a hymn or psalm.
Post-Communion Reflection (optional): A special musical selection may be chosen.
Final Commendation: A song of farewell or commemoration.
Final Song or Hymn: To send forth.
Hymns are sung or played between readings, commemorations or eulogies offered by a pastor, family and close friends.
A special musical selection may be chosen for a time of reflection.
Closing hymn and music to signify the ending of the service, transition to a reception.