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  • Debbie Donnelly Funeral Celebrant

Choosing poems, music and readings


Choosing the right readings, poems or music can be difficult especially when you are grieving, stressed or up against it time-wise.


It is traditional to have a poem and or readings but do not feel you have to if you really feel nothing is suitable. However, a short poem reflecting on life, their values or focusing on the future can provide a useful pause giving the mourners time to reflect. There are many books out there to choose from and your celebrant will be able to give you some ideas ranging from the traditional to new. It is easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of looking at too many options, think about whether you want it to be remembrance, loss or maybe slightly humorous and that will help you to focus.


Consider how easy it is to read aloud unless of course, you have access to an award-winning thespian. Maybe think about choosing a few verses instead of the full six.

If the person had a favourite poem – use that and introduce it as ‘would like to share Mary’s favourite poem’ or are there some lyrics from a song you could use.

Choosing music sounds easy but can be a minefield of lyrics, length and versions. Most crematoriums have access to music catalogues so you don’t have to provide a CD or recording yourself. An instrumental piece for entrance and reflection may be a good choice especially as it can be faded out easily to match timings.


The most popular choices include My Way, Angels, Wings beneath my Feet and the irreverent Always look on the bright side of life. Depending on the structure of your ceremony you could choose songs to represent different decades or stages of someone life.

For an outdoor woodland burial think about how music will be played, maybe someone with a guitar at the graveside would work well. As we saw at Prince Philips funeral a lone piper is incredibly moving and striking.


If you are having a non-faith, person based funeral simply choose what they loved best: a reading from Winnie the Pooh, Karen Carpenter and a TV theme tune- Be clear at the start that people will hear ‘her favourite things, what better way to celebrate and remember her life’ and that way you let people know it may not be all the traditional choices.

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