Four Common Mistakes When Giving a Funeral Speech

memorial tribute errors
Think carefully to avoid an error in giving the memorial tribute

In earlier posts, how to write an inspiring funeral speech was considered, for those speaking at a memorial tribute or funeral service. However, there are certain things should be careful not to do or say when writing or delivering a memorial tribute.

  1. Don’t talk about yourself too much or use inside jokes – The eulogy should focus on the departed, and the other mourners. Avoid statements like “I don’t know what I’ll do without him”, or use of inside jokes between the two of you, that most people will not get.
  2. Don’t tell any stories that could be interpreted as off-color – Everyone who was close to the departed will have frayed nerves and emotions running high during the memorial service, including your funeral speech. They will be less good-humored, or receptive to stories that might be appropriate at another occasion, like a best-man’s toast at a wedding. Cater to the lowest common denominator and be certain that none of your anecdotes can be considered offensive by the friends and family of the deceased.
  3. Don’t make religious (or atheist) assumptions or give strong religious (or atheist) messages – You might be religious (or not), as might the deceased have been, but it’s likely that different friends and family members of the deceased will have different faiths and beliefs. Don’t assume your audience has the same belief system. Telling the atheist spouse of the deceased that their beloved will dwell in the kingdom of heaven for eternity, is unlikely to provide any comfort for them. Similarly, religious mourners will take no comfort if you tell them you believe there is no afterlife. Avoid interpreting the plan of higher powers by staying away from phrases like “it was God’s will” or “God has a plan for all of us”.
  4. Don’t trivialize the loss of the departed – Often in an attempt to comfort the friends and family of the deceased the person delivering the funeral speech, will try to put the loss into perspective, which may some of the mourners feel like you are trying to make the loss seem insignificant. Don’t say things like “While his passing is sad, at least he lived a long life”, “it was his time” or “Perhaps it’s better this way.” In an earlier post, we’ve suggested phrasing appropriate for a funeral speech.
    Don't make the loss seem insignificant
    Be careful not to accidentally make the loss of the deceased seem less significant than it is.

If you follow the advice given in the earlier articles, make use of the resources available, and follow the rules above, you’ll be able to write an inspirational eulogy and avoid offending or alienating any of the audience.

Memorial Quotes to Open or Close a Funeral Speech

Opening or closing a funeral speech is a difficult thing to do. What you say to your audience should be carefully considered to comfort them and inspire them, despite the grief they are feeling. If you are grieving, it’s even more difficult to come up with the perfect words, but you don’t have to do it alone.

Writing a funeral speech
A memorial quote can be an effective and appropriate opening or closing to a funeral speech.

There are resources available to help you write your funeral speech, as well works that contain carefully selected poems and quotes. These resources are incredibly helpful in preparing your funeral tribute. In addition, we’ve provided a few appropriate memorial quotes below, that you may find appropriate for use in your memorial speech.

  • “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” ― Thomas Campbell
  • “There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them,’ my mother explained shortly before she left me. ‘If you can remember me, I will be with you always.” ― Isabel Allende
  • “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” ― Terry Pratchett
  • “What we have once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” — Helen Keller
  •  “He was comforted by one of the simpler emotions which some human beings are lucky enough to experience. He knew when he died he would be watched by someone he loved.” – Noel Annan
  • “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: The soul that rises with us, our life’s star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar. Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory, do we come From God, who is our home: Heaven lies about us in our infancy.” — William Wordsworth
  • “Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.” — Eskimo legend
  • “They whom we love and lost are no longer where they were before. They are now wherever we are.” — St. John Chrystostom
  • “I miss your hand beside my own, the light touch of your hand, the quick gleam in the eyes of you, so sure to understand.” – Anonymous
  • “Life is a dream walking, death is a going home.”  — Chinese Proverb
  • “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
  • “For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.” — Kalil Gibran
  • “How very softly you tiptoed into our world, almost silently, only a moment you stayed.  But what an imprint you footsteps have left upon our hearts.”  — Dorothy Ferguson
  • “A person’s true wealth is the good he or she does in the world.” — Mohammed
  • “Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love.  The only cure for grief is to grieve”  — Earl Grollman
  • “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” — George S. Patton, Jr.
  • “There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.”  — Washington Irving

Writing your memorial tribute
Memorial quotations can make powerful openings or closings for eulogies.

Remember, the memorial tribute should come from your heart, sharing personal memories or anecdotes that shine a positive light on the deceased. The funeral messages you deliver should bring your audience feeling comforted and closer to the deceased. Use of funeral tribute quotes or poems is entirely appropriate, but you should limit their use; the opening or the closing of the funeral speech is the ideal time to share the words and wisdom of someone else.

We hope this article will help you in the preparation of the memorial speech, and the best of luck in composing and delivering an inspirational eulogy.

Eulogy Example Phrases and Funeral Messages

When creating the body of the funeral speech, you’ll generally share information or anecdotes about the deceased that reflect on the positive aspects of their character. Sometimes crafting these words of sympathy can be difficult. There are resources that are dedicated to helping you create the most inspirational eulogy possible, but there are a few phrases below that you might use to make your job a little easier.

Help writing a funeral speech
Your funeral speech can be difficult to write. This phrasing might help you write your eulogy.

We’ve used the name ‘John Doe’ below, however you should, of course, use the name of the deceased. Use the first name only, where appropriate. In the event that the departed is a woman, be sure to change all relevant aspects to female terms (ie mother of, grandmother, wife, etc.). Similarly, you can replace specific skills or topics with those that are really relevant to the departed.

  • John Doe had many interests, but his home and family life always came first. He loved to travel, and had visited countries that most of us don’t even know how to pronounce! He was always curious about new cultures and ideas.
  • John was one of the least materialistic people I’ve ever met. He was always happy with what he already had, and knew it was right for him. The grass was always greenest on John’s side.
  • Despite his illness, John never complained about the discomfort he was in, a rare quality in anybody.
  • John Doe was intelligent and articulate; an interesting man to talk to, but more importantly, he was someone who would really listen. He could understand and appreciate your point of view, even if it was different than his own.
  • John was a funny man. He was witty and had a great sense of humor; there was nothing he loved more than a good joke or a funny story.
  • John Doe was very skilled with his hands; he knew so much about building and was always happy to help his family and friends with their household projects and repairs. It was never too much trouble.
  • John loved poetry/music, and we had great difficulty in choosing something appropriate that John Doe would have liked to have heard at his funeral. One of his favorites was the writer/singer __________, so I think John would have approved of the choice.
  • John was a good friend to many people and touched all of their lives in different ways.
  • John had strong morals and principles that he lived by, but he never judged others or pushed his beliefs on anyone.
  • John was a wonderful storyteller; he could recall the smallest details of a tale with great clarity and then weave them into the story, so you felt like you were actually there.
  • We all have many happy memories of John Doe and these we must hold dear in our hearts and cherish them, as he cherished us.
  • John chose his friends carefully; if you were lucky enough to be close to him, then you know his loyalty and honesty were two of his greatest strengths. You could always rely on John, and trust him with anything.
  • As a young man, John was an independent person who wanted to go his own way and do his own thing, he liked to earn what he had, and never took anything from anyone. He would work hard and was willing and able to succeed in whatever challenge he faced.
  • John was well-liked, popular and respected. I’d like to take this opportunity to give John’s friends a message of gratitude and appreciation from his family for their unconditional support and friendship over the years, especially in recent years.
  • John had always led a very active life. It was a life well spent and enjoyed, with many happy times. He enjoyed his life to the fullest, and made the most out of every moment.

Resources for memorial tributes
Resources are available to help you compose your memorial tribute


We hope these eulogy example phrases have helped you to write your funeral tribute. In addition to using the above phrases, and the information provided on this site, you’ll very likely need further guidance in preparing your memorial tribute. Please have a look at our resources section for other books and reference materials that will help you to create an inspirational eulogy.

Our most sincere condolences in these difficult times…

Six Questions You Should Ask Before Starting to Write a Eulogy

Now that you’ve accepted the responsibility of preparing a funeral tribute for the deceased, it’s important that you know some basic things about the funeral service before you even start preparing your funeral speech for the memorial service.

What time is your funeral speech
If you find out what time you are giving your tribute to the deceased, you’ll be more comfortable the whole day.

1.   Where and when will my funeral reading take place?

Sometimes you will deliver your tribute to the deceased at the funeral home during or after a wake. You may have the service graveside, and be asked to speak there. If the deceased was cremated, you might give your tribute where the ashes are released. You’ll feel more comfortable if you know when and where you’ll deliver the eulogy, and what comes before and after. If the information is not available from the family members organizing the service, or you don’t want to bother them in their grief, you can approach the funeral home or memorial director for this information.

2.   Will there be others speaking or just me?

If there will be multiple speakers at the service, you should find out how many, who they are, and get in touch with them to find out what they are discussing. Even if you don’t know them well (or at all), you can call them or send them an email (try to get this from someone in the family, or a mutual friend) to discuss your initial ideas, share information and make sure your final speeches are not conflicting, or overlapping.

Check if there is a microphone
Microphones can be difficult to deal with. Check if there is one, and if you can get a sound check ahead of time.

3.   Will there be a microphone?

Many people, who are not used to public speaking, prepare a beautiful reading or tribute for the memorial service of their loved one, only to become unhinged by the presence of a microphone, especially if they have never used one before. The most common mistakes include being to close or too far from the microphone, shouting into the microphone and assuming the microphone will still pick up sound if your head is turned  (unless it’s a headphone mic). Ask if there will be a microphone, and if so what kind. If possible, have a look beforehand, and ideally, organize a sound check sometime before the service.

A modern digital podium
Check if there is a podium where you will be speaking. Its a convenient place to put your written speech, water, etc.

4.  Will there be a podium?

Similar to the microphone, some very well prepared speakers are defeated by the lack of a podium, or one that is too technical. If you have your speech on cue cards, or paper, its more natural to have a podium in front of you to put these on. If you are standing in front of the crowd without a podium, you feel a bit more exposed, which takes a little getting used to. In today’s modern age, many podiums are digital, and have monitors or tablet computers integrated into them, as a mini-teleprompter. If this is the case, make sure you are familiar with the system, and that you have some sort of back-up in case it fails.

5.   Who is in your audience?

Your eulogy will be to honor the dead, but you also need to be careful not to alienate or offend your audience. You are likely to share anecdotes, but you need to tell stories and emphasize character traits that are familiar to all (or at least most) of the attendees, or they will feel like you are talking about a stranger. If an ex-spouse, step-children, etc. are present, be mindful and sensitive about the words you use and the stories you tell.

6.  Is there a time limit?

It’s important to recognize that your contribution will likely only be one part of the funeral service and that you should work within the defined duration. Again, those planning the funeral will be able to let you know this. Even if there is no time limit, you want to make sure that your memorial speech is not so short that it looks like you hardly knew the person, and not so long that people become inattentive or overwhelmed.

If you ask these questions before the day of the funeral and your tribute, you’ll be less likely to run into an unexpected surprise that might detract from your inspirational eulogy.

Next: Writing the Eulogy