One vital element of a funeral service that you will need to plan is an order of service. It is a program of events for a funeral service or ceremony.
If there is more than one event, you can print multiple order of service booklets, one for each event, or combine them in one booklet. Guidance on how to write and publish an order of service is outlined below.
A funeral order of service is a booklet or pamphlet outlining the events of the funeral service and the structure and timeline in which they will be held. It can include poems, readings, tributes, photographs, and more. It also lets guests know what to expect during the funeral service, including what sequence of events are expected and the content of each component. An order of service also shares details that allow the guests to participate or follow along (e.g., lyrics to a song that will be sung, or a passage that will be read). It also gives guests a memento to take with them after a ceremony, which can be a great way to help remember the deceased person.
The first task in creating an order of service is to decide who will write and plan it. In most cases, it is written by the person organizing the funeral. However, this can vary depending on the type of funeral. In some cases, a funeral home will produce it with guidance from the family.
If funeral services are held at a funeral home, the events and schedule will depend on what the funeral home offers and what the family chooses from those options.
Once plans have been finalized, funeral homes will provide families with a timeline of events. Some may offer to prepare an order of service and will either include it in the funeral package or offer it for an additional fee. Sometimes a template can be used to create one (see these free order of service templates from Canva.com).
Families can also choose to write and create an order of service booklet on their own as long as it follows the timeline outlined by the funeral home or church.
If a funeral is held at a church, there are often specific protocols that must be followed for a religious service. Therefore, the structure and content of events will need to follow this. The church minister or clergy members will advise families on the schedule. Families can choose to have the church staff write the order or service (if applicable) with input or write and print it on their own.
If the funeral is planned at an informal location (e.g., banquet hall, community hall, etc.), the responsibility for writing the order of service will likely fall on the family. There is typically a lot of flexibility at a rented venue, but check to ensure the venue can accommodate your needs beforehand (e.g., microphones for speeches, lecturn, etc.).
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Once the events have been determined, and the writer has been selected, it is time to make the order of service booklet. The contents can vary greatly, so here are a few general things that should be included:
The order of service cover can be customized to your liking and can be as formal or informal as you choose. However, common items to include are as follows:
The type of photograph used is up to the discretion of the family. It can be a recent picture or a photo that shows the deceased person in their prime. It can also be a funny or less formal picture if you would like. For example, if the deceased person was a jokester, using less-serious photographs may be appropriate. The goal is to choose a photo that represents the deceased person best and showcases who they were. Also, be sure to use a high-resolution photo so that it is not blurry when printing.
Schedule and outline of events
The schedule and outline of events will often make up the bulk of the booklet. Therefore, it is usually a few pages long. However, it can be shorter or longer depending on the ceremony of events. The important things to include here are the type of event, time, location, and expectations of the attendees (if applicable).
The timeline need not be precise, but listing proceedings in sequence helps give guests a better idea of how the funeral service will run. In the event of delays, the funeral director or person conducting the service will try to update times accordingly, referencing the order of service as a guide.
The events will vary for each funeral, but common ones include:
This part of the booklet is optional. However, since the order of service is often something the attendees will keep after the funeral, it is an excellent idea to include images of the deceased person, including photos of family memories and related material that memorializes them. Include as many or as few as you'd like. The photos can show memorable moments in the deceased person's life with family and friends, song lyrics, poems, and more. If you have trouble choosing, it is a good idea to include milestones (e.g., wedding) and achievements (e.g., retirement). However, keep in mind that additional pages will raise the printing cost.
The final page is often reserved for another picture, thank yous, and last words. The picture at the back can be different or the same as the one at the front. It may be an excellent idea to choose an image at a different stage of life. For example, if you chose a recent picture for the front, you can choose a younger picture for the back.
This is also a place to thank family and friends for their support, love, and comfort during this time. You may also choose to thank the funeral home, clergy members, cemetery staff, etc., for their help in planning and participating in the services.
Finally, this will also be the place to mention final notes or information. This can include details and locations of additional services (e.g., repass or memorial), any charities or organizations for donations, links to memorial pages or websites, and more.