Music is a very powerful force. It has the power to make us cry, relieve stress, feel uplifted, or become completely crushed. Not only can it convey emotion, but it can also evoke memories. Whether a recent pop hit or a classic instrumental piece, music can play a big role in influencing the mood during a funeral.
There are various stages during a funeral service and burial when music can be played. This includes:
- The pre-ceremony as guests arrive and sign the guest book
- As the casket is brought in by pallbearers
- During the viewing of the body
- At the start of the service
- During the photo presentation
- During committal
Given that there are different types of funerals and religious or traditional rites that may be involved, there may also be more or fewer opportunities than the above to play music during the funeral.
What to consider when choosing funeral songs
The deceased’s wishes
It has become increasingly common for people to outline what they want for their own farewell. Especially for those who may be suffering from a terminal illness or just like to be prepared. Many will list down the music they want to be played, or simply request a certain theme be adhered to. It is not uncommon for people to want uplifting or upbeat music at their funerals. It is often a desire by many to have people spend more time celebrating their life rather than mourning it.
Songs with a special meaning
Most people have music that they love and will form a habit of listening to whenever they get a chance. It could be specific songs or a preference for a particular artist. Choosing a song that would have special meaning to them is a lovely way to honour their memory and reflect their personality during the ceremony. It does not have to be a church hymn or anything traditional. The goal here is to give attendees a chance to hear a song they can connect to the deceased and cheerfully reminisce.
You can also take inspiration from special traits of the person. For instance, if the deceased was complimented for being a brown-eyed girl or having a beautiful smile, there are many such themed songs to choose from. Their career and hobbies can also help in finding suitable choices. Those with a music hobby may even have bandmates or fellow artists that would want to contribute live music to the proceedings.
Go by era
It is said that the music that has the most impact on our lives is that which we listened to while teenagers. For many people, their favourite song likely came out when they were teens or in their 20s. This can be a good place to start in trying to choose funeral songs that the deceased might have enjoyed. You can likely cross reference this with any music playlists they might have had. If the deceased were a child, their favourite nursery rhymes can be appropriate.
Consider the venue
While you do not have to keep things traditional, you may still want to consider the environment. If you are having the service at a church, it may not be appropriate to play anything raunchy, no matter how closely it may connect to the deceased. In church, you will likely want to stick to hymns and instrumental music, especially during the religious portions of the service.
Circumstances around the death
Sometimes the circumstances surrounding the death of a loved one can influence your choice of music. Those that have struggled with an illness are often honoured with songs about survival and perseverance. From the quintessential fight song Eye of the Tiger by Survivor to the gutsy Hit Me with Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar, there are innumerable choices.
In cases where a couple died together or one shortly after the other, it is also commonplace to include love songs that were special to them. Sometimes families will include music played at their wedding, especially during slideshow presentations where images from the ceremony or an anniversary would be included. For those that died under heroic circumstances such as trying to save a life, it may be worth considering hero-themed music.
Do an online search
Going online is a simple way to find inspiration. You can look up suggestions as per the above, including the popular music at the time of the deceased’s teen years and top recommendations for funeral songs based on what mood you want. There are tons of playlists for traditional, uplifting, instrumental, spiritual, and religious music. Consider the music genres the deceased enjoyed most and will resonate best with their memory.
Music will be an important part of the farewell you plan for a loved one that is gone. Try to ensure that whatever songs you choose are suitable for the ceremony. Be sure to listen through to any songs you are not familiar with to ensure no inappropriate lyrics sneak through. It will also be a good way to gauge what kind of mood will be created by choosing those songs.
While funerals are a time to mourn a loved one, try to avoid making the music too dreary and sad. Seek to make it a time of reflecting on happy memories and bringing out the joy that the person brought to your life. If you feel stumped, you can also seek advice from your funeral director who has likely helped in arranging innumerable funerals and can recommend good choices.