How to create a perfect Order of Service Funeral
Not sure where to start when it comes to creating the perfect order of service funeral? To help you, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide with everything you need to know.
21 essential tips to help you plan and create a perfect Funeral Order of Service in memory of a loved one (even when time is short)
Putting together an Order of Service for a funeral is not the easiest of tasks and, thankfully, not one which many of us are ever called upon to do.
But when duty calls, we can hardly say no. But where do we turn to for ideas and inspiration?
Having printed Funeral Stationery for over 30 years we deal with bereaved families every week who need a guiding hand to help them create a very special Order of Service Funeral in memory of a loved one.
One which they can be proud of and honoured to share with friends and family at the funeral.
In purely functional terms, a Funeral Order of Service will provide friends and family with all the details of the service.
But it is much more than a formal list of hymns, prayers, and readings.
After all, the congregation will be gathering to celebrate the life of someone close to them and it should be colourful, inspiring, and uplifting.
An Order of Service Funeral booklet will provide all the information the congregation will need to follow the service, listen to readings and … participate in hymns and prayers at the appropriate juncture.
Whilst the booklet may be only used for a 30 minute or an hour-long service, it lives on long afterwards and is an enduring and deeply personal keepsake in memory of someone very special to you.
Many will collect and keep Funeral Orders of Service for years so keep this thought uppermost in your mind during its preparation.
20 years ago, these booklets might have included the name, rank, and serial number only and were no more than a brief and functional record of the service printed in black on a flimsy card.
However, with modern digital printing presses capable of printing on heavy card and reproducing high-quality colour images they can provide a moving tribute to the life of the person you are celebrating.
With the advent of sophisticated and user-friendly online editors providing inspirational designs you can now create your own Order of Service Funeral booklets – with no design experience required.
Take a look at our own range of Funeral Order of Service Template designs here.
In this guide, we want to show you how to do that and provide hints and tips for you to consider along the way. And where to turn when outside help is needed.
Not all may be appropriate in your circumstances, but they are there to ensure all eventualities have been catered for and nothing left to chance.
So, let us begin.
Whilst our Funeral Order of Service Template designs provide you with sample text to indicate the running order of a typical service, this is only a guide and you are free to amend the content as much as you wish.
On occasion, the departed may have left detailed instructions for the content of their Order of Service. However, this is rare.
As soon as you possibly can, we recommend talking to your presiding minister or celebrant about the running order of the service and they will be a valuable source of advice and guidance about the shape and content appropriate for your faith and denomination.
More information on Funeral Celebrants can be found here.
Early on in proceedings, your Funeral Director will have booked a time slot for your service.
In places of worship, the service length is likely to be more flexible, but this is not the case at crematoria.
Here, service time slots are usually booked in 30-minute segments and these are strictly adhered to.
This is important to bear in mind when compiling your Order of Service to ensure that the service programme can be completed within the allotted time slot.
Your Service Running Order
Different faiths and denominations will have significant variations in their service content and running order and space precludes the opportunity to examine them all here.
However, all our Funeral Order of Service Template layouts include a typical sequence of events which we have outlined in the sample text provided and which can be viewed here once you start work on your project.
We strongly recommend that you involve your celebrant or presiding minister in putting together the service content as they will be able to advise and guide you through what is most appropriate for your circumstances in much greater detail than we can cover here.
Planning your page count and work in units of 4 pages.
As you start to refine the content of the service you will begin to have an idea of the number of pages it is likely to fill.
Funeral Order of Service booklets are printed on A4 sheets which are folded in half. This folded sheet provides 4 pages of A5 which is why page counts start at 4 and progress to 8, 12 or even 16-page booklets.
It is unlikely that your text content will comfortably fill units of four without having significant areas of white space to fill.
However, this is page space that can be wonderfully used for photographs or illustrations. Perhaps of flowers which might have been a particular favourite of the departed.
Choosing a front cover design
No one else besides you will have a better idea of your loved one’s favourite styles or likes and dislikes and this is the time to draw on all those memories as you choose a style and colour theme which would fill them with delight.
We offer a range of Template designs; some with rectangular photos and some with ovals. Or some with text only.
The choice is yours but bear in mind that once you start work on your chosen online template your work is not transferrable to another front cover design should you have a sudden change of heart.
Without a doubt, the inclusion of photos has been the most profound of changes.
Allowing those suffering bereavement to share their most treasured memories of a loved one with friends and family attending the service.
And you are not limited to just a single photo on the front. Modern online editors should allow you to create multi-image photo montages which bring such an uplifting effect to your order of service.
Many worry that their photos are not of a high enough standard but even if they are a little faded or tattered around the edges (how many old photos aren’t?) they lend a real sense of time and place to the gallery and appreciated even more for their patina of age.
Surprisingly, the main concern with photographs, are those taken more recently. These are likely to have been taken with a mobile phone with a low photo resolution setting. Or, uploaded to a social media account and then pulled down for use in your order of service.
Social media accounts lower a photo’s resolution dramatically and whilst they look great on screen, they can be very blurred when reproduced in print.
In general, if an image looks blurred onscreen, then it will be blurred when printed and possibly slightly more so.
If you have no choice other than to use a blurred photo reducing its size will improve its appearance.
More information can be found on Funeral Photographers and Videographers here.
Selecting the right font or typeface can be confusing – especially if you’ve never created an Order of Service for a Funeral before so care should be taken.
Most modern online editors will provide a selection of body-text fonts along with some script types for headlines and special effects. Script fonts should be used sparingly.
In general, we recommend choosing an easy-to-read Serif or Sans Serif (no serifs) font. Serifs are the little curly extensions at the ends which lend a flourish to the type.
Optima is a personal favourite of mine.
It is a Sans Serif typeface yet has a wonderful simplicity and elegance about it which brings effortless elegance to any order of service.
Before we finish on typefaces, however, we must also talk about the type size.
This is measured in “points” and as a rule, we recommend that body text is never set at less than 9-point and no larger than 12-point.
Headlines need to stand out so these can be a little larger – maybe 14 or 18-point and made bold as well.
Elements on the front cover such as the name of the deceased might be set at 24 or even 30-point but your eye is the best judge of what is the correct size.
If a line of text looks overpowering or at odds with the content on the rest of the page, then reduce the size a little and preview the page again.
Bold and Italic Type
In an Order of Service, type should be bold for headings and elements of the service such as Prayers or Readings, as mentioned above as well as passages requiring the congregation to participate.
This helps to add emphasis and break up the different passages and … make it easier to read.
Most commonly, italics are used for emphasis or contrast — that is, to draw attention to a particular section of a text.
Examples could include a Reading title or the title of a piece of music.
Card and Paper
Priority number 1: take care to check that your Funeral Stationery provider is using top quality card and paper for your Funeral Order of Service booklet.
Some providers will use a thinner card to save on cost and because their printing and finishing equipment is unable to handle heavier materials.
Paper and Card weights are measures in GSM or Grammes per Square Metre but unless you are dealing in these regularly, they have little meaning to most people.
So, let us put this into some kind of context.
Business Cards are typically printed on a 350gsm or 400gsm Board and your Order of Service Funeral booklet cover should not be printed on anything less than a 350gsm card. Anything less and it will feel light-weight and flimsy.
Multi-paged order of service booklets such as 8 or 12-page booklets will use a lighter weight for the pages inside.
Your typical office copier paper is 80gsm which is light and flimsy. We only use 120gsm paper for the inside pages which provides a statement of quality that is immediately noticeable.
Whilst there are many different colours and textures available in the paper market, we recommend using a smooth bright white stock.
Smooth white card and paper make the text easier to read and your photos will reproduce so much better on this type of finish.
Cream card used to be the preferred choice, but photographs look dreadful when printed on coloured stock and we recommend avoiding it at all costs.
The time between a loved one passing away and the funeral service can be short so lead time is a vital consideration when choosing your Order of Service provider.
Bear in mind, too, that it can take several days to liaise with family members and your minister or celebrant about the final content for your Order of Service.
Once the content is gathered you need to allow several hours to put the whole thing together in your template and get it proofed.
Time soon gets eaten up, so it is vital that your Funeral Stationery supplier offers a fast turn-around service.
Help and Advice
We are on hand to offer any help and guidance on putting together your Order of Service so please get in touch here and we will be delighted to help.
Not all Funeral Orders of Service will include hymns, but the majority do so it is worth spending a moment to consider them.
Many hymns have different versions, some more noticeable than others but being aware of this will ensure that you choose the version you want.
Many popular hymns have shortened versions too.
This is where highlighted verses will be omitted, and these will usually be emphasised with a note to this effect or … set in italics to denote that a verse may be excluded.
If in doubt, this is something which your presiding minister or celebrant will usually be only too happy to advise on.
Copying Hymns from the internet
Top tip: hymns do not need to be typed out in full.
There are many copyright-free sites on the internet offering you lyrics that you can copy and paste into your editor.
To do this, open a new tab in your browser and simply type the first line of your chosen hymn followed by the word “lyrics”.
This will list a whole host of sites offering you the opportunity to copy the copyright-free lyrics and paste them into your online editor.
Take care, however, where verse numbers or other symbols are included. Sometimes copying these elements can’t be avoided and so they need to be removed in the editor before moving on to your next section.
Readings and Eulogies
Occasionally, readings and eulogies will be written out in full, but this is rare.
In most instances, you will list the title of the Reading or Eulogy and the reader’s name.
This whole line will be in bold and the name of the author or reader emphasised in italics.
Including a favourite poem or passage is very popular but don’t forget to acknowledge the author of the work and give proper acknowledgement at the end of the passage.
Music for the Service
Just as with any readings, poems, or other passages of text it is only right and proper to acknowledge the authors or creators of any music and lyrics which you include in your Order of Service
Message of Thanks
The bereaved family will have received numerous messages of condolence and whilst they will reply in person to many of them, they may also wish to include a brief message of thanks at the end of your Order of Service to reach out to those they are not able to contact in person.
This is also a good moment to invite the congregation to meet up for coffee and sandwiches after the service.
Gathering after the service
At the time of writing social gatherings are not permitted due to Covid-19 restrictions.
However, it is usual for the family of the deceased to meet up with those attending the service for light refreshments after the ceremony.
This is a wonderful time for the family to share stories and reminisce with friends and acquaintances once the often-harrowing ordeal of the service is over.
It is also only polite to offer refreshment to those who may have travelled a long way and details of where this gathering will take place will be set out at the end of your Order of Service.
The deceased may have left instructions for donations to be made in their memory and details of their chosen cause or charity can be specified in your Order of Service Funeral.
It is important to make donations as easy as possible for people and whilst a cash collection may take place at the service, many may choose to pay online so a link and charity number will assist the process immeasurably.
This information will usually be the last passage of text in your order of service booklet.
How many Order of Service Funeral booklets should I order?
This really is a Million Dollar question but with a little thought and discussion amongst family and friends, you will often arrive at a surprisingly accurate guess-estimate.
But whatever number you arrive at, we always recommend that you over-estimate slightly rather than have too few.
There will always be a small number of people who are unable to travel to the service and having 10 or perhaps 20 leftover will be invaluable to send off those unable to attend.
It is worth bearing in mind, too, that the cost of having slightly more printed at the outset will be a fraction of the cost of requesting a top-up reprint after the service.
An Electronic Copy of your Order of Service Funeral
Many venues and crematoria, in particular, now offer the family the option of streaming the service.
This is particularly helpful to those unable to travel or … live abroad and are unable to make the necessary arrangements to attend the service in person.
The ability to send them a PDF copy will enable those following the service online to participate at a much more meaningful level. And at no extra cost to you.
Before you place your order, it might be worth asking your funeral stationery provider if they can also send you an electronic copy for you to email to those who are unable to attend.
Proof reading is an acquired skill and if you have someone amongst your circle of family or friends who can help, I urge you to make use of their talents.
When reading through our own material our eyes see what they want to see and gloss over errors and omissions.
As a general rule, don’t proof your work onscreen and avoid checking it yourself at all costs if you possibly can.
In the absence of a readily available proof-reader, simply ask someone close to you to help out and check through everything before sending your order off to print.
In particular, ask them to double-check important details such as dates and the spelling of names.
No one will raise an eyebrow at an aberrant apostrophe but getting the deceased’s date of birth or date of passing wrong would be a horror none of us would want to contemplate.
Choosing a Funeral Stationery provider
And, finally, the big moment. Choosing who will print your Funeral Order of Service
You are remembering someone very close to you so don’t choose second best.
Your order of service booklet should be of the highest quality and printed on top quality card stock.
It should be full of colour, life and happiness and be a celebration of their life as much as honouring their passing.
So, only the best will do.
Time is nearly always at a premium but look around and pay particular attention to independent reviews.
What other people say about a particular funeral stationery provider speaks far louder than any overblown rhetoric written by the supplier themselves.
We hope that you find this article helpful and please do take a moment or two to check our other articles in this series. Please also feel free to share this link if you find it useful.
Other products which you may be interested in: