I meet with families to discuss the funeral service and one of the first things people ask me is, ‘What do we do?’ As I break down the steps and elements of a funeral service, I can almost see the shoulders drop, the deep breath inhaled, and people starting to relax into a task list.

I completely understand and relate to this feeling. I love checklists, and at times like these, we all need to be doing something, keeping active, feeling like we are doing something for our loved one.

For a more detailed guide, you can download the free PDF brochure, ‘How to Arrange a Funeral in 5 Simple Steps.’

There are no rules

The first thing to be aware of is that there are no rules. You can structure a memorial service for your loved one however you like. You might like to hold a candelit vigil the night before the service, or incorporate incense and smoke rituals into the service. One service I officiated at, the ashes were driven in on a ride-on mower and we all had a tipple of whiskey to finish everything off. At another, balloons were released; at another, everyone joined in to make origami butterflies to decorate the casket. Do what is meaningful for you and your loved one.

Common elements of a service

That said, sometimes it can help to have a bit of structure to work with. Common elements of a service include the following.


You can use recorded music or have musicians or hymns, or a combination.

I officiated a funeral where two female singers performed ‘What A Wonderful World,’ by Louis Armstrong. It was gorgeous. At another, the deceased had enjoyed cheeky German comedy songs, so the casket was borne in to the chapel to the sound of German less-than-polite lyrics. I actually understand German so it was quite a special moment.

Generally you will need about five songs for a service. This is to cover:

    • The start of the service (1 song)
    • 1-2 songs for the slideshow (if you do one) – about 5 minutes in total
    • 1-2 songs for a reflective moment during the service, when people might wish to write notes for the deceased and come up to the casket to make their farewells- about 5-7 minutes in total
    • The end of the service (1 song)

If you are working with us, we can help with suggestions. You can also tell us what you want and we will create the playlist.


You might want to prepare a slideshow capturing images from your loved one’s life. You can prepare this in powerpoint or a similar slideshow program or we can do it for you. There is also a website called ‘Eulogise’ (you do have to pay to use it) where you can get everyone to upload images and you can arrange them into a slideshow. Some tips for the slideshow:

    • Think about who might attend the service, and try to find images which include them if you can. You can also ask friends and family to upload images and send them to you digitally.
    • I like it when the slideshow is chronological, giving a sense of the person’s life. But you can do it howerver you like.
    • If your loved one is aware that death is near, they might want to do a voice recording for you which you can include during the slideshow too. One man did this with his mum, just using his phone, and it was a show stopper.

Some people like to have a framed photo of their loved one on the casket. You can also choose other objects from your loved one’s life to decorate the casket, chapel or venue. One funeral I officiated, the family and friends brought two suitcases full of mementoes from their loved one’s life. We arranged the items on low tables and chairs in front of the casket. and it was just such a treat to get a glimpse of their loved one’s personality from all different stages of their life.

Order of Service

You may decide to prepare a brochure, which sets out a guide to the funeral. This is a lovely memento, and is also a big help if you want to include a song or prayer which you would like people to join in with. This is something you can do yourself or we can help you with.


You may also wish to create a memento for attendees. I have officiated at funerals where people have prepared and shared postcards with an image and favourite poem or saying, a bookmark, or handed out the deceased’s favourite chocolates and lollies after the service. Again, these are elements we can organise for you. Contact Jackie’s Funerals any time on 0428 576 372.