Songs to play at a memorial service

Funeral Planning

Funeral songs can range from a simple recording to a live-choir-and-stringed-ensemble performance. Funeral songs are typically played during the entrance or the exit of the casket, or in between funeral speeches or readings.

Why use music at a funeral?

Funeral music, according to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, is used in a number of ways:

  • It imprints on our heart more than any other experience.

  • It helps us recall memories of that person.

  • It provides more than just words, which can often feel inadequate.

  • It adds weight to the importance of the ceremony.

For mourners, funeral music can be healing and calm anxiety. Harvard Health says music therapy helps relieve depression and decreases the perception of pain.

Tips for choosing the right funeral songs

If you are a funeral program planner or if you have been assigned to choose the songs for a funeral, here are our top tips to guide you.

Consider their favorite songs

There is no need to stick to the kinds of traditional songs typically played at funerals unless you are conducting the service at a place of worship. You can include songs that your loved one enjoyed or often listened to during their lifetime.

Ask family and friends for songs that remind them of the person

Songs tell stories and deliver messages. Ask family and friends to suggest songs with lyrics that reflect the life, role and personality of your loved one. Ask yourself: if this person’s life had a theme song, what would it be?

Consider the theme of the service

If you have chosen a theme for the funeral or memorial service, pick songs that correspond to that theme. If it has religious themes, for example, you can consider relevant songs for Christian funeral music, Catholic funeral hymns and songs or gospel music.

Consider who will perform at the memorial service

While you can play a recording, there is another option: you can ask family or friends to perform live, or hire professional musicians. You can hire a choir, a band or a soloist to perform at the funeral. If you plan to play a recording, organize your playlist and check with the venue if they have audio equipment available for your use. Otherwise, you may need to bring your own music player and speakers.

Still need some inspiration for funeral music? Here a few curated funeral music lists for you to choose from: