How Long Should A Eulogy Be?

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Eulogies are essential elements in any funeral. They are read aloud by a chosen individual or on occasion, a group of individuals, who were close to the deceased. To give a eulogy is an honor, but there are secrets to creating a good one. 

There is also a secret to how long a eulogy ought to be. If it is too short, then the funeral attendees can feel as though the deceased was not given due respect. If it is too long, then it takes up the guests’ time, and they will begin to tune it out. There is a sweet spot to hit when delivering one, indeed. 

In this article, we will explain what a eulogy is, how long a eulogy should be, and also provide you with some tips of writing and delivering your speech.

What Is A Eulogy?

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First of all, a eulogy is defined as “a commendatory oration or writing, especially in honor of one deceased.” In layman’s terms, this means a eulogy is something that you write to respect, remember, and honor the person who has died. 

Anyone can be chosen to give a eulogy, although it is typically a task given to someone who was particularly close to the recently deceased. Often, this person is either a best friend, spouse, eldest child or an otherwise close individual. 

How Does It Differ From An Obituary?

In contrast, an obituary is a brief account of a person’s life combined with an announcement of their death, usually in a newspaper or other local news source. Many papers have a section dedicated to obituaries, and there are even people out there who like reading them. Sometimes, an obituary is prepared ahead of time by the individual if they want something specific. 

A eulogy is not a repetition of the obituary. For one, it is typically more prolonged, and two, only available to those who attend the funeral service. Whereas an obituary is a public announcement, a eulogy is a more private affair. 

What Makes A Good Eulogy?

A good eulogy is one which hits all the high notes of the person’s life. Where an obituary provides a short biography of their life, a eulogy goes into more depth. While an obituary is more like the summary on the back of a book jacket, a eulogy is more similar to a book report on the story of someone’s life. 

Eulogies are designed to invoke fond, bittersweet, even happy memories of the deceased. You may choose to include inside jokes, anecdotes, tales from childhood, crazy adventures, or other fun tidbits about your time with this person. It needs to be personal and relatable. 

Eulogies can also be inspiring for the other guests at the funeral. Perhaps the deceased was involved in a multitude of charities, or placed a high value of family, or spent their free time in nature and was passionate about environmental conservation. When writing a eulogy, it can be helpful to consider what the person wanted their legacy to be, and include some of that.

How Long Should A Eulogy Be?

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The eulogy is the highlight of the funeral. Whether or not it is a religious service, the eulogy usually falls around the middle of the ceremony, before people come up and each one says a few words about their own experiences and memories with the deceased. 

Like at a wedding, where the father of the bride or best man gives a toast celebrating the happy couple, the eulogy needs to last a specific amount of time. Between 15 and 20 minutes is a decent amount of time to give a speech. Much longer than that and most people in attendance will begin to lose interest, despite their best efforts. 

Eulogies can be emotional. Be prepared to see people smile, laugh, or cry, sometimes all at once. Funerals are a time for the living to remember the dead and commemorate them. In between the eulogy and the rest of the service, allow for a few minutes for people to compose themselves. 

A good eulogy focuses on the highlights of a person’s life, while slightly acknowledging their flaws. No one is perfect, and yet it can be tempting to romanticize a person after they are gone. As long as the overall message is one of respect and love, a eulogy within the time frame will be lovely.

Tips For Preparing A Eulogy

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You don’t have to be a fantastic writer or a brilliant orator to deliver a eulogy speech. All you need is a fondness and some affection for the deceased. But if you have been asked to write a eulogy and are feeling stuck or need a place to begin, here are a few helpful tips. 

  • Begin with a happy memory. Maybe you took a trip together, or went to school together and played pranks on the teachers, or worked on a project, or once wore the same outfit to a party. 
  • Talk about something personal, something you shared with the person. Maybe you both loved model sailboats and racing them, or cheesy romantic comedy films. Talk about something the two of you had in common.
  • Reflect on some advice they gave you. Maybe they were there for you when you went through a tough time, like a breakup or were unemployed for a while, and bestowed some wise words on you that helped you through it. 
  • Share an inside joke or funny story about the person. Maybe they always picked the pineapple off of their Hawaiian pizza and ate it separately, or always wore silly socks to church.
  • Speak about something they were passionate about. Maybe they loved spending time volunteering at a local animal shelter, walking dogs, or fostering cats. 
  • Think about what their legacy is. Is it their family, their children, volunteering or charity work, writing the next great American novel, or playing music even if they weren’t professionals? Write about what was truly important to them, and think about what that can inspire in the rest of you. 
  • If you are really at a loss of where to start, you could include a few lines of a poem or song that they loved. 

How To Give A Eulogy

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Now that you are aware of the time limits and what factors make a good eulogy, here is how to deliver one. 

Introduce yourself to the guests because they may not all know who you are. Go into a little detail on how you are connected to the deceased. Maybe you were family or work together or lifelong friends. People will want to see that you had a real relationship with this person, so it is okay to get personal, just a little bit. 

You don’t have to have your speech memorized, but practice ahead of time so you won’t be reading directly from your notes. Make sure to look out at the audience every once and awhile, like any good speech, to connect with them.

Stand up straight and speak loudly and calmly. It is okay to get a little emotional or sad; this is a funeral, after all. If you need to, take a moment in between stories to take a deep breath before you continue. 

Allow for pauses after jokes or funny anecdotes. These remind people that even though death is sad, you have all come to the funeral service to remember and celebrate the person’s life. It’s okay to inject some light humor in there.

You do not have to conclude with something especially profound. You can end the eulogy with something like, “Thank you, dear friend, for all the lessons and laughter you brought to all of us.” It doesn’t have to be fancy, just meaningful. 

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Do not rush through giving the eulogy. If you practice beforehand, use a timer to help you pace it out. When we are nervous or emotional, we tend to speak quickly to get it over with, and this is not the time for rushing. Twenty minutes is the suggested time to give the eulogy in, but if you are over or under a couple of minutes, that is fine. 

You may find it helpful to run your speech by another person attending the funeral who was close to the deceased, such as the person who asked you to write the eulogy. Make sure they approve. 

The eulogy is a bit like wrapping up the life of someone and tying it neatly with a bow. It should reflect on their life and remind all the guests attending the funeral of what the person meant to them. 

In summary, the length of a good eulogy is customizable to you and your relationship with the deceased but aim for around 20 minutes. This time limit will give you enough time to mention some details and tell some stories about their life while keeping everyone’s attention. 


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