How to choose music for a funeral

Hello, it can be a tricky one, can’t it? How to choose music for a funeral? There can be a lot of pressure based on expectations. What is appropriate? What will other people think? What if I don’t know what they liked?


Best Advice

Having met with over a hundred families and groups of friends who want to give their loved one the best funeral, I can tell you that there is no set funeral music. My best advice is to choose something that reminds you of your relative or friend. Have a look through my ongoing list of funeral songs for inspiration after you have read this advice.

Play this at my funeral…

If your deceased has kindly left you a setlist of songs – use them. Even if you don’t like them.

One ceremony ended with a wife swiftly exiting her husband’s funeral as he had requested Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell, a song she hated with a passion. But he had asked for that and she had honoured his wishes.

One chap had recorded his dad asking for The Doors Light My Fire as the final piece of music at his cremation service. Explaining this to those that were gathered there raised a smile and reminded people of this man’s sense of humour and the joy he brought them. It was a happy-sad time brought to us by a song choice.


Speaking of songs that are linked to memories about your loved one, is there a story or anecdote that is connected to a piece of music?

One family had a very vivid and personal memory of their quite old grandad walking through the house happily singing Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance.

Not suitable for a funeral, some would say. Bad taste, others may cry. And some of the faces in the crematorium suggested both these points as ra-ra-rah-ah-ah roma-roma-ma filled the air, but you know what? That family were all happy-sad smiles because they could see the man they loved singing away to himself. They chose their funeral music perfectly.

You might not think hardcore dance music is suitable either until you see twenty or so heads bobbing up and down in time to the bass. Each of those individuals could see their mate DJ-ing and that memory was special and personal and revived with the choice of music.

What did they like?

They didn’t even like music!

Choosing music for people who don’t like music is tricky, but it is do-able.

What did they like? As I am based just outside Liverpool, many of my funerals have been of Liverpool Football Club fans. They are often accompanied by Jerry and the Pacemakers with You’ll Never Walk Alone. So, think about what else your loved one liked. Sports can link to theme tunes and club anthems. Comedy can lead to extracts from a favourite comedian. Films can give you amazing soundtrack numbers. I’ve got you thinking now, haven’t I?

I don’t know them well enough…

This can happen. Families don’t always stay close. People lose touch. And suddenly you are in charge of a stranger’s funeral.

There are two ways of choosing music for this situation.

  1. Become a detective and look through their car and home for musical clues. If there is a CD or record still in the player, or a playlist on a phone, tablet or laptop – choose songs from that.
  2. Ask the funeral director to choose the music. Chances are they will choose something classical and traditional, but it will save you a job at an already stressful time.
You are in charge of a stranger’s funeral

How to choose music for a funeral?

The best songs are songs that remind you of the best bits of your loved one. Songs that make you smile at their memory. Songs that momentarily bring them back to you.

My favourite ceremony was a couple of years ago and it still makes me smile.

A woman in her mid-fifties was organising her mum’s funeral. This woman had been the epitome of ‘life and soul of the party.’ She was still very fashionable with a youthful spirit and an appetite for late nights with lots of dancing.

The final song was a perfect musical representation of her: The Bluebells with Young at Heart.

Everyone there joined with the daughter singing and clapping and swaying in time to the music. Everyone left laughing and smiling at the memory of their friend. The room was filled with love and joy at having had this woman in their lives.

And that is how you choose music for a funeral.

Sarah x