How to create a funeral order of service

Purple and white funeral flowers, with Poppy's booklet in centre

Five minute read

We answer all your questions about funeral orders of service — and share some practical tips about how to make your order of service as personal and useful as possible.

What is a funeral order of service?

An order of service is a printed guide to the funeral ceremony or service. It includes details about the person who has died, often with photographs, and a list of what’s happening during the service to help people to take part in the ceremony.

Orders of services are usually A5 booklets, up to 12 pages long, given out to everyone who attends the funeral. But you can choose the size and length, what text and images to include, and how these are laid out, to make your order of service as unique or as traditional as you choose.

Do I need a printed order of service for a funeral ceremony?

No, but they can be helpful. Having a printed order of service can be reassuring. It helps people know what to expect from the funeral ceremony and what will happen in what order. It can also include practical details, such as where to go after the service or how to make a donation in memory of the person who has died.

If there are hymns, prayers or songs that people will need to know the words to, an order of service is a good way to share these. As an alternative, some places of worship or crematoria may have hymn books available to use or you can print off a simple sheet with just the words you need, instead of a full order of service.

However, both practical information, and words to hymns or prayers, can be projected on a screen, rather than put into an order of service, or they can be explained verbally by the celebrant.

Often people like to keep a printed order of service after the funeral, as a memento of the person who has died or to share with others who could not attend the funeral.

If the funeral is being webcast, you may wish to email attendees with an order of service in advance.

A simple, informal funeral may not need an order of service at all. It’s your choice.

Does an order of service need to be religious?

Not necessarily. You can include religious elements and imagery if you wish, but it’s up to you. It all depends on the kind of funeral that you are planning.

Religious funerals often have a set structure, with certain elements that need to be included, so do talk to the religious leader who will be conducting your ceremony before putting the order of service together. That way, you can make sure that all the right things are included.

What should be included in a funeral order of service?

There are no fixed rules about what to include, but there are some useful elements that we see in many orders of service. You can use photos throughout.

Front page:

  • The person’s name, dates of birth and death.
  • Funeral date, time and place.
  • Photo of the person.
  • A quote that reflects something about the person.

Inside:

  • The order of service itself. This can include music, readings, the words of hymns or songs, prayers, poems, eulogy/tribute/sharing of memories. It can include the names of the celebrant or any family or friends who are involved.

Back page:

  • Thanks to people attending, those who have contributed to the funeral service or those who cared for the person who has died.
  • Information about how to make donations to a chosen charity. Adding a website address or even a QR code can help make this easy for people.
  • Information about what will happen after the service.

Is there a template for an order of service that I can use?

There are plenty of downloadable templates and design ideas online, some free and some with a small cost. Have a look around for inspiration. For example, these designs for order of services that you can customise or these template orders of service.

Don’t feel that you have to use them or copy them exactly, but they can be very helpful if you are unsure where to start or are short of time. You can also use the checklist above as a guide for what to include in the order of service.

Should there be photos in an order of service?

This is up to you. It can be very meaningful to use photos, but it is not essential. You can include individual photos, a photo collage or both, or use drawings or other imagery instead of photos.

How can I make a funeral order of service more personal?

Think about the person who has died and how the order of service can reflect something about their personality, values or interests.

Perhaps you could use a favourite colour, choose imagery related to a passion or hobby or select a design style that reflects their personality. We have seen some beautiful orders of service that include the person’s own artwork, creative writing or even recipes written in their own handwriting.

Using photos or photo collages is also a great way to make your order of service unique.

How many orders of service should I have printed?

While it’s important to try and avoid waste, it’s worth printing a few more copies than you think you will need. The main cost of printing is setting up the initial print run, adding on a few extra copies will not add significantly to the overall cost.

How long does it take to produce an order of service?

You can start thinking about the order of service from the time that you start planning the funeral. We’re happy to talk through ideas, and to share examples of orders of service to help spark your creativity.

You can organise the production of an order of service yourself, or Poppy’s can help you produce an order of service from text and images that you share with us. We will need to receive these at least a week before the funeral date.

We work with a printer, who will lay out the order of service, and provide a proof by email for you to check before it goes to print. Our final print deadline is 10am, two working days before the funeral.

Find more ‘how to’ guides on our blog, including how to choose flowers for a funeral and how to carry and lower a coffin.

Book now for our open, online panel event for Dying Matters Week, held jointly with Royal Trinity Hospice, on 5 May

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