Selecting Music for a Service

Planning a service for a loved one can seem overwhelming at times, between all the decisions that must be made and the countless details to attend to. One of those tasks during the arrangement conference is selecting music for the service. When determining what music to play, you may want to consider several things:

  • Does this song honor your loved one?
  • Is the music appropriate for the mood you are trying to set?
  • What is the message behind the lyrics?
  • How many songs should be played?
  • What if my loved one didn’t like music at all?

There could be many other questions you ask yourself when considering music. Let’s discuss how you could approach each question.


Does this song honor your loved one?

Perhaps your loved one had a favorite genre of music, a favorite band or artist, or maybe there is a specific song you think of when remembering your loved one. Ask yourself, “Does this song pay tribute to their life?” It is also important to follow any song requests your loved one might have made while they were still living.


Is the music appropriate for the mood you are trying to set?

People have different preferences and opinions on how to ‘set the mood’ for a service. If you are trying to portray an upbeat or celebratory atmosphere, maybe a song with a cheerful, fast beat would be appropriate. On the other hand, say you are hoping for more of a relaxed or casual feel for the service, perhaps slower, quieter songs are appropriate. It may even be that your loved one appreciated singing religious hymns aloud. In that case, maybe plan to include a hymn for family and guests to sing along with.


What is the message behind the lyrics?

Song lyrics often tell a story throughout the song. Stories have meaning. Stories influence us. When selecting a certain song, if it has lyrics, you may want to consider what the words are expressing to the listener, how the words are affecting the listener.


How many songs should be played?

There is no ‘typical’ or ‘standard’ number of songs that need to be played at a service. Often times, families consider placing songs between other parts of the service. For example, it may be appropriate to place a song at the beginning of the service as the family processes down the aisle, another one between readings, between sharing memories, or after the Eulogy while guests are reflecting, and perhaps one at the end of the service at the family recesses out.


What if my loved one didn’t like music at all?

Many individuals have an appreciation for music. However, there are others who prefer no music at all. If this is the case for your loved one, there are alternatives to playing music at a service. One is to read a special poem, or passage that honors them. Another is reading the lyrics to a song that you, as a family member or friend, might enjoy that also speaks to how you honor them.

It may also be helpful to lean on your own experiences. What songs have you heard played at other memorials or celebrations of life? If you have other people working with you on this endeavor, ask them about their experiences at other services they have attended. This may give you ideas of what to choose for your loved one’s service. In the end, be thoughtful and take your time while making music selections. It will be something that you always remember.


Contributor: Britta J. Holloway

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