How To Choose Funeral Music for the Ceremony: Full Guide


Planning a funeral for a loved one is difficult. There are a lot of emotions and decisions to consider, which can make it challenging to decide on the music you will play during, before, and after the service. 

When selecting music for the funeral, you’ll want to consider the deceased and what they enjoyed. You’ll need to pick several songs for different parts of the service, so think about the mood you want to create throughout the event. 

Choosing the music for a funeral is more important than you may think. Keep reading to learn about the importance of music for funerals, when you will need it, and how to select the different songs. I’ll also give you some great song options, so be sure to read until the very end.

How Do You Choose a Song For a Funeral?

You can choose a song for a funeral based on the taste and preferences of the deceased. Choosing music that the deceased appreciated or enjoyed can give you closure and connection with the loved one who has passed. 

Among the many decisions required for planning a funeral, one crucial choice is music. While selecting songs may be towards the bottom of your list, you may want to consider putting some extra thought into this decision as it is more critical than you might think.

For many, music is an emotional experience. You can hear a familiar song and feel like you are instantly transported through time. Even new songs can be impactful if you connect with the lyrics or think the instruments and notes are beautiful.

Music at a funeral is important for all of these emotional reasons. Those attending the funeral are mourning the loss of a loved one and are likely desperate to connect with them one last time or looking for guidance on how to move on without them.

Music can provide these connections. Playing a song that the deceased loved or finding a song that perfectly describes your emotions can be an essential experience for those attending the service. Music will also likely set the tone for the last memories of your loved one, so the song selection is as important as the feeling it provides.

A pastor or minister reads from the Bible during a funeral burial memorial service at a cemetery. Death and grief are a fact of life.

Musical Options for a Funeral

Before moving to song selection, you’ll want to consider how you will play the music during the service. Remember that you can use a combination of the following options if you’d like, but keep in mind any restrictions the venue has on musical choices.

Live Choir

Having a live choir for your musical performance is extremely popular at funerals, especially for those of religious faith. If you are part of a religious organization, the church where you choose to have the funeral may have a choir that regularly performs at funeral services.

If you are interested in this option, ask your director for the possibilities at your place of worship. Remember that you may need to pay extra or tip the choir for their performance at the service.

Hiring Musicians

If you are not interested in a full choir performance, you may want to look into hiring a musician to come and play at the service.

If you are holding the service in a religious venue, they may offer the option of hiring an organist instead of a full choir. The price will vary by venue, but you can expect to pay about $250 for an organist.

You can also look into hiring external musicians for the funeral. This option is excellent if you have a non-religious service or want more control over your song selection. Hiring a musician on your own can also reduce costs, and many musicians charge about $150 per hour for a funeral service.

Remember that some venues will not allow you to hire external musicians, so check with your venue on their specific rules and requirements.

Performance by a Friend

If a friend or family member is musically talented, you may want to ask them to play at the service. Having a loved one play during the funeral adds a layer of meaning to the music selection. It is also usually cheaper as loved ones may do this as a favor in remembrance of the deceased rather than charging for the service.

Pre-Made CD or Playlist

Another great option to live music is a CD or playlist. This option is excellent for more extended parts of the service, such as the receiving of friends when you’d like background music but don’t want the performance to be distracting.

You can use this option with the live performance or choose to have the entire musical selection on a playlist. This option is the cheapest as it is free to create yourself. With this option, you also have the most control over what you play, when, and how loud.

How Many Songs Should Be Played at a Funeral?

After selecting how you will play your music, you’ll need to think about how many songs you’ll need to choose.

You should at least play two songs at a funeral during the entrance and exit. However, you may choose to have music continuously playing at the receiving of friends before the service and at the reception after the ceremony.

Music for the Receiving of Friends

Most services will have a period before the ceremony called the receiving of friends. This time is for friends and family to mingle and mourn, visit the deceased’s body to say final goodbyes, and show their respects to the immediate family.

Many people will choose to have a slideshow or videos of the deceased playing during this time. These videos will usually have musical selections with them. Often, these songs will be ones that the deceased loved or songs that convey mourning and sadness for their loss.

In addition to the slideshow, some also choose to have background music playing throughout the venue. This music sets the mood for the service and can be a pleasant distraction for attendees. If you decide to have background music, you’ll want it to be soft or instrumental.

Entrance Music for Funerals

The entrance song will play as the deceased’s family descends into the venue for the service to begin.

This song often reminds attendees of the person who has passed and helps set the tone for the rest of the service. It could be the deceased’s favorite song, a song that reminds you of them, or a song that resonates with the tone of the funeral.

If you are not selecting a favorite song, you may consider choosing music that resonates with loss and mourning.

Exit Music for Funerals

The exit song will play as the deceased’s family leaves the venue after the service. Similar to the entrance song, this can be a favorite song of the deceased, one that reminds you of your lost loved one, or simply music that fits the mood.

The song for the exit of the service can be more hopeful or joyous than the entrance music. While everyone is still mourning, some choose to select a happier piece to celebrate the deceased’s life instead of mourning their loss.

Music for the Reception

Lastly, some choose to have music playing during the reception. This soundtrack can be similar to the background music selected for the receiving of friends. It can also be a happier piece to celebrate the life of your loved one. 

The reception is a great time to play music the deceased loved or hopeful songs that may help lift the spirits of the attendees after the service.

People and mourning concept - woman with white lily flowers and coffin at funeral in church

What is the Most Played Music at a Funeral? 

Now that you’ve considered how you want music played and when you’ll need to make your song selections.

The most played music at a funeral is music that was important to the deceased. However, some religious and pop songs from older generations and newer ones have become very popular at funerals because they are both somber and uplifting. 

Remember that you’ll want to choose these songs on meaning, tone, instrumentals, and lyrics. Here are some great song options for you to consider:

Songs That Were Important to the Deceased

The first songs you’ll want to consider are songs that are important to the deceased. Even if they may not be traditional funeral songs, playing music that the deceased loved is popular because it will mean the most to the family.

However, please keep the audience in mind when going this route. You’ll still want to stick to songs appropriate for the venue and the event. For example, if your loved one’s favorite musician was Mariah Carey, you may want to go with a slower love song like “Forever” instead of the upbeat “Fantasy.”

Traditional Religious Songs For a Funeral

If you are having a religious ceremony, you may be interested in some of these spiritual song and hymn options:

Non-Religious Song Options

Though we typically think of religious music when we think of funerals, more and more people are moving away from hymns and spiritual songs. Here are some excellent non-religious song options if you are having a more contemporary funeral:

Songs for the Older Generation

It is no surprise that different generations have different tastes in music. If you are planning a funeral for someone of older age, here are some songs you may want to consider:

Songs for Those Who Passed Young

If you are planning a funeral for someone who passed when they were younger, you may want to consider more contemporary songs, such as the ones below:

Uplifting Songs for Celebration of Life

Uplifting songs are also an excellent choice for funerals and celebrations of life. Here are a few songs you may want to think about:

Things To Keep in Mind When Selecting Funeral Music

Whenever you are thinking about what music to select for a loved one’s funeral, there are a few things you may want to consider and keep in mind:

  • Play music that the deceased enjoyed. Playing music that your loved one enjoyed is always a great thing to do. You’ll also want to avoid any music that wouldn’t resonate with them. For example, if your loved one wasn’t religious, you should not play hymns.  
  • Listen to the songs all the way through. This point is crucial, especially if you are going with music your loved one enjoys that you aren’t familiar with. You’ll want to listen to every song and read the lyrics before including them in your selection to ensure the music is appropriate.
  • Consider the venue. You may also want to consider the venue when making song selections for both tone and practicality. A softer song you won’t hear in the back may not be a good choice if you have a vast venue space. Additionally, if you are in a religious venue, you may want to avoid music others may find offensive.
  • Remember that you are celebrating the life of your loved one. Don’t be afraid to choose happy songs or songs that remind you of your loved one. In addition to mourning their death, everyone is also there to celebrate their life.

Final Thoughts

When choosing funeral music, the best course of action is to think about songs or types of music the deceased enjoyed, which remind you of them. Everyone is there to mourn the death and celebrate the life of your loved one, so feel free to personalize your selection as long as the songs are generally appropriate.

When selecting songs, you’ll also want to consider the venue and how you play the music. Be sure to check in with the church or funeral home to see if they have any musician and music selection regulations.

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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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