The Order of Service is a small booklet that is given out to all attendees at a funeral. While many would be forgiven for assuming that it is simply an ‘itinerary’ of the service, complete with words to the chosen hymns and prayers, an Order of Service is in fact so much more than this.
It’s something that can be made very special and indeed personal to the deceased – and it’s something that will last for many years to come. In a few years’ time when you’ve cleared out a lot of your loved one’s possessions, this little booklet will no doubt be something you keep. It will also be a unique keepsake for many of the people who attend the funeral, as well as those who are unable to. So, try and take your time over it even when it may seem that the rest of the funeral planning is more urgent.
Emma Freud once wrote in a very frank, yet inspirational, article for the Guardian, ‘How to do a funeral’: “This [the Order of Service] invariably becomes the emotional focus of the week [during funeral planning]. It needs to be a collective effort and is probably the moment when family tensions emerge in that lovely dysfunctional way that only a close death can inspire…”
This is, in many ways, true, for there are lots of elements to consider in an Order of Service, which we’ll go through in this blog. But it’s also a chance for you to come together with your family to search through old photos and retell stories of your loved one whilst you create something that really reflects who they were.
What does an Order of Service include?
As a general rule, Order of Service booklets are about eight pages long, but they can of course be longer if you wish.
They include, but are not limited to:
- Details about the person who has deceased
- A schedule of the ceremony
- Details of the wake or gathering afterwards, if there is one
- Complete words for any hymns, readings or poems
- Any photos of your loved one which you wish to share
- Any music you played at the start or end of the ceremony which you wish to name
Make sure when you are putting your Order of Service together that you liaise with the person conducting the service about the schedule of the day. You don’t want to print any incorrect details and cause confusion.
The front cover
- A photo of the remembered person along with their full name
- Their birth date and the date of their death
- An optional short message, quotation or sentiment
- The location, date and time of the service
The back cover
- A closing photo, which could be one of them in a group or showing a different side to their personality compared to the one on the front cover
- Details of any preferred charities for donations should people wish to give
- Your thanks to everyone for their support and kindness during this time
Adding personal touches to an Order of Service
Going back to the article in the Guardian, Emma explains how each Order of Service she has created for a loved one has reflected their personalities: “For my mother-in-law, we had photographs. For my father-in-law, we kept it formal. For my hippie friend, it was a party on a page…. For my dad, we had a few jokes (the front page said: “Clement Freud. Born 24.04.24. Best Before 15.04.09”).
Don’t be afraid to create something very personal to your loved one. Use colour to express their personality, devote a whole page to a collage of photos, or include a drawing of them by a younger member of the family. Add in somewhere a phrase they always used to say, or match the design of the booklet to their favourite pastime, such as gardening or baking.
Designing and printing an Order of Service
Once you’ve added your personal touches to the essentials, just make sure that the design is still accessible for all readers and that fonts are clear and at a good size. Here at Austin’s we provide service sheets in a variety of designs, but of course you are welcome to design and print your own. There are plenty of templates available online for inspiration.
If you decide to print your own booklets then there is the option of online printers or local printers. Using a local printer will mean you can go and get a feel for the stock and how your font and text size looks on a physical proof rather than just on screen.
If you need a little more assistance with your booklets, there are people who will write, design and print them while working closely with you to get the desired outcome.