Making an Order of Service

In previous posts I have talked about the importance of the order of service. How it is a piece of the funeral which people can take and keep. Or those who could not make it to the funeral can have. This apparently simple paper is such an emotional and significant thing.

Having worked on funerals I got to see many different order of services books. Some were good, some were amazing, others were terrible. So I thought it was about time I explained how to make a decent order of service.

The order of service is a very important booklet, and such as simple thing. It is very easy to make a decent one, but also quite easy to mess up. Below I have made a basic guid to making a nice order of service. Follow this and one should be happy.

Most order of service books are made by a professional, such as a printer or artist. However their style and information is determined by the family.

Having worked in printing I know how often the customer would dictate the process. Not knowing what they were doing (hence the need to pay to have it done) this would mean the product was not as good as it could or should have been. On one hand you have to chose a style you like, something you actually want. Yet you also have to give the professionals the room they need to do their job properly.

A common issue with people who do not have much graphics experience is the file type. A detailed or elaborate order of service should be designed using a PSD, PDF, JPEG or other image file in a proper funeral programs like Adobe Illustrator. Things like Microsoft Word are not intended for graphic design work and as such will not be the same visual quality.

Having said that, a very basic order of service (like the one in this post) will work fine in Word or other typing programs. If the oder of service only has a few pictures and is simple then Word will be fine. As such one can design and print an order of service at home without much difficulty.

Below I have created a basic funeral template of an order of service. This template is designed to be printed on one single A4 page. It can then be folded in half to create a small booklet.

The reason for this funeral program template design is that it is simple, quick and cheap. Each booklet is only one page, there is no stapeling needed and just one fold per book. Quite easy really.

Of course not all order of service books have to be like this. After my template I go into more detail on tips, tricks and styles for the order of service. I aslo talk about extra information rarely found but always appreciated.

First page:

The first funeral programs page is the cover of the order of service. The point of the cover is to inform people about who has died without inundating them with too much information. On almost all orders of service there is a basic black and white picture of the deceased, the name of the deceased and date of death and date of birth.

This is all that is needed for the cover and sometimes there is even less than this. One can easily get away without the picture or dates if desired or needed.

Below is a basic cover funeral programs I put together. It shows how and where this are placed and what is included.

first page
Fig1. First page funeral templates.

There are two main mistakes made with the cover of the order of funeral programs. The most common is the font. Too often people chose a fancy and swirly font, something that imitates old fashioned writing styles. While this looks pretty it is often difficult to read.

Many mourners are older, having a thin swirling font is just a pain for them. Instead if you want something “respectful” or “formal” chose a font like ‘Times New Roman’ or ‘Georgia’ as the cover font. Or for something different, interesting and even easier to read go with a font like ‘Arial’ or ‘Helvetica’.

The font of funeral programs template should be size 14 to 20 and not too thin (but not fat). This will make it not only easy funeral programs to read but visually appealing.

The next most common mistake with the cover is that they are noisy or messy. By this I mean that there is simply too much going on or things that do not look good. If one cannot find a good colour image (and colour printer) then go with a black and white image of the deceased in funeral templates.

Black and white usually looks better and is cheaper. The picture should not have too much going on in it and should focus on the deceased as much as possible. Also there is no need in too many details. While a simple border around the text, image or whole thing looks nice complex borders are distracting.

Second page:

The second page is the one that covers the funeral funeral service information. This is the order or list of events. It will appear on the left side of the order of service when opened up. Often there is a short message or title such as “celebration and farewell” at the top, followed by the full name of the deceased. Here is where you include any nicknames along with the proper names.

Below is a basic second page funeral programs I put together. It shows how and where this are placed and what is included.

first page
Fig1. Second page funeral template .

Often this page lists the immediate family (if there are not too many) of the deceased. If listing family it should be in order to social proximity to the deceased.

The spouse goes first, followed by parents, then children and concluded with grandchildren. Of course you can chose to skip certain people, or even whole groups. For example if there are too many children then grandchildren might have to be dropped.

Again the key to this page is simplicity. It should just be a basic list of what is to happen and in what order. What hymns are to be sung, who is to speak and so on. There is no need for much more information than this. If everything does not fit neatly onto one page then perhaps rethink what to include.

As always, simpler designs look nicer on this page. A white background and simple text will look nice and clean. Also a good clear font is vital.

Complex and fancy fonts just get in the way and make things look cluttered. Use bold, not italics to distinguish titles. Bold is easier to see and more obviously different and is used to draw attention or make things obvious. On the other hand italics should be used to convey ‘speed’ or emphasis.

Third page:

This page is the final informative page of most order of service books. It will appear on the right side of the order of service when opened up. This page should focus on the funeral details. Such as where and when the funeral programs and wake are held.

Below is a basic third page funeral programs I put together. It shows how and where this are placed and what is included.

first page
Fig1. Third page funeral template.

Many would find it strange or inappropriate to see me recommend having the funeral company details on the order of service. But I think it is a very important and useful thing to include.

It is a great way to remember who did the funeral. Or for those who could not go to the funeral it is nice to know. Including this will be appreciated by many people.

From this page people should be able to find out about everything they need to know to attend the funeral. From where it is to whether or not to bring flowers or donations and who donations will be going to.

Including things like the cemetery or crematorium information is not just useful to attend the funeral. It also lets people find records later if they so wish. From this information one can easily find the grave at a cemetery later.

I also recommend including a thank you message at the end. Just something short like “thank you to those who could attend the service. And thank you to those who could not attend but sent their kind thoughts”.

Fourth page:

This is the back of the order of service. It is only a simple thing that is quite often left blank. But I recommend including something small here.

Below is a basic fourth page funeral programs I put together. It shows how and where this are placed and what is included.

first page
Fig1. Fourth page funeral template.

Additional things to include or know:

Here is a list of some interesting things I very rarely saw in the order of service. Of course these things take more work and time to put together. But they are always very appreciated and people find them interesting. If you want the order of service to stand out do one or more of the following:

– Time Line; A time line of the life of the deceased stands out. I have only ever seen it done once by a religious order in Hunters Hill. But it was great, such a simple yet outstanding thing. It was simply the year of an important event and a very short description of that event.

Like when the deceased graduated and the mark they got when they graduated. Everyone at the funeral, from the undertakers to the mourners were intrigued with this. It might take a bit or work and research, but it would be well worth it.

– Avoid the word ‘funeral’; The word ‘funeral’ is often awkward on the oder of service. I would recommend avoiding it where possible. However do not go to great lengths to avoid it. This will just be obvious and strange. The same goes for any talk of ‘deceased’ or ‘dead’. Death has no place at a funeral.

– Vary the font; Using different fonts on the same page looks good and makes things more obvious. Notice that this page uses different fonts for the title and for the main body. Use fonts to spice things up, to give it more life and make it more interesting to look at. This also makes it easier to read.

However do not over do this. Only use a couple of different fonts on any one page. Too many different fonts looks jammed together and messy.

– Simple fonts; There is no need for fancy fonts. All the pretty swirly fonts that imitate calligraphy often just get in the way. They look like someone is trying hard to make the order of service fancy and formal without succeeding. Simple fonts are not only easier to read but look nice.

– Clean cohesion; By this I mean keep things simple and neat. Lots of colours and styles stuck together will not look nice and makes things harder to understand. Instead keep to a white and black theme.

– Extra pictures; Having a section in the middle or at the end of a few pictures is a nice touch. This will push up the price of the printing (especially if it is colour) and does need more work.

You will have to find these pictures. But like the time line it is a very personal thing that conveys a personality about the deceased. And it is always appreciated. An easy option is to just use the pictures from the slideshow (if there is one). Print out the slideshow and people will really like it. They can later look back over the pictures and talk about them.

– Style of the first picture; The image on the front should convey a message about the deceased. For example if the deceased was an easy going person then an informal and candid picture of the deceased would be best.

Naturally if you cannot find an image you think conveys a message, or the write message, then do not worry. At the end of the day any picture of the deceased will do.

– Alternative bindings; Different style of binding can really spice up the booklet. Rather than just using staples try a ribbon down the spine. You can use a ribbon or something like this even if there is only one page. However, as always keep it simple. Bows or multiple ribbons end up ripping or looking tacky. Plus this is more costly than nothing or staples.

– Smile; The order of service should be a happy thing. While the death of a loved one might be sad do not view the order of service this way. Think of it as a nice memento of the final farewell. Something that should make people smile when reading it later. You can do this by sneaking in a funny picture of phrase about the deceased.

– Personalise; The order of service should always be personal if possible. It should reflect the deceased or the mourners. Even something simple like “in lieu of flowers donate to” a specific charity. A charity, cause or organisation that the deceased was passionate about.

– Colour; Do not be afraid to add colour. Just because it is for a funeral doesn’t mean it has to be dark or plain. Sure, simple whites almost always look nice. But a splash of colour in the right place goes a long way. Of course colour will increase the cost of printing.

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