How to write a memorial tribute

Updated July 20, 2017

A memorial tribute is a speech given at a funeral or memorial service, usually by someone who was close to the person who died. It may include a brief life history, personal memories, anecdotes, interests or hobbies and favourite quotations. Preparation is important, especially because of the emotions involved in the moment. A memorial tribute is a meaningful way to help those at the service both grieve and celebrate the life of the deceased.

Record your own personal memories. Think about what you enjoyed most about the person, and include memories that highlight special activities, events, holidays, foods or songs. Write with as much detail as possible. For example, you could include a description of favourite clothing items, colognes or other smells you associate with the person, favourite music or TV shows, and patterns of speech.

Talk to or e-mail other people who were close to the deceased and record their stories and memories. A neighbour will remember something different than a relative, and their varied perspectives will provide depth to the tribute.

Organise information into sections. These might include childhood memories, hobbies or interests, work and education, special accomplishments, places visited, and religious faith or philosophy. Decide if you would like the tribute to be presented topically, chronologically, or centred around a theme that defined the person's life, such as optimism or work ethic.

Write your speech. Even if you do not plan on reading the tribute word-for-word, writing the full text often helps clarify thoughts. Read it aloud and make any necessary revisions. You may want to step away from writing for a few hours and come back to the speech with fresh perspective.

Practice reading the finished speech until your delivery feels smooth and confident. You may want to read it to family members of the deceased for feedback. Revise again if needed.


Write in your own style. Some tributes incorporate humour, others are more formal. Write in a way that feels comfortable to you. If you have any questions about whether something is appropriate, check with the family members of the deceased. Be prepared for the emotions of the event. Keep tissues handy, and ask a friend to be on hand to deliver the speech if you are unable to continue.

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About the Author

Melissa Young graduated magna cum laude from Brigham Young University with a BA in communication studies. Her educational training included journalism, interpersonal communication, communications law. Young currently works as an evaluator for a local publisher, writes for online sites including, and is an associate editor for a semi-annual print journal.