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Funeral Etiquette: Sending Flowers

When one hears of a death, the thought of sending flowers to be displayed during the wake and funeral service most likely will come up. Sending flowers is a traditional and appropriate way to convey your sympathy for the family, while at the same time honoring the deceased. The following guidelines are based on the most common questions we receive with regards to flower arrangements:

Who should send flowers?
Unless the family has requested donations in lieu of flowers or have directly expressed wishes not to receive them, it is always appropriate to send flowers as a show of respect regardless of your relationship to the family or deceased.

What kind of flowers should I choose?
Because the wake and funeral process often lasts up to a week, you should choose flowers that will last for several days. it’s important that you make sure to select flowers that are sturdy and do not require much care, such as roses or lilies. Tulips may be very nice to look at but they are too delicate to last for a day or two without proper handling and care. In most cases, your florist will have suggested arrangements that include the flowers that are best to last the necessary duration.

A NOTE OF CAUTION: Flower color choices should stay within what is considered respectful, based on the customs of the family. In most cases, light colors such as white, light pink and peach are deemed acceptable, as are dark purple or magenta. Red flowers are accepted in some cultures, but not in others. If you are not aware of the family’s belief system, we caution you on purchasing red flowers. For example, in Chinese traditions, red symbolizes happiness and would be very inappropriate at a funeral/wake.

When should I order flowers?
As flowers are typically delivered to the funeral home on the day before or the day of the wake, it is best to order flowers as soon as you’ve heard the news of the passing.

Should I send flowers directly to the family?
We advise against this as flowers sent directly to the house will eventually die and the family will have to discard them, which may remind them of their loss. We recommend that you send flowers to the funeral home.

What should I write on the card?
When sending flowers, make sure you let the receiving party know that it is from you by attaching a simple greeting card to the arrangement. Let them know that you share the grief with them and that you are there to help them out in this difficult situation. Be authentic and sympathetic. It is often asked “what should I write?”  Stay away from cliches. Write a sincere message. It will go a long way.

Can I send items other than flowers?
Often times, flowers are not the only way to express your sympathy. Other tributes or gestures may include sending a meal, baked goods, a fruit basket or other food-basket. These items should be sent directly to the family’s home.

In summary, as far as flowers go, there isn’t much that you can do incorrectly. Unless the family has requested that you do not send or bring flowers, your gesture will be very well received, and will offer a sense of comfort and sympathy to them. Even if you stumble or missed one of the above items, most will appreciate and be comforted by the fact that you care. And after all, that’s all that counts.

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