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Funeral Etiquette: Sending Flowers

floweretiquetteWhen 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 regard 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?
Please call the location serving the family to verify that the funeral home is involved in the service.  If the funeral home is involved in a service, we recommend you send flowers to the funeral home.  We take a photo and attach the photo to the sympathy card, making it easier to write a thank-you note later.

What should I write on the card?
When sending flowers, the florist should attach a sympathy card to the arrangement.  Your sentiments should be authentic and sympathetic.  Avoid clichés.  You might consider a message such as “We loved and thought of Mary as a member of our family.  She will be greatly missed.  Our deepest sympathy is with you.”  A simple and sincere message will go a long way.

Can I send items other than flowers?
Oftentimes, people choose other tributes or gestures such as sending a meal, baked goods, a fruit basket, or a food-basket.  For example, the morning of the service when the family is gathering, you might see if it would be appreciated for you to bring over pastries early that morning and set these up with coffee and juice for family members as they arrive at the family home.

In summary, as far as flowers go, there isn’t much you can do incorrectly. Unless the family has requested you do not send or bring flowers, your gesture will be well-received, and will offer a sense of comfort and express your sympathy.

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