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Sympathy Flower Etiquette

answers to your questions

I just heard the sad news… Is it too late to send sympathy flowers?

Some people choose to send flowers a week or so after the funeral when the initial chaos has passed. A nice gesture is to send sympathy flowers to the family home a period of time after the funeral to remind the bereaved that you have not forgotten them and you are still thinking of them and their loss. And even if a few weeks have passed since the death, flowers are a comforting reminder that friends are still thinking of the family throughout the grieving process.

What is appropriate to send to the family?

A plant,sympathy food basket or small to mid-size designed sympathy arrangement are typically sent to the home of the surviving family members. Any number of floral arrangements are a welcome gesture, including centerpieces, or even a small teacup with flowers. Some choose a small garden of green plants, accented with a blooming plant for color.

What's the difference between "funeral flowers" and "sympathy flowers"?

Flowers for the funeral service go to the funeral home. The arrangements are often large and formal and provide decoration and serve as a tribute to the deceased. They will look best in a funeral home and at graveside services. Funeral flowers are usually not addressed to a particular loved one of the deceased but are intended, instead, as a way to pay respect to the deceased themselves. Funeral flowers should never be sent to the home as they can be upsetting to grieving people when sent to home or office.

Sympathy flowers go to the home of the deceased. They should be addressed and sent directly to a loved one of the deceased (family member, friend, acquaintance or business associate) who has suffered a recent loss. They are usually smaller or mid-sized floral arrangements that look good on end tables or used as centerpieces. Plants also make a great sympathy choice because they provide a lasting reminder of your thoughtfulness and serve as a keepsake in memory of the recipient's loved one.

Is it appropriate to send flowers for the casket?

The tradition of adorning the casket with fresh flowers is typically reserved for the closest family members, often the deceased's children or those making the funeral arrangements. For that reason, it is recommended that you inquire with the family before ordering a gift of flowers for the casket.

Are there certain types of flowers that are not appropriate for sending to a funeral service?

Every flower when tastefully arranged is appropriate for expressing condolences. Designs that are going to a memorial or funeral service usually have larger flowers to create dramatic tributes. These might include gladioli, snapdragons, lilies, standard chrysanthemums, carnations and roses. Small-scale flowers in mid- to small-size designs are usually used for sending to the home. Only family members who are arranging the funeral should order flowers for the casket. You may also want to browse:

Types of Sympathy Plants/Flowers and their Meaning

The death of a friend or loved one is an incredibly emotional and trying time, making it exceptionally important that funeral etiquette be observed to avoid offending or upsetting anyone. Below is a guide to honoring the customs and traditions according to religious or cultural belief at a viewing or wake, funeral, cremation or graveside service.

Protestant - Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Baptist

Appropriate expressions of sympathy include sending a card, attending the visitation or funeral, sending flowers to the family home or funeral home, donating to a charity designated by the family, or bringing food to the family's home.

The Protestant funeral ceremony emphasizes the afterlife and celebrates the deceased person's life through testimonials and remembrances. A minister usually conducts the service with participation from family and friends. Funeral guests should dress respectably, although most people no longer wear the traditional black clothing.

Roman Catholic

Respectable and somber floral arrangements may be sent to the funeral home or to the family's residence. Donations are appropriate and may be sent in the name of the deceased to their charity of choice.

Before the funeral, Catholics hold the Vigil (Wake). Candles and flowers decorate the wake, as well as the funeral service and the burial ground. It is customary to make a brief visit and spend a few moments in private prayer and then to visit with the family members.

The Funeral Mass (Requiem) is performed in a Catholic church by a priest. At the Mass, lighting a candle to celebrate the departed will bring comfort to the mourners. After the burial, family and friends will gather at the home of a close family member to share food and drink brought by family and friends.

Hispanic Funeral

Hispanic Religion equates to the Roman Catholic faith among most Hispanics. Many grew up practicing many of the typical Roman Catholic Sunday mass and funeral traditions. The wake may include mariachis, overnight visitations and a family feast. Floral tributes are welcome. A simple bouquet given to the bereaved or a tribute in the shape of a cross or a personalized candle makes an acceptable gift, as does lighting a candle in the church.

Personal items and gifts may be laid in the casket to help the deceased have a successful journey to the afterworld. Burial follows the ceremony. Following the burial, the family usually gathers to eat, reminisce and comfort each other

Mexicans and Central Americans believe there are days when the dead return to walk among us and that their loved ones' bodies have died but that their spirits live on. They pray to them, talk to them and turn to them for guidance and support.

Jewish Funeral

Charitable donations are fitting memorial gifts, please note that flowers are not appropriate. The service is performed by a rabbi and and burial takes place within 24 hours of death. Funeral attire consists of dark-colored clothing. Men wear a head covering known as a yarmulke, which is provided by the funeral home.

After the burial, the immediate family sits in mourning or "Shiva" in their home for the next seven days. It is customary for family, friends and coworkers to come by the home and pay their respects to the family, this is known as paying a Shiva call. Desserts, fruit and Kosher food baskets are traditionally taken to or sent to the home, however, flowers are not appropriate for a Shiva call.

Buddhist Funeral

White flowers are the traditional Buddhist flower of mourning and may be sent to the family. Sending red flowers or gifts of food are considered poor funeral etiquette. A donation to the family or a designated charity in the name of the deceased are appropriate.

At the viewing, candles and incense burn until the body is moved to the cemetery or crematorium. Visitors should greet the family and offer their condolences, then go to the casket and bow. They may then either stay for a while or leave. Visitors will often make a financial donation to the family at the viewing.

The funeral service is conducted by a monk at the funeral home. Guests are expected to bow slightly toward the body (in an open casket) as a sign of appreciation for its lessons regarding impermanence. White is worn by the grieving family, friends often wear black. Friends may call at the home of the deceased's family after the funeral, but not before.

Hindu Funeral

The service is conducted by a Hindu priest and family members. They try to hold the ceremony followed by cremation within 24 hours after death. Mourners dress casually in simple white clothes and arrive empty-handed, they do not bring flowers or anything else to the funeral. Guests should not exchange greetings with the official mourners, but instead nod or hug in sympathy - the least said the better. Flower garlands and mixed seasonal sprays of flowers may be in the open casket. Guests are expected to view the body.

Ten days after death a ceremony is held at the home of the deceased in order to liberate the soul for its ascent into heaven. If you visit the home you are expected to bring fruit.

Asian Funeral

In Asian funerals white or yellow mums are appreciated. In China, Japan and Korea, white chrysanthemums are symbolic of lamentation and grief. Yellow chrysanthemums are also a traditional funeral flower. In Chinese cultures, the family wears white at the funeral and does not wear any jewelry or red clothing, as red is the color of happiness. If you have any questions or concerns about sending funeral flowers to an Asian funeral, you might want to contact the funeral home or a family friend or relative who can provide you with more information.

Muslim Funeral

Opinion varies as to the appropriateness of sending flowers to an Islamic funeral. Some say the Islamic emphasis on simplicity makes gifts of flowers unsuitable. Others say sending flowers is appropriate.

Your best option is to ask a local religious leader or the family if flowers are appropriate. If they are, then fragrant flowers such as roses are very popular. Palm branches, other greens, or individual flowers are also often placed on the grave.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - Mormon Funeral

Foral tributes are encouraged and appropriate for a Mormon ceremony, except do not send anything in the shape of a cross. Crosses and crucifix are not permitted because Latter-day Saints believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ.

Funerals are conducted by the bishop of the deceased's congregation, typically within one week of death and may take place in a church, funeral home or at graveside, they are not normally held inside the temple. Usually It is appropriate to visit or contact the family to offer condolences before and after the funeral. Modest attire (suit and tie for men; dress or suit for women) are appropriate. No head covering is required. Guests typically attend the burial following the funeral service.

The type of flowers you choose can express your particular sentiments.

The traditional language of flowers provides a way to convey your feelings and send a meaningful message. The gift of a plant is often an ideal choice, as they provide a long-lasting tribute to the loved one lost, as well as a constant reminder of the friendship and affection you wish to support the bereaved through the grieving process.

Lilies

The lily is the flower most commonly associated with funeral services as they symbolize the innocence that has been restored to the soul of the departed. White stargazer lilies symbolizes sympathy and any type of white lily expresses majesty and purity.

Gladioli

Gladioli have a tall flower stem composed of multiple flowers that can measure up to 4 feet tall. Typically used in fan sprays as a classic and elegant arrangement for traditional funeral services. The gladiolus embodies strength of character, sincerity, and moral integrity. They are available in a wide range of colors, including white, pink, red, purple, yellow, orange, salmon, and green.

Carnations

Long lasting and fragrant, carnations are a popular choice for sympathy arrangements. The red carnation evokes admiration while a pink carnation stands for remembrance. White carnations stand for pure love and innocence.

Chrysanthemums

Mums are frequently included in arrangements for funeral services. In some European countries, such as France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary and Croatia, chrysanthemums are symbolic of death and are only used for funerals or on graves. In China, Japan and Korea, white chrysanthemums are symbolic of lamentation and grief, whereas in the US, it symbolizes truth and the flower is usually regarded as positive and cheerful, with New Orleans as a notable exception.

Roses

As one of the most recognizable flowers, roses can be a beautiful part of an arrangement of funeral flowers. White roses evoke reverence, humility, innocence, and youthfulness. Red roses convey respect, love, and courage. Pink roses signify love, grace, appreciation and gentility. Dark crimson roses denote grief and sorrow. Yellow roses are given by friends of the deceased to symbolize their strong ties. When you include a single rose in a bouquet it expresses enduring love for the deceased.

Orchid Plant

Orchids say "I will always love you". When giving an orchid plant as a gesture of sympathy, it is important to give consideration to color. Pink and white are traditional colors of sympathy. Varieties such as the phalaenopsis orchid and dendrobium orchid are suggested by florists as appropriate plants to denote sympathy.

Hydrangea Plant

Sending a seasonal spring plant is a nice and appropriate gesture to send to a grieving family. It can be enjoyed indoors and when they feel up to it they can plant it in their garden. This hardy plant that will grow in almost any soil that is kept moist, and the mophead hydrangeas will continue to bloom for many years. The hydragea is a gift of thanks in repayment for understanding and is given as a gesture of heartfelt sincerity.

Daffodils and Tulips

Bright yellow spring tulips and daffodils are a symbol of renewal and fresh starts. For this reason, they are believed to bring encouragement and hope to a person who is grieving or unhappy so they make a great choice to send as a sympathy gift to the family home of the departed. Tulips represent elegance and grace. Yellow tulips represent cheerfulness, white represents forgiveness, and purple represents royalty. The red tulip is said to represent perfect love

The obituary says "In lieu of funeral flowers," but I still would like to send flowers – is this appropriate?

As part of making funeral arrangements, family members sometimes request a charitable donation is made "in lieu of flowers". We think you should make the contribution, however it is also acceptable if you decide you would also like to send flowers to the funeral service. Your donation will honor the family request and the flowers will add beauty, fragrance and life to a somber event.

I'd like to send a colorful, less somber arrangement that celebrates life.

A funeral service is as much about gaining closure following a death as it is about celebrating the delight and energy the deceased brought to life. For that reason, selecting vibrant, colorful and bright funeral flowers are just as appropriate and can add a joyful note of remembrance to an otherwise somber occasion.

I am not certain where the service is being held. Can the florist help me?

Don't worry, if you have the name of the deceased and the funeral home, most florists have the local obituaries on hand to check them. You can trust the florist to take good care of your order and get your arrangement to the funeral on time. Also, it is possible that the florist may have multiple orders for the same funeral, so they will be aware of any theme or color scheme preferred, and they know the local customs.

I don't know what to send to a funeral that is out-of-town or overseas

If you are sending flowers to a service that is out-of-town, ask that the local florist who delivers the order to fill it "according to local customs." Then they will send the style of design that is best suited for the service. There are many types of services, from traditional funerals to memorial services. It is appropriate to buy and send funeral flowers to any of these services.

I am unsure on what to say and how to sign the card.

Most enclosure cards are pre-printed with messages like "Deepest sympathy" or "With love and sympathy." All you need to do is sign your name. You should use your first and last name to avoid confusion for the family. If there are a group of names, you should spell each one for the person taking the order to make sure he or she has the correct information.

Most people have a fear that they are going to upset or offend the person who will receive their sympathy words. Anxiety sets in as you try to find the correct sympathy card wording. Don't use phrases like "I know what you are going through" - the reason is that you probably don't know what the person is going through, and even if you do it can come across as minimizing the suffering and pain the receiving person is feeling. Below we offer more suitable choices for your sympathy message...
·      Please accept these flowers and hear the words we are not able to speak
·      With my deepest sympathy
·      You are in my thoughts and prayers
·      With love to you and your family
·      In loving memory
·      With heartfelt condolences
·      My thoughts are with you at your time of need
·      I want you to know that I am here for you at this time of grieving
·      Thinking of you in these difficult times
·      Please know our loving thoughts embrace you
·      Our deepest sympathies during your time of loss. Please know that we are here for you.
·      Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. We are sorry for your loss.
·      In loving memory of [NAME], [HE/SHE] will be missed dearly.
·      Please accept our condolences on the loss of your [MOTHER/FATHER/OTHER RELATION].
·      Our deepest sympathy to you and your family. From all your friends at [BUSINESS NAME]
·      [NAME] will always be in our hearts and memories. With Sympathy, The [YOUR LAST NAME] Family

I'd like to send flowers to the memorial that can also be enjoyed at the viewing and church service.

For multiple day services, it is best to send flowers that will be designed in a container with water or floral foam. This will keep the flowers fresh for the longest possible time. Design styles include vase arrangements, baskets and container designs. Plants are also an excellent choice as they may be enjoyed in the home long after the services are over. Browse our Funeral Bouquet Collectionfor ideas.

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