What You Need to Know About Sending Condolence Flowers

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Although any flower arrangement is a beautiful way to express your condolences to the family when someone has died, you’re bound to have questions as you explore your options. For example, who should send what? Is there a certain type of arrangement you should choose, or specific blooms or colors to avoid? Do you send them to the family’s home, or to the funeral location? And what should you do if the family requests contributions to a charity in lieu of flowersis it polite to have a bouquet delivered anyway? Here are some tips to sending flowers in sympathy to a bereaved family.

When to send flowers to the funeral

Funeral flowers are displayed at the location where the funeral or memorial service is being held, which might be a funeral home, family member’s house, cemetery, or place of worship. Since these arrangements are usually being viewed by a large group of people and serve to honor the life of the person who died, they tend to be on the larger side and are more formal in style than a regular bouquet. You can order funeral flowers to be sent directly to the funeral a day in advance as soon as you know when and where the service will be.

Types of funeral flower arrangements 

There’s more than one type of funeral flower arrangement, though, and selecting them can be a little overwhelming. When making your decision, Elaine Swann, an etiquette expert and founder of the Swann School of Protocol in Carlsbad, California, recommends trying to envision exactly where you want it to appear in the room as a first step. “One of the things that’s always helpful is to think about where it will be placed,” she says.

There are a few different types of funeral arrangements you might order. (Keep in mind that casket sprays and cremation wreaths are typically ordered by family members themselves. Related: A Guide to Funeral Flowers.)

  • Standing sprays: These large arrangements can be placed standing up by themselves or propped on an easel.
  • Standing wreaths: They are also usually placed on an easel. Some standing wreaths can be designed to encircle a photo of the person who died or a sentimental item.
  • Funeral bouquets: These smaller bouquets might be placed near the altar, guest book, or elsewhere in the room.

What kinds of flowers to send to a funeral 

Not sure which type of arrangement you should order? When in doubt, Swann recommends calling the funeral home and asking if there are any types of flowers that haven’t yet been delivered. “This will help with the decor of the funeral itself,” she says. The funeral director can let you know if the family already has plenty of wreaths, for example, or if the room could use a few more standing bouquets. You might also choose to send a larger arrangement (like a standing wreath) as part of a group, such as with co-workers or a few close friends.

According to the Emily Post Institute, there aren’t any specific blooms you should avoid when selecting funeral flowers. But if you’re unsure, consult your local florist, who can help guide you towards an appropriate arrangement. Swann is partial to roses and lilies, both of which are popular choices for funerals and timeless. “But any flower is beautiful,” she says. Other good options include arrangements with gladioli, chrysanthemums, snapdragons, or larkspur.

One thing to note: Different religions have different traditions when it comes to flowers and mourning. Flowers are usually not sent to Jewish funerals or the home where the family is sitting shiva, for example. Your florist should be able to help you determine what’s appropriate for the service you’re attending.

When to send sympathy flowers to a home

Unlike funeral flowers, sympathy flowers can be addressed to specific family members and sent directly to their home. Because they will be in the smaller space of someone’s house, these arrangements are usually less ornate and formal than funeral flowers. And while funeral flowers should ideally be sent in time for the service, sympathy flowers can be delivered at any point (so if you just found out someone died and the funeral has already occurred, it’s not too late to send the family flowers).

While a bouquet or floral basket is always thoughtful, Swann likes the idea of sending plants. “Flowers eventually die, but something more plant-based is nice because the individual can look at that in memory of their loved one,” she says. “This way, it can last beyond the funeral itself.”

Most florists are able to address a small card to be enclosed with the arrangement. You can keep your message short and simple, such as “Thinking of you during this difficult time” or “With love and sympathy.”

And finally, if the family requests that mourners contribute to a charitable organization in lieu of flowers, Swann stresses how important it is to honor their wish. “Families are dealing with enough in terms of their loss,” she says. Even well-meaning floral gifts might be overwhelming for some families to manage.

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