By Julie Christensen
Sending flowers for a funeral is a very old tradition. Flowers convey your sympathy and condolences and provide comfort to a grieving family. When selecting funeral flowers, consider the following etiquette guidelines:
- A floral basket is appropriate to send to someone you knew casually, while sympathy baskets are typically sent to someone you knew well. Crosses, funeral sprays and wreaths are typically sent only by immediate members of the family or those who know the bereaved and the deceased intimately.
- A live plant is a thoughtful way to memorialize a loved one, especially if you know a family member enjoys gardening and will care for the plant long-term. A potted rose can be planted outdoors. Other common live plants include Boston ferns, hydrangeas or cyclamens.
- Honor the family’s wishes. If the family asks for donations to a charity in lieu of flowers, it’s best to follow those instructions.
- If you do not attend the funeral or learn of a death later, it is still appropriate to send a card or flowers.
- If the deceased had a favorite flower, it is certainly appropriate to send that flower as a sign of your remembrance.
- Patriotic flower displays are common at the funerals of deceased veterans.
- Send the flowers to the family’s home or directly to the funeral hall or church. Sending the flowers to the home can alleviate the stress of arranging flowers at the funeral or transporting them home.
- For a cremation service, send a small arrangement or live plant. If there is no service, send the flowers directly to the family’s home.
- Most floral services will include a card with your name on it if you prefer not to write a note. Sometimes, people are at a loss for words.
Carnation. Carnations are popular in funeral arrangements, probably because they are long-lasting and combine well with other flowers. Pink carnations mean remembrance, while white ones symbolize love and innocence. Red carnations symbolize admiration and respect.
Chrysanthemum. The white chrysanthemum is so universally associated with funerals, grief and mourning that in some countries, such as Korea, Japan and parts of Europe, it is considered inappropriate to offer this flower at any other time. In the United States, a white chrysanthemum symbolizes faith and comfort. White is the color most commonly used for funerals, although other colors of chrysanthemum flowers can be used.
Cyclamen. If you’d like to send a living plant, delicate pink or white cyclamen is a suitable choice. This plant means “good bye.”
Forget Me Not. With their tiny, cornflower blue flowers, forget me nots are a charming symbol of remembrance. Send a live potted plant.
Gladiola. An arrangement of tall, elegant gladiolas in soft colors is a classic funeral arrangement. Gladiolas have a stately look and symbolize strength of character, morality and virtue. In general, use subdued shades, rather than vibrant colors for funerals.
Lily. The lily is the most common funeral flower and white lilies are especially popular. They have a calming, peaceful quality and denote a return of innocence on the part of the deceased. The white stargazer lily is a symbol of sympathy.
Roses. Although roses are most commonly thought of as wedding flowers, they can be used in funeral arrangements. Opt for subdued color schemes over red or bright yellow. Pink symbolizes love, grace and gentility; white roses stand for reverence, innocence and humility.
Sweet Pea. Sweet peas, with their fragile blooms and delicate fragrance, symbolize “good bye.” Combine shades of pink, white and lavender for an unusual and lovely arrangement.
White poppies. Red poppies are more common, but if you can find white poppies, they make a lovely, thoughtful flower for funerals. Poppies symbolize sleep, death and consolation. They are long-lasting flowers. With their long, thick stems, bristled centers and papery white petals, poppies make unique, modern arrangements.
Zinnias. Yellow zinnias have long symbolized remembrance. These long-lasting flowers are bright and cheery and are suitable for a more casual funeral service.
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When she’s not writing about gardening, food and canning, Julie Christensen enjoys spending time in her gardens, which includes perennials, vegetables and fruit trees. She’s written hundreds of gardening articles for the Gardening Channel, Garden Guides and San Francisco Gate, as well as several e-books.