Since ancient times, flowers and funerals have gone hand-in-hand, according to the findings of archeologists who uncovered evidence of flowers in burial places dating back thousands of years before Christ. Until modern embalming and refrigeration techniques were widely practiced as a means of preserving the body, flowers had a very practical use as a natural way to mask the unpleasant odor of decomposing flesh.
Today, friends and relatives send funeral flowers to convey love, respect and sympathy. In times of grief, when it may be hard to find the right words to express deep and tender feelings, flowers provide a thoughtful, nonverbal way to communicate. The spiritual significance of flowers also contributes to their suitability as a memorial gift. Flowers call to mind the cycle of life—beautiful, but fragile and fleeting.
Types of Sympathy Arrangements
Sympathy floral arrangements and plants come in many styles and range in price from modest to very expensive. The tribute you choose will depend mainly on your relationship to the deceased, personal taste, and budget.
- Casket cover: The casket cover is a large floral arrangement typically purchased by an immediate family member. Casket covers are expensive arrangements that may be designed to cover the full casket or only half.
- Inside casket piece: These arrangements come in a variety of shapes, such as a cross or a heart. It may be placed on the inside lid of the casket or next to the body. In most cases, an inside casket piece is ordered by a family member.
- Funeral spray: The large floral arrangements may be placed on the floor or on an easel on either side of the casket. A funeral spray is a fitting tribute from anyone, regardless of relationship to the deceased.
- Wreath: Floral wreaths are often chosen by family members or groups of friends or associates, such as members of organizations, coworkers, or neighborhood associations. Traditionally, funeral wreaths are a symbol of eternal life. Wreaths are large and typically displayed on an easel.
- Funeral basket or floral vase: These make lovely displays when placed on the floor or on a stand. A basket or vase is a good selection if you want something the family can take home after the funeral.
- Potted plants: A living plant or grouping of plants is a popular choice. Plants are reasonable in price and can continue to be a source of comfort and enjoyment to the family long after the funeral.
As a gesture of sympathy, flowers are almost always appropriate, with two main exceptions:
- When the family specifies “no flowers, please” or suggests another type of memorial, such as a charitable donation, “in lieu of flowers.” Such a request may reflect the deceased’s final wishes or the values of the family, or it may be made for a purely practical reason—perhaps the widow is allergic to flowers, for example. In any case, such specific requests should always be honored.
- When gifts of flowers are contrary to religious or cultural tradition. Flowers are seldom, if ever, appropriate as sympathy gifts for members of the Islamic and Jewish faiths, for example. If you have any doubts, consult with a funeral director or clergy member for guidance.
Finally, as a courtesy to the family, be sure to ask the florist to enclose a card with your name and address. This thoughtful gesture will be greatly appreciated when it comes time to send thank-you notes.