Funeral etiquetteMany individuals prefer to avoid funeral and other memorial services because the occasion is sad, often emotional, and they are uncertain the best way to behave in such a situation. Fortunately, attending funerals is not generally something that any of us have a lot of experience in. Knowing a bit of the etiquette involved can help ease the discomfort.

If in doubt about attending, do try to go to the service if at all possible. In most cases the more difficult the situation, the more the family will appreciate your presence and your words of support. Your willingness to go out of your way to say a word or two of comfort will be very much appreciated and let the family know others are thinking of them. If your circumstances do not allow you to attend personally sending flowers is a wonderful and heartfelt way to let the bereaved know they are in your thoughts.

These services provide a sense of completion, a process for mourning, and comfort for the living. The outpouring of grief and support for the family enables them to eventually go on with their own lives.

Sympathy Arrangement 
The history of flowers at funerals and memorial services.
Sending flowers to the families home.
Sending flowers if notices refers to "In Lieu Of"
Flowers sent by a group of individuals (ie. Office or Family)
Making your floral tribute unique or special.
Sending flowers after the funeral.
Sending a floral tribute to a cremation.
Sending a plant to a funeral.
What type of floral tributes are suggested.
Are floral tributes appropriate for all religious beliefs?


What is the history behind flowers at funerals and memorial services?
Placing flowers around those who have died is almost certainly mankind’s oldest tribute to the dead. One of the earliest discoveries of funeral flowers was documented by Dr. Ralph Solecki who excavated the Shanidar Cave in Shanider CaveNorthern Iraq in 1951 and discovered several burial sites. Soil samples determined that funeral flowers were indeed placed on this now famous burial site. Local people had roamed the hillsides collecting wild flowers and placed them on graves 62,000 years ago. These appear to have been the first flowers for a funeral and this discovery was eventually noted in the Guinness Book of World records as the worlds oldest form of human ritual.

To say giving flowers for a funeral is traditional would indeed be an understatement! Some scientists believe that the first flowers for funerals served a dual purpose. Firstly, flowers were thought to be the symbol of the life cycle from birth to death, the fragility of life and its temporary beauty. Secondly as a more practical application they were used to mask the smell of decomposition at a time before embalming.

Today's funeral flowers are used at the service for a number of reasons. It is hard to put sympathetic feelings into words and sympathy flowers can say it for you. No words need be spoken. When you send a floral tribute to a memorial service the meaning is always understood and appreciated by the bereaved. Sympathy flowers are a way to share the burden of grief and loss and are also a symbol for community support for a life well lived.

Is it okay to send flowers to the family's home?
Most certainly. This is a wonderful way to express your sympathy and is a very common trend. Some people choose to send flowers or a plant to the home immediately, while others prefer to wait a week or more. There are no steadfast rules. Flowers can be a very comforting reminder during the grieving process that friends are thinking of an individual during their time of loss.

Is it appropriate to send flowers even if the death notice mentions a charitable donation or "In Lieu Of"?
Yes. Flowers help say what is often difficult to express, they are always appropriate and in good taste. Flowers also play a functional role, adding warmth to the service and providing the visible emotional support that the family needs during this time. In fact research has shown that receiving flowers contributes to a persons emotional well being. Read More.....

If several of us want to go in together for a floral tribute, how do we sign our names so the family knows who the senders were?
When a group of individuals go in together on flowers, the arrangement can be very special and make a larger showing. There should be room on the floral enclosure card for several names, but if there's not enough space it is best to sign as a group, such as "The Staff in Accounting" or "The Munro Family." Include a contact name and address on the card so the family knows who to thank.

What can I do to make my floral arrangement unique or special from the rest?
To make your floral tribute particularly special and unique, ask your florist to create an arrangement that fits the deceased's personality, for example, a rustic basket of wildflowers to honor someone who loved the outdoors. You could also include his or her favorite flowers or colors, or a flower that had special significance in your relationship with that person. Whatever you do, the family is certain to appreciate the extra thought and effort you put into it.

I found out about the death after the funeral was over. What can I do?
A floral arrangement received at the home after the activity surrounding the funeral can be a comforting, welcome reminder that friends haven't forgotten. In fact, research shows that bereaved family and friends appreciate being thought of in the weeks or months after the funeral. A personal note or 'we are thinking of you' message with the flowers would be especially nice. Any support you can offer will let the family know you care. 

Is it appropriate to send flowers for a cremation?
A tastefully designed floral tribute adds beauty to any type of memorial service. It is common for the family to have a floral arrangement designed for display with the urn. 

Is it appropriate to send a plant to the funeral home and will it be sent to the family after the service?
Yes, it is appropriate to send a green or flowering plant. Some funeral homes will deliver plants or floral arrangements to the home if specified. Otherwise, the funeral director will simply notify the family members that they may take the plants with them after the service.

Is it acceptable to send flowers in a glass vase to the funeral home?
From an etiquette standpoint this is perfectly acceptable, however we generally recommend against doing so as many funeral homes have rules about certain types of floral arrangements. This is particularly the case with vases that may be prone to tip and spill when being moved. Here is a suggested list of items and the times they are the most appropriate:

Funeral Baskets are appropriate for delivery to the funeral home, mortuary or church. These beautiful floral arrangements are displayed in decorative baskets or containers and make a lovely presentation. These arrangements can also be sent to the residence, but typically are sent to the funeral home, mortuary or church.

Green and Blooming Plants are appropriate for delivery to the funeral home, mortuary, church, residence or place of business. These beautiful plants are displayed in a pretty pot or in a decorative basket and are appropriate to send to any location.

Sympathy Sprays are appropriate for delivery to the funeral home, mortuary or church. These beautiful arrangements are displayed on a standing easel and make a spectacular presentation.

Vase Arrangements are appropriate for delivery to the residence, or a place of business of a friend or family member who has lost a loved one. Arranged in a beautiful vase, these arrangements are a tasteful way to offer your condolences.

Wreaths and Specialty Arrangements such as crosses, bibles etc., are appropriate for delivery to the funeral home, mortuary or church. Wreaths and specialty arrangements are displayed on a standing easel and give maximum presentation.

Is it appropriate to send flowers within all religious beliefs?
The significance and use of flowers in funerals is often dependent on the religious beliefs of the deceased and the bereaved. There are some rules of etiquette to follow when sending funeral flowers, particularly in incidences where religion is a factor. Here are some very general guidelines, however if you are uncertain it is always advised to speak to a family member.

Buddhist funerals will almost always take place in a funeral home and never in a temple. Sending flowers is considered appropriate for a Buddhist funeral.

Eastern Orthodox practitioners are strict about three days between death and burial. During this time, flowers may be sent to the funeral home. White funeral flowers are seen as especially meaningful.

Hindus hold a funeral service on the day of death,before the sun goes down if possible. Sending flowers isn't part of the Hindu tradition, but it may still be seen as a thoughtful gesture. You can safely send a nice funeral spray to commemorate the deceased.

Jewish tradition doesn't include the sending of flowers at death. It's more appropriate to send gift baskets or fruit during the period of mourning. However, younger Jews may be more open to receiving flowers at home or at the foyer of the synagogue. The practice of sending flowers is better understood by 'liberal' Jews, while Orthodox Jews may not be as appreciative.

Mormons (or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) appreciate flowers and funeral sprays at the time of mourning. Don't send them in the shape of a cross as this may offend, and note that Mormon funerals are not held in the temple.

Muslim or Islamic cultures may have differing opinions concerning funeral flowers, depending on their ethnic origin and perhaps even on what particular branch of Islam they are from. Ask the opinion of someone close to the family, if you can.

Protestants and Other Christian faiths accept all forms of funeral flowers. However certain branches or denominations further out of the mainstream (especially in some Reformed traditions) may have particular ideas concerning simplicity and adornment.

Roman Catholics welcome flowers and funeral flower arrangements. There may be some particulars concerning delivery of funeral flowers to a church or cathedral.