Learn About General Funeral Service Flower Etiquette - By Lily's Florist

You’ve probably seen the words “sympathy flowers” and “funeral flowers” in many online and brick and mortar flower shops. But did you know that those two terms carry different meanings? They aren’t really interchangeable because each is sent depending on the circumstance.

To help you understand the difference of sympathy and funeral flowers, let us first refresh your knowledge of proper funeral service etiquette.

When should I send flowers to express my condolences?

Sending flowers to someone means you care about them. Hence, it really doesn’t matter how immediate or how late you send condolence flowers from the time you heard about the sad news. What is important, and what the recipient will appreciate, is your thoughtful wishes of peace and your message of comfort that comes with the sympathy flower gift.

However, funeral flowers tend to be time-sensitive. Funeral flowers are basically flower tributes to the deceased and are sent to decorate a funeral service or a funeral home. A funeral service is a ceremony held shortly after a person’s death to honor the deceased with their body present.  It usually includes the deceased’s burial or cremation. It is different from a memorial service that takes place after the body has been cremated or buried.

Which flower arrangement should I pick?

Funeral flowers are large in size and formal in design. Send funeral flowers to express your respect to the deceased.  Standing sprays, casket sprays, sheaths and wreaths are funeral flower arrangements. Casket sheaths, or flower arrangements placed directly on top of the casket, are purchased by the family or close family members only. These are available in full and half sizes.

Sympathy flowers are fresh flower arrangements that are more personal hence they are addressed to the bereaved or the loved one of the deceased. Most sympathy flowers are small to medium in size and are more colourful than most funeral flowers. Sometimes, when emotions are running high, no amount of words can provide comfort to the grieving. A gift of fresh flowers makes it easy for people to express their sympathy and concern to the bereaved.  You can send sympathy flowers to a family member, a friend, or colleague who has suffered a recent loss. Table arrangements, flowers in vase or baskets, box arrangements, and potted plants can be sent to express your sympathy.

Which types of flowers, or flower species, are not appropriate for a funeral flower arrangement?

There are no specific flowers designated to be the “right” funeral flowers. A funeral flower arrangement can include any floral species. The most popular ones used in funeral flower arrangements gladioli, lilies, chrysanthemums, roses, carnations, and orchids. You may want to consider choosing flowers with a longer vase life so your funeral flower gift can last for several days.

Where do I get the flowers delivered?

Funeral flower arrangements are delivered to funeral homes, church or other place of worship, cemetery chapel, crematorium chapel, graveside, or burial site.

Sympathy flowers are typically sent to the bereaved’s residence although you can also have it delivered to a funeral home or chapel.

I want to send colourful flowers to somehow lighten the mood and at the same time celebrate the life of the deceased. Is a colourful flower arrangement appropriate for a funeral?

The family of the deceased would most likely appreciate your gesture of sending flowers regardless of its size, colour or design. A bright and radiant funeral flower arrangement can indeed bring hope and breathe optimism to a somber scene.

However, the most polite gesture would be to first consider the funeral customs observed by the bereaved family. A Buddhist funeral, for example, welcomes white flowers over red flowers or gifts of food. In Asian funerals, yellow chrysanthemums are traditional funeral blooms. Flower arrangements with crosses or crucifix accent are not permitted on Mormon funerals.

When sending funeral flowers, make sure you have the name of the deceased and the name and address of the funeral home. If you are unsure of the funeral home or chapel’s address, our florist can check the local directory and get your arrangement right on time.