Sympathy flower etiquetteChoosing sympathy or funeral flowers can sometimes seem rather confusing, and people often worry about inadvertently causing offence. Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions on this subject.
Do I have to send a muted bouquet of sympathy flowers, or can I send something more lively?Because of the dual message of flowers, that of sympathy for a loss but also hope and the spirit of life, it can sometimes be difficult to decide the style of the arrangement. Should it be subdued and quiet or colorful and expressive? According to the florists at From You Flowers, our preferred supplier, both are acceptable.
I missed the funeral service. Can I still send flowers? Sometimes it takes a while for the news to get to distant friends and acquaintances. No matter how much time has passed since the death, it's never too late to send a note with some flowers to show how sorry you are.
What do I write on the sympathy card?
Florists usually help out on this with cards printed with messages such as "With Deepest Sympathy." All you have to do is sign your name, but you can include a personal message also if you wish. If you do not know what to write, read our guide to How to write a sympathy card.
I'm not sure where to send the flowers. Will the florist know?
Florists work closely with funeral homes and also have access to the obituaries. If you provide the name of the deceased, they can help you find the time and the place for the flowers to be delivered.
I don't want to send anything inappropriate, but I don't know the family very well. What do I do?
Flowers are a universal gift of sympathy. If you're not familiar with the family's background, it's safe to send a basic bouquet. Sending an arrangement in the shape of a cross can be inappropriate if the family is of a non-Christian religion.
Which sympathy flowers are best to use?For the service, larger flowers, such as standard chrysanthemums, carnations, gladioli, snapdragons, lilies and roses are best for creating striking memorials. Smaller flowers, such as lilies, daisies, liatris, delphinium, carnations and roses are used for home arrangements. Check out the symbolism guide below for further help.
The symbolism of sympathy flowers
Many peoples, from the ancient Greeks to contemporaries of the Victorian era, have attached messages and meanings to different kinds of flowers. Today, people usually pick flowers based on their beauty or taste, rather than by the meanings behind them.
Why not point out the symbolism of your flowers?
If you do take the time to choose your flowers based on the meanings of their colors or symbolism, why not include that in the message of your card? It will only add to the thoughtfulness of your gift.
While it's not necessary to make sure your flower arrangement has a literal translation, here are some flowers you may want to consider to send an extra message of caring to the bereaved.
Flowers and their meanings
Carnation: pride and beauty
Hydrangea: heartfelt expressions
Irises: the Christian resurrection
Protea (king): courage
Queen Anne's Lace: sanctuary
Colors for funeral flower arrangements
Traditional funeral flower arrangements called for flowers in the colors of red and white (and occasionally blue) only. Today, people more often create a special bouquet with a more personal message, perhaps with some of the deceased's favorite flowers.
In everyday life, we associate the color blue with a feeling of depression. But blue flowers, such as the iris or hydrangea, can have a calming appeal.
The color pink conveys a sense of joy and life. A pink bouquet of pastel roses or camellia will brighten anyone's day.
Purple has long been the color of royalty and ritual. These days, it usually represents accomplishment or admiration. But taken in a less literal sense, purple can add drama to any bouquet.
Today, people consider red roses to be the symbol of romantic love. But they are also appropriate as sympathy flowers for their symbolism of strength and courage.
White usually makes people think of innocence, reverence and spirituality. For funeral flowers, white is a tasteful addition to any bouquet, conveying modesty and elegance.
Yellow usually expresses a feeling of celebration and life in bouquets of bright flowers such as daffodils. As a symbol of friendship, it can be a meaningful addition, when used sparingly in sympathy bouquets.
Green tones bring with them a feeling of closeness with nature. The color often complements the bright blooms of flowers, but it can also be used by itself in a live arrangement to bring a message of resilience and renewal.
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Further sources of information
You may find our How to choose sympathy flowers page helpful too.
Visit our Amazon store to find books to help you through bereavement.