Funerals are a somber affair. A loss has been experienced, and emotions are often heightened and sometimes unpredictable. You want to be respectful to the dearly departed and their grieving family and friends, but it can be difficult to know what to say or do to express your condolences.
One way to express your sympathy and let those who are mourning know they are in your thoughts is by sending funeral flowers. Throughout history, flowers have been a way to communicate, and they still are. Funeral flowers are a way to show the grieving that you care, especially if the right words escape you.
Deciding which flowers are appropriate can seem overwhelming, but we are always here to help. To help make sense of it, we assembled some history, culture and flower facts to help with your decision. If you would like to discuss ideas for sympathy or funeral flowers in greater detail, our florists at Wild Strawberry & More in East Lansing, MI would be glad to discuss ideas with you to properly express what you are feeling.
Funeral and Sympathy Flowers
It is important to note that funeral flowers and sympathy flowers are not the same. Funeral flowers are a tribute to the deceased. Funeral flowers should be sent to the place of the funeral rather than the home of the family. These flower arrangements or displays are normally large and formal and placed near the casket.
On the other hand, sympathy flowers are meant to be directly addressed to the deceased’s loved ones. Instead of the funeral home, these flowers are sent to homes. Sympathy flowers are smaller arrangements that fit inside homes as centerpieces or other focal points.
If you decide to send funeral or sympathy flowers, knowing the proper etiquette is essential. If you are in doubt, you can always ask a trusted friend or loved one. Your florist is also a valuable resource for etiquette information regarding funerals. The days and weeks following a loss are incredibly difficult, especially for those closest to the deceased. Be respectful and show your sympathy and understanding in your actions and words. When words won’t suffice, consider other ways to show you care.
History of Funeral Flowers
Flowers have been an important part of funerals for a very long time. In 1951, Dr. Ralph Solecki excavated multiple burial sites in the Shandiar Cave in Iraq. He took soil samples from the sites and sent them to Arlette Leroi-Gourhan, an important archeologist who pioneered paleobotany, for analysis. She discovered pollen and flower fragments.
As birds or animals could not have placed the flowers in the burial sites, the scientists determined that someone placed the flowers there in tribute and mourning. The burials took place around 62,000 B.C., cementing funeral flowers in history.
Funeral flowers continued to be important throughout the ages, although not for the reason you might think. In the mid-1800s, funeral flowers were not used for mourning. Before modern practices of preservation, bodies of the deceased did not smell very good. Flowers would be heaped on top and around the coffin and were a way to prevent unpleasant odors.
When funeral flowers became more symbolic, the rise of flower ladies occurred. Flower ladies were almost like pallbearers, but instead of carrying the casket, they would carry the flowers. It was a big deal to be asked to be a flower lady, as the role was only filled by close family and friends.
These flower ladies would carry the flowers from the funeral to the vehicle before taking them to the cemetery for the graveside service. The tradition of flower ladies faded away as funerals started being less focused on community involvement.
Fast forward to today, and funeral flowers are largely a symbolic gesture to show how much you care for the deceased and their family. If you don’t know what to say, flowers can communicate what you are feeling. If you aren’t sure how to express a certain sentiment, some flowers are already a part of the funeral tradition and others have specific meanings to help express ideas and emotions.
What Are the Best Flowers?
Flowers and how they are arranged mean different things. It is important to know what arrangements are appropriate for the circumstances and what individual flowers represent before you send sympathy and funeral flowers.
The four main types of funeral arrangements are funeral baskets, standing sprays, wreaths, crosses, hearts, and dish gardens or plants. Funeral baskets are good to send to a funeral home for a viewing or service. Standing sprays are put on easels and displayed by the casket. Wreaths, crosses and hearts are bigger arrangements that are displayed near the casket.
There are also floral tributes that adorn the casket called casket sprays. You should only give arrangements that decorate the casket if you are immediate family or extremely close with the deceased. The choice of providing a casket spray should be discussed with other close relatives.
Dish gardens or plants usually come in a basket or container and are a nice way to express your sympathy. They can be delivered to a wake or a loved one’s home. With proper care, dish gardens and plants can last a long time.
There are many beautiful flowers in the world, and the meanings can shift depending on cultural views. To demystify flowers and what they mean, there are traditional flowers that people often choose to express sympathy in times of grief and loss. Here are some.
Lilies are one of the more popular flowers for funerals. Lilies represent the restored innocence of the deceased. The serene look of the lily makes it fit in with the somber mood of a funeral. They can also mean love, so if you were very close to the departed, lilies might be a good choice.
Roses come in multiple colors and mean different things. Red roses represent love, respect and courage, while pink roses mean grace and gentility. Light pink roses stand for admiration and sympathy. Other roses to consider are white, crimson and yellow. These stand for innocence, sorrow, and friendship, respectively.
Chrysanthemums are generally only used in Europe as funeral flowers. That is because they represent death. To Americans, chrysanthemums mean truth. They are a bright and vibrant bloom to celebrate someone who has lived a good, full life.
Although certain flowers are good to send, be mindful of the deceased’s culture. A flower that might be a good choice for one funeral might be inappropriate for another. Here are some examples.
Buddhist funerals are accepting of flowers but only certain ones. The best flowers to send are white or yellow ones. White flowers are the traditional Buddhist flower of mourning. Under no circumstances should you send red flowers. It is considered in poor taste because red is often viewed as a happy color.
Jewish burials are meant to take place as soon as possible. Therefore, it is not necessary to send flowers. Instead, it is often requested that you send charitable donations. If you have questions, you can always ask a trusted individual who is close to the family.
Determining whether to send flowers for an Islamist funeral depends on the funeral. Some Islamic funerals accept flowers while others don’t. People often put individual flowers with palm branches on top of graves.
Funerals can be difficult for everyone. To make the day a little bit brighter, think about sending flowers. Being knowledgeable when choosing appropriate flowers will make it easier to decide on the arrangement, the color and type of flower. Know what type of funeral you are going to, and if you aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
Losing a loved one is a difficult and heartbreaking experience. Providing the right flowers can go a long way to convey sympathy to friends, family and acquaintances when they are grieving.
If you find yourself at a loss when expressing sympathy for a loss, we have the experience and sensitivity to help you express your condolences with the right funeral and sympathy flowers.