Choosing Flowers for a Funeral

Flowers can be a special way to express your love for the departed, or your sympathy for those left behind. They can be sent to the church, funeral home or bereaved family. Their natural beauty helps share peace and comfort, and, as symbols of life, they bring colour and hope in sombre times.

It's important that you first check that gifts of flowers are appropriate. Many bereaved families request donations to a charity in lieu of flowers. If this is the case, it should be mentioned in the funeral notice in the newspaper. If the family have said that they would prefer donations, you should respect their wishes.

Also, bear in mind that some religions do not have a tradition of flowers at funerals. In the Jewish faith, for example, it is more customary to send food baskets to the family during the mourning period; Mormons accept flowers so long as they're not in the shape of a crucifix. If you're unsure, ask the family. Your florist should also be able to advise you.

If you are going to send flowers, make sure you send the right kind of arrangement. Wreaths (circular arrangements that symbolise perpetual life) and sprays (arrangements that allow viewing from one side only) should be sent to the funeral home or church, not the bereaved family. The flowers that are placed directly on the casket, known as casket sprays, are provided by direct family members. If you're sending flowers to the family, a pot plant can be a welcome reminder that life continues; if you're sending cut flowers, be considerate and also send some kind of vase or container to make it easier for the family at what is frequently a very difficult time.

Not only do you need to think about what kind of arrangement you want to give, but you should also consider what flowers you would like included, and what those flowers say. White lilies, representing peace, and red roses, representing love, are particularly popular at funerals. Ferns and gladioli embody sincerity, while green leaves are an expression of hope. Irises are warm and affectionate; white chrysanthemums signify grief; forget-me-nots show that the deceased will be forever in your memories. If the funeral is for a child, consider sending daisies, which are a touching symbol of innocence.

It's also nice if you can add a personal touch. If the deceased had a favourite flower, or favourite colour, incorporate that into the arrangement. If they were a keen gardener and were particularly fond of a particular family of flowers, reflect that in your choice.

Money concerns should not prevent you using flowers to express your condolences. There are many flowers that, while cheaper and less exotic, can have a simple and touching power – daisies, for example, or carnations. Tulips are cheaper than roses and just as dramatic. Look out for flowers that are in season, as not only will they be in good condition but they should be cheaper. Avoid expensive flowers like orchids, and rather than opt for a big, showy arrangement, consider buying a few well-chosen beautiful flowers set amongst less expensive greenery. Also search the internet for good deals at online florists.

Don't forget that you will need to send a card with the flowers, expressing your condolences. Popular messages offer “sincere sympathy” or “kindest regards and sympathy”. Also make sure you include both your first and last names so that the family know who the flowers come from.

Above all, any flowers you send should be a personal demonstration of your love for the departed and your sorrow at their loss. If a particular type or arrangement of flower has meaning for you and the deceased, then make that the basis of your gift. Alternatively, if you feel it's more appropriate, choose a traditional style – the familiar can be reassuring in times of grief. Either way, you are helping to create a calm and beautiful celebration of the life of someone special.

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