Guide to Funeral Flower Etiquette for Family, Friends & Coworkers

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Sending funeral flowers is a meaningful way to show your sympathy and condolences. But it’s also something we don’t do very often if we’re lucky. And sending funeral flowers has an etiquette all its own. 

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It’s important to send funeral flowers at the right time, to the right place, and in the right situations. And if you’re planning to send a sympathy arrangement, it’s a good idea to be aware of the conventions and courtesies surrounding funeral flowers.

Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about sympathy flowers and how to send them. 

COVID-19 tip: If you're planning or attending a Zoom funeral using a service like GatheringUs, the location, order of service, and etiquette might vary. Double-check the funeral announcement or obituary to see if the address to send flowers and other condolence gifts is the same as the funeral home or place or worship.

Funeral Flower Etiquette: Overview

So what, exactly, is the proper funeral flower etiquette? If you’ve never sent or received funeral flowers before, it can be hard to understand the dos-and-don’ts. 

Luckily, one rule of funeral flower etiquette applies to most situations, and it can help make the process a lot easier. 

That rule is: it’s usually appropriate to reach out to the family and ask whether flowers are acceptable and where they’d like you to send them. Often, the family will include this information in the obituary or the funeral invitations. 

Here are some tips to help simplify the situation even further, including where you should send funeral flowers, whether you should attach a sympathy note, and when you should send funeral flowers.

Where do you send funeral flowers?

As previously mentioned, it’s always important to check the death announcement (obituary) and the funeral invitation for information regarding funeral flowers. 

The family might have posted an in lieu of flowers notice, requesting charitable donations or other gifts, instead. You might also notice an online memorial that gives you the opportunity to give virtual flowers, either in addition to or in lieu of a real-life floral arrangement.

Once you’ve decided to send funeral flowers, you’ll need to decide where to send them. Here are your primary options: 

  • The family’s home. You can send sympathy flowers to the family’s home if you’re a close family member or friend. 
  • The memorial or funeral location. If you’re sending funeral flowers for display at the funeral, viewing, or memorial itself, it’s usually best to send them to the location directly. You can have the florist send your arrangement to the venue (the funeral home, cemetery, or church, for example) just before the service. 

Do you have to send a note with funeral flowers? 

You don’t necessarily have to attach a lengthy note with your funeral flowers, but attaching a short note is a nice touch. 

At the very least, you should ask your floral service to add a note saying who the flowers are from. The family will likely receive several floral arrangements, and you want them to know one of them is from you. 

If you want to add more to your sympathy note, you should feel free to express your condolences. Often, a simple, “I’m sorry for your loss,” can go a long way.  

Do you send flowers if you plan on attending the funeral service? 

You can send funeral flowers whether you’re planning to attend the funeral service or not. If you’re unable to attend the funeral, sending flowers to the service can show the family you’re thinking about them. And if you’re attending the funeral, sending flowers is just an added show of support. 

If you’re a close family member or friend, you can also choose to hand-deliver the floral arrangement to the service yourself, rather than having it delivered. However, it’s often easier to simply order the flowers for delivery, and this lets the family receive their floral gifts before the service starts. 

What flowers are appropriate for a funeral?

Your florist can help you choose the best type of floral arrangement for your funeral flowers. But the kind of flowers you choose might also depend on the person who passed away, as well as your relationship with them. 

Here are some of the most traditional funeral flowers: 

  • Carnations are the most popular funeral flower because of their wide variety of colors and their longevity. Many funeral flower arrangements feature carnations, either as the main flower or as a supporting flower. They’re also highly fragrant and perfect for sympathy flower arrangements. 
  • Gladioli are popular flowers for large arrangements like standing sprays and casket sprays. Gladioli are a good flower choice for immediate family members and close friends to include in their funeral flower arrangements. 
  • Lilies are another popular choice, and their graceful shape makes them appropriate in any situation.
  • Roses make for beautiful floral arrangements, especially for someone who you loved dearly or deeply respected. 
  • Chrysanthemums, or “mums” are used specifically for funerals in some cultures. They indicate deep feelings of loss, grief, and sympathy. 

Who should send flowers to a funeral? 

If you want to send flowers to a funeral, and the family is accepting flowers, you should feel free to send a floral arrangement. You might send one on your own or get together with a group of friends or colleagues to send a larger, more elaborate arrangement. 

Typically, you should stick to funeral flower arrangements that the family can take home, and which aren’t overly large and unwieldy. 

This usually includes arrangements like bouquets, floral baskets, and wreaths, and omits standing sprays and casket sprays. The family members organizing the funeral usually order these larger arrangements themselves. 

Funeral Flower Etiquette May Depend on Your Relationship to the Deceased

Whether you send a funeral flower arrangement, and how you do so, might depend on your relationship to the deceased. It also depends on your relationships with the family members who are planning and setting up the funeral service. 

Here are some tips for funeral flowers depending on how you knew the person who passed away. 

If you’re immediate family

As an immediate family member, you have the benefit of communicating directly with the people planning the funeral. But knowing how to send funeral flowers, or whether you should at all, can be even more complicated. 

As immediate family, you might be involved in setting up the funeral yourself. If you are, you can help order larger arrangements like standing sprays and casket sprays. 

You could also be an immediate family member who’s not involved in planning or setting up the funeral. In that case, you still might want to send a funeral arrangement. You can send a small, medium, or large floral arrangement, or you can hand-deliver an arrangement to the funeral. 

If you’re extended family

As an extended family member, you can send a floral arrangement to the family home, if you wish. Alternatively, you can have your funeral flower arrangement delivered to the funeral venue by the florist. 

If you’ve checked with the immediate family if it's appropriate,, you can also hand-deliver a small arrangement when you arrive at the funeral or viewing. 

If you’re estranged family

If you haven’t spoken to the deceased in a long time, you can still send a floral arrangement. Flowers aren’t just for the person who passed away—they’re also a show of support for the grieving family. And sending a thoughtful arrangement of funeral flowers, along with a simple sympathy note, can show the family you still care. 

If you’re friends

Losing a close friend can be just as painful as losing a member of your family. But you might also want to show the deceased’s family how much you care for them and support them in their time of grief. 

Friends can send the same kinds of funeral flower arrangements as extended family. That includes small and medium floral baskets, as well as bouquets and wreaths. It’s usually preferable to have your arrangement delivered to the funeral venue to limit the amount of work the family needs to do before and during the service. 

If you’re colleagues

If you worked with the deceased, you can send a floral arrangement to the funeral, along with a brief message noting your relationship to the person. Try to keep your arrangement small in size, leaving the larger bouquets and arrangements to close family and friends. 

Alternatively, you could come together with the entire workplace to send a larger or more elaborate funeral flower arrangement. This might be easier for the family to manage, with just one arrangement from all fo the deceased’s colleagues, rather than many small ones. At the same time, it sends a big message of support and love from all of the people the deceased worked with every day. 

Sending Flowers After the Funeral

Sending funeral flowers is a great way to show a grieving family that you’re sorry for their loss. But if you missed the boat on sending flowers to the funeral, it’s not too late to show your support with a thoughtful floral arrangement. 

A few weeks, or even a few months after the funeral, you can send the family a floral arrangement with a heartfelt sympathy note attached. Alternatively, you could take some time out to deliver an arrangement of grave flowers to the cemetery. 

Before, during, and after a funeral, flowers and colorful floral arrangements are a traditional and meaningful sympathy gift that shows you care. 

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