Funeral Flowers – Customs and Etiquette

Funeral Flowers – Expressions of Sympathy.

Funeral Flowers can serve as a very powerful expression of sympathy at a time when words seem deeply inadequate.

A floral tribute at a Funeral can, when appropriate, bring a note of fragrance, beauty, colour, and even a hint of life into dark days of great difficulty and pain for a family suffering bereavement.  Beautiful flowers delivered, whether that’s a contemporary bouquet or a traditional wreath, can lift a heavy heart, maybe just for a moment, but that in of itself can help a lot.

In the immediate wake of a bereavement, sadness, loss, and shock can ripple outwards from the heart of the family – from those most keenly affected to the wider social circle of friends and relatives.

Confusion can mark such moments at first – the family themselves reeling from the trauma of deep loss – and friends who feel very powerless in the face of that.  Your human impulse is to bring comfort, and the blossoming of flowers is akin to that spontaneous instinct to help – the generous desire to send flowers to a funeral can bring solace to both the recipient and the giver.

But the sense of confusion does not just arise from the decision of whether to buy a sheaf of flowers, or a spray; a classic wreath, a traditional posy, or a contemporary tribute like a floral pillow made from chrysanthemums and roses.  Of course choosing the flowers plays a big part, and if you need assistance, your florist can form a key component of guidance here – in much the same way the same florist can shape flowers into a meaningful expression of heart felt sympathy, from a heart-shape arrangement of red roses, to a bouquet as ornate as the popular Gates of Heaven shaped floral arrangement.

But at another level, funeral times can be a very confusing time in the most elemental way, raising many questions – should a person phone to offer condolences, or should they follow the tradition of simply calling around in person to express their sympathy and support?  People often speak about this when they phone the florist to ask about funeral flowers.

Funeral Etiquette has its place, and yet there are no hard and fast rules; a lot depends on how well you know the family – sometimes you just know that the correct thing to do is to call around and simply be there to support your friends in time of loss.  And that sense of it feeling like the right thing to do usually comes from a true place of deep intuition.

At other times, things won’t seem so clear and that’s where a good Florist and the professionalism of the Funeral Director will be of assistance to you.

Historically, this was a very well established custom, especially in Ireland, where the local community would immediately pool resources and gather to help the family, like a loose garden flower arrangement, where each coloured flower might have a symbolic meaning or a memory associated with their loved one. Blue flowers, purple flowers, all with their different qualities.

In rural Ireland, each person would bring their unique gift to the bereaved family – some bringing food, others helping to lay out and dress the deceased, even dedicated keening singers to evoke the spirit of loss, but also bring solace.  Community presence can, without needing to say much, reach across to help the family confront these very early stages of loss and mourning.

It’s not unlike how at a funeral; you often see a family cortege shouldering the coffin from the Hearse into the Church.  Funeral flowers also evoke history – even dating back to pre-Christian times.  In the tradition of the time, it was customary for relatives to use essence of flowers and herbs to anoint the body of the deceased.  Afterwards, plants and flowers with strong pungent aromas were typically used to decorate the burial site.

With regards to flower tributes, both Florist and Funeral Director are deeply attuned to how sensitivity is so important at a time of loss; they will have gently encouraged the family arranging the funeral to express their own preferences in terms of flowers, or to take time out to reflect on these questions.

So, for example, by the time the concerned neighbour rings up to enquire about funeral flowers, there might already be a reference in the Death Notice stating that it’s Family Flowers Only, and that people might like to make a Donation in lieu of flowers, perhaps to a named charity, or a local hospice foundation who may have cared for the recently deceased person during their final illness.

Guidelines to Buying Funeral Flowers:

  • Usually, it’s the immediate family who choose and order the funeral flowers such as the Coffin Spray or the Casket Spray.  These larger arrangements form the heart of the funeral service and are often chosen on a deeply personal basis – perhaps the favourite flowers of the dearly departed loved one.  See funeral flower pictures below depicting different examples that people often choose –  Lily & White Rose Coffin Sprays, Garden Sprays, Deep Red Rose Sprays,  Summer Sprays. 
  • Family friends and relatives tend to order Flower Wreaths or A Flower Posy,  Flower Sheafs, or smaller Flower Sprays similar to the large Floral arrangement which decorates the coffin.
  • Examples of Mixed Wreath with Pink Lilies and Ashes of Roses, or a Classic Wreath – classic circular wreath covered with a mass of white Double Spray Chrysanthemums and nicely touched with a pink and white spray of large-headed Roses, Freesia and Spray Carnations.
  • It’s well worth being mindful of Funeral Service times and sequence, so that your floral tribute can be of comfort during all aspects of the funeral services.  Funeral Flowers can be a wonderful expression of sympathy, and also a source of solace during difficult days.  So, it can make all the difference to a more meaningful tribute if you take some simple steps in advance.
  • People often ask the florist whether they should ask to have the flowers delivered to the church, or the Funeral Home, or the family residence.  The florist will be happy to discuss your best options here, depending on the funeral arrangements and times.
  • Even if you are ordering flowers from abroad, you’ll be able to access information from the local florist dealing with funeral about for instance what are the times of repose in the Funeral Home.
  • A good florist will already have liaised with the Funeral Director and will be familiar with the different patterns and sequences of the relevant funeral.  Maybe the deceased person is being brought home to repose in the family home surrounded by loved ones. You might choose to have flowers delivered to the family home at a specific time so that your beautiful wreath or bouquet can form a meaning part of that aspect of the service.
  • Following on from this, you should have no concern about your floral tribute.  The Funeral Director Team who discreetly look after the funeral sequence and cortege, will move your flowers ( carefully) in line with the funeral procession, for example, the flowers will probably be placed in the Hearse, brought to the Church, and then onwards to the Graveside or the Crematorium.
  • It’s worth noting here that Sympathy Flowers are subtly different to Funeral Flower Tributes.  Funeral Flowers are focussed on the deceased person, a floral mark of respect for their passing and a symbol of celebrating their life.

    On the other hand, Flowers123 are often contacted in the wake of the funeral, when people order flowers to be sent as a direct mark of comfort to the bereaved family.  In those difficult days after a funeral, a Sympathy Flowers can bring solace and light to a family.

    And finally, a note of reassurance.  People sometimes get very distraught if they’ve only just heard the sad news of a friend passing away; the immediate concern is that it might be too late to have flowers delivered in time for the funeral.

    Take the person who phones after 8pm at night, and the funeral is the following day.  A good florist will already have a reliable system in place where there is a policy of same day flower delivery.  Again, this is where the local connection comes to the fore, and the local florist will do all they can to ensure that you still have time to express your heartfelt condolences with beautiful flowers, a funeral tribute of floral abundance and beauty.

    The endurance of funeral flowers as a long standing custom is no real surprise.  At at time when words can seem impossibly redundant in the face of grief and loss – even a mental image of flower pictures can at the very least cast a splash of light and floral colour onto the dark landscape of a loss. Funeral Flowers reminding the family of the life that was lived, and also a symbol of hope going forward.