Funeral Flowers: Correct etiquette 70 Years Ago Still Stands Today

The casket spray usually is purchased by immediate family.

The casket spray usually is purchased by immediate family.

About seventy years ago, your attendance at a funeral depended upon your social standing, your closeness to the deceased and the deceased’s rank in society. Grief, surely, had something to do with funerals, but Emily Post allots few paragraphs to that emotion and a multitude of paragraphs that attend to behaviors in her 1937 book, Etiquette.

Flowers deserved more words than emotions in her chapter on funeral etiquette. Flowers were sent only if warranted and — at the time — mostly to the deceased’s home or to the home of a close relative. Flowers took first place in the actions that any individual should take when notified of a funeral. At that time, notification usually came by card delivered through postal service or by hand. Upon receiving that card…

“…you should go at once to the house, write “With sympathy” on your card and leave it at the door. Or, you write a letter to the family. In either case you send flowers, addressed either to the funeral of _____ (name of the deceased) or to the nearest relative. The latter method is preferable, if the relative is a friend. But the former method is followed if the deceased alone was known to you.

“On the card accompanying the flowers, and addressed to one of the family, you write “With sympathy,” “With deepest sympathy,” or “With heartfelt sympathy,” or “With love and sympathy.” When flowers are addressed to the funeral of the deceased, no message is included. If there is a notice in the papers requesting that no flowers be sent, you disregard it only if you are a very intimate friend.

“A very natural impulse of kindness is to send a few flowers with a note either immediately or a few days or weeks after the funeral to any bereaved person who is particularly in through thoughts. A few flowers sent from time to time — possibly for long afterward — are especially comforting in their assurance of continued sympathy.”

Today, flowers may be too expensive to continuously send them to a bereaved person. The habit of sending more than one funeral arrangement may seem out of place today. Additionally, to continue to send flowers on a regular basis after a funeral may send a different message altogether over time.

On another note, a bereaved family today sincerely means what they say when they ask for no flowers just as they did seventy years ago. Not much has changed in this regard, as usually the closer family members may go together to buy a casket blanket or a number of pieces to accompany the funeral when that family asks for no flowers. But you — as a friend or distant relative — need to follow their advice and avoid sending flowers. You can, however, send a small plant or flowers to the home a few weeks after the funeral just to let the bereaved know that you continue to think about them.

In other words, one funeral arrangement per funeral is all you need to think about, and only if you are a family member or a close friend. Even then, with today’s economic environment, many bereaved families will understand a lack of flowers from you, and may not expect it in any case. Your attendance at the funeral, if warranted, probably would make that family happier than a few roses.

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