How to Manage Sympathy Flowers


Sending sympathy flowers is one way to express your condolences to a grieving family. And, receiving flowers often is a heartwarming gift. But with the rising costs of flowers and shipping, are flowers the best way to express your feelings?

This article might answer your question as you look at both sides of the picture – how to manage sympathy flowers from the sender’s and the receiver’s perspectives.


When a friend or relative dies, sometimes the first urge is to send funeral or sympathy flowers so you can show you care. Those flowers, then, become your representative. But, before you order anything, think about the following issues:

  1. Which flowers are best? The color is important, as trends come and go. White flowers such as lilies or roses seem to never go out of style. But, you might check with the florist first, as they usually know which flowers are in style for funerals. A second way to ensure that you’re sending the appropriate colors is to contact the funeral home. Sometimes a themed funeral has been planned, and the family may have requested a certain color.
  2. How big should you go? This question can be answered by your budget, but it also is answered by your connection with the bereaved family. If you’re a friend to the deceased and you shared an office space, then send a small arrangement. If you’re a distant relative, be careful. You don’t want to send an arrangement that’s larger or more elaborate than anything ordered by the immediate family or smaller than one sent by a friend. Although this advice may sound ludicrous, many families still follow convention of hierarchy – even with funeral flowers. Check with a florist in the town where the funeral is held – that florist may have answers for your questions.
  3. Guidelines: If you’re unsure what to send, you have a few options that will narrow down your choices: 1) Wreath – the circle represents eternity, and this is an appropriate floral arrangement for anyone to send. Smaller wreaths are more appropriate for friends; 2) Spray – Sprays often are placed on easels. They are more appropriate for family members to send; 3) Floral arrangement – this is a mix of fresh flowers displayed in a vase or other container. This is the best option when in doubt; 4) Casket Spray – this arrangement is designed for the top of the casket. Leave this arrangement to the immediate family to choose.
  4. Family doesn’t want flowers: Don’t override a family’s request, especially during a time of grief. If they request funds to be sent to a nonprofit organization instead of flowers, then take the money you were going to spend on flowers and sent it to that organization. You can send a card to the family and mention that you sent money, but don’t mention the amount. This isn’t about you, after all. But, beware – sometimes that organization will send a list of givers and the amounts they sent to the family of the deceased, so don’t be stingy.
  5. What other options do you have? A sympathy gift basket is a great alternative to flowers. You can include photos of the deceased if you have them, chocolates and a number of other items that are more personal. This gift is more for the living than a memorial for the dead and much more useful in many cases.
  6. Send a plant or flower later: The time that is most difficult for those closest to the deceased is after the funeral, when everyone leaves. This may be the most appropriate time to send a living gift, such as a plant. The reciever might be more grateful for this gift at that time than during the funeral.


It is difficult to think about the small issues such as flowers when you have other major decisions to consider after a loved one dies. But, when a friend or relative thinks enough of you and the deceased to send a funeral floral arrangement, you might respond appropriately at an easier time. Here are some other tips:

  1. How to display sympathy flowers: When someone close to you dies, it may seem that all the flowers you receive look the same. But, if you want to show that these floral tributes are appreciated, be sure to display the arrangements. You can use them at the funeral home, in your home or at the grave site, depending upon the funeral arrangements.
  2. What to do with too many flowers: If you didn’t request donations to a charity instead of flowers, you can expect too many flowers. If you end up with too many floral arrangements, send some home with relatives or friends, or take them to a rest home or hospital as soon as possible after the funeral.
  3. Don’t be critical: Many people don’t understand funeral etiquette, and that etiquette is changing. If your neighbor sends a huge and colorful horseshoe arrangement, accept it and leave it at that. Remember that it is the thought that counts. Also, if someone doesn’t send flowers, don’t discount their feelings or intentions. They may be planning other arrangements for you later.
  4. Keep track of floral arrangements: It’s easy to mix up the givers when so many floral arrangements arrive at one time. To ensure that you thank everyone, take the card or tag that arrives with the sender’s name and make a note about the arrangement on that card. Put all the cards into an envelope that you can save for later. If possible, assign the task of looking for mailing addresses so you don’t need to deal with that issue.
  5. Acknowledge the flowers: No matter how innapropriate or insignificant, the point is the sender meant to express his or her feelings about your loss. In some cases, you may see those flowers from a different perspective after the funeral. When you feel up to the task, pull out that envelope filled with gift cards and write thank-you notes for the flowers. Two to three sentences on a simple thank-you card are appropriate for this task. Your friends and relatives will be grateful that you acknowledged them.

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