A guide to funeral flowers and arrangements

Many aspects of modern life rely on tradition and symbolism, whether we are aware or not, and funerals are no exception. The way we say goodbye and pay tribute to our loved ones is steeped in significance and none more so that the incorporation of flowers.

Almost every western funeral includes at least one floral arrangement. However, because of the connotations associated with the type of arrangement and the varieties they comprise, many people are left unsure about what to choose; fearful of offending the grieving family.

With that in mind, here’s our guide to funeral flowers and arrangements.

What variety of flower should I choose?

What variety of flower should I choose?

Flowers have long been linked with different sentiments and although it’s probably not a big deal nowadays if you get it wrong, there are reasons why certain blooms remain popular.

White lilies: perhaps the most iconic funeral flower, white lilies are said to represent purity and restoring innocence after death. Avoid orange lilies though, as they refer to passion.

Chrysanthemums: this flower has almost exclusive ties with funerals – in some countries, they are the only flower used. Yet their symbolism varies. In the USA, for instance, they are associated with truth, honour and respect, but Asians link them with rebirth.

Roses: timeless and elegant, roses have many meanings based on their colour. Yellow can mean remembrance and friendship; white is purity, innocence and silence; dark red means unconscious beauty and red, of course, is known for representing love. A single rose symbolises eternal devotion, regardless of colour.

Other flowers that are commonly used include gladioli, carnations and hydrangeas. Spring blooms such as daffodils and tulips are also sent, but usually for the benefit of the grieving as they signify renewal and a fresh start.

That’s not to say you couldn’t order a huge bunch of sunflowers or something that your loved one adored.

Types of arrangement

Funeral flower arrangements

There are several types of ‘traditional’ funeral arrangements from which you can choose, though the most common is probably the wreath. While the familiar circular (to represent eternal life) design dates back to the Ancient Greeks, you’ll be able to personalise the physical flowers and greenery which are used.

Sprays for a casket are usually the preserve of immediate family and it’s polite to ask before ordering one. A simple funeral spray (not for the casket) is a popular choice and can be designed as per your specifications.

Hearts, crosses and words are also common choices – their meaning is obvious. The word tributes can be personalised with a name or title. Again, these are usually arranged by the immediate family, so do check first before ordering your own. It’s also possible to have a bespoke tribute created, perhaps a football or a teddy bear that has a special significance.

Baskets and standing arrangements are another option, chosen as they can be displayed simply in the church or crematorium, at the actual memorial or in the bereaved family’s home.

It doesn’t have to be formal. An unstructured posy of wild flowers or a simple tied sheaf are both perfectly acceptable arrangements that make a more understated tribute.

What’s the alternative?

Alternative memorial gifts

Some families don’t go down the floral route because they don’t want to, or it’s not customary to send bouquets. For example, in the Jewish community, it’s more appropriate to send/take food baskets during the ‘Shiva’ mourning period.

Others may simply ask for a donation to be made to a hospice or charity. In this instance, the wishes should be made fairly clear to everyone, to avoid confusion.

You can purchase a tree, shrub or plant which might be planted in a garden at a later date as a more permanent memorial, or perhaps find out about commissioning a plaque for a bench or a particular area that the deceased loved.

Some people like to buy a vase, sculpture or ornament; while others might simply share some photographs that the deceased’s loved ones perhaps haven’t seen.

Sending sympathy arrangements

What variety of flower should I choose?

Many people like to send floral arrangements to the bereaved family, whether they attend the funeral or not. Sympathy flowers are those that are sent to the deceased’s family’s home, while funeral flowers are sent to the funeral home.

There is more freedom with a sympathy arrangement; usual practice is a smaller bouquet or even a plant. A delicate peace lily is a good option, providing a longer-lasting tribute to your dearly departed loved one. Orchids are also a safe choice; pink and white varieties have associations with mourning.

Don’t worry if you’ve only just heard the sad news; it’s perfectly fine to send sympathy flowers ‘late’ – they’ll always be gratefully received.

As you can see, there are many options open to you when choosing a tribute – be it floral or not – to a dearly departed person. No matter what you choose, ultimately, it’s the sentiment that counts.