Sympathy Flowers Etiquette: 5 Do’s And Don’t

When someone you know is mourning, sending flowers is one of the most thoughtful ways to express your condolences. But what is the proper etiquette for sending sympathy flowers?

Photo by Lukas:

Understand nothing is wrong as long as the flowers are tastefully and thoughtfully done. However, what you send depends on your relationship with the bereaved and the deceased’s relationship with the bereaved. Here are general tips:

The Do’s

Choose Appropriate Flowers

Flower types, colors, and arrangements have different meanings. To express compassion with flowers, choose ones with a more muted palette, such as pastels. White is always appropriate for expressing condolences because it symbolizes purity, innocence, and reverence.

Flowers used in sympathy arrangements include lilies, roses, orchids, and tulips. When mourning the loss of a child, white flowers are often used because they represent the purity of a child’s soul. Send an evergreen plant to let your friend know their loved one will not be forgotten. They symbolize eternal life.

For a celebration of life, as it happens when someone elderly passes away, choose blooms in vibrant colors. Consider the deceased’s personality and what flowers they loved when deciding.

The Size of the Flowers Matter

Your relationship with the bereaved often determines the size of the sympathy arrangement. A large bouquet might be appropriate if you were close friends with the deceased. 

If you were casual acquaintances, a smaller arrangement would be sufficient. It is also essential to take into account the number of people who will be attending the funeral. Most might send flowers as well. Keep yours small not to take up too much space. 

Attach a Card to The Flowers

A card is a must. It’s how you will express your condolences. The card doesn’t have to be flowery or long, but it should be sincere. Many online services can help you with this if you have trouble finding the words.

However, write what is in your heart, consider your relationship with the bereaved, and be genuine. It’s not the time to be funny or witty. The card should only express your condolences for the loss of their loved one.

Consider The Religious Beliefs of the Bereaved

Some religions have specific flower traditions and arrangements for funerals. For example, in Jewish tradition, sending white flowers is common. In the Catholic faith, lilies are often used in funeral arrangements because they represent the Virgin Mary. 

Chrysanthemums, roses, and carnations are also popular choices for Catholics. It is always appropriate to send an all-white arrangement to a funeral, regardless of religion.

Send The Flowers to The Right Place

When in doubt, sending the flowers to the funeral home is best. The funeral director will ensure they are delivered to the bereaved. You can also send them to the church or synagogue if you know the service is being held there. Send the flowers to their home if you have a close friendship with the bereaved or the deceased.

The Don’ts

A well-intentioned gesture can quickly become a source of stress for the bereaved if not done thoughtfully. Here are some things to avoid when sending sympathy flowers:

Don’t Send Flowers Too Late

Sending flowers days or weeks after the funeral is not appropriate. If you couldn’t attend the service or send flowers earlier, a handwritten note expressing your condolences is a thoughtful gesture. However, you can send blooms before the funeral and then send another later to let the bereaved know you’re still thinking of them.

Don’t Send Flowers That Distract a Viewer’s Attention from the Deceased

While you want your arrangement to be noticed, you don’t want it to be so large or colorful that it overshadows the deceased. The focus of a funeral should be on the life of the person who passed away, not the flowers. 

Send a more understated arrangement to avoid taking away from the tribute being paid to the deceased. Consider other ways to make your blooms stand out without being over the top, such as adding a photo of the deceased or a poem.

Don’t Send Flowers with Your Religious Views

It’s tempting to include your religious views, such as a cross or angel, in an arrangement for a friend of a different faith. However, this might seem insensitive and is best avoided. If you want to include a religious element in the arrangement, check with the bereaved first to find out if it would be appropriate. Better still, stick to their beliefs to show solidarity. After all, the focus should be on honoring their loved ones, not on proselytizing.

Don’t Send Flowers That Are Difficult to Arrange

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The last thing the bereaved wants to deal with is a difficult-to-arrange arrangement. Stick to more traditional shapes and avoid anything too fussy. The blooms should be easy to put together so the bereaved can focus on their grief, not on figuring out how to put the flowers in the vase.

Don’t Send Flowers Without a Card

A card is an integral part of a sympathy arrangement. It allows you to express your condolences and gives the bereaved something to keep. Sign the card for the bereaved to know who sent the flowers. When choosing the message, stick to something simple, such as “Thinking of you during this difficult time.”

Don’t Send an Arrangement That You Wouldn’t Want to Receive

When in doubt, send an arrangement you would want to receive if you were grieving. The bereaved are going through a tough time and need all the support they can get. Choose an arrangement that is tasteful and appropriate for the occasion.

Don’t Use a Generic Flower Delivery Service

A generic flower delivery service might be cheaper, but it doesn’t show the same level of thoughtfulness as using a florist who specializes in sympathy arrangements. The flowers will be appropriate and tasteful when you use a specialized service.

The florist will also be able to answer any questions about what to send. You’re also assured of the quality of the arrangement. Most importantly, the florist will deliver the flowers to the funeral home, church, or synagogue, so you don’t have to.

It’s The Thoughts That Count

Take time to understand sympathy flower etiquette, and you’ll be able to show your support without causing additional stress to the bereaved. Remember, send a simple arrangement with a heartfelt message when in doubt. It’s the thought that counts. However, florists can help you choose the right flowers for the occasion, so don’t hesitate to ask for assistance.


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