Friday, September 28, 2007

Since we're talking flowers...

Q: Meredith, have you ever made your own flower arrangement for a funeral?

Someone we know has lost a family member and I would like to send some flowers. Frankly, $50 is more than I can afford. I thought of delivering my own, but I'm not sure where I would take it, the church or the funeral home, and what would be the best time.

A: Yes, I have! Funeral customs vary so much by region, but I do take my own flowers when I need to make that statement.

I usually find food a better use for my dollars. I take a homemade fruit and cheese platter or a basket of sandwiches to the funeral home just before the visitation. There is usually a break room for families, and often, very little for them to slip away and eat during that time. I include a card with our name on the tray.

Now, funeral flowers are something different. They offer a tangible goodbye to the deceased, brighten the atmosphere, and remind the family that you were there. Why else would they be set around the room with such visible tags?

You can definitely bring your own flowers, even if you cannot attend the funeral or visitation. Bring them in the "business" side of the funeral home. There is usually a side door or a back door for deliveries (no, not THOSE deliveries).

If I am going in to see the family, I give the flowers to one of the employees first. They typically record deliveries so the family can write notes later. Then, they will take the flowers into the room and set them in an appropriate spot. This strategy works whether you hand carry a pre-arranged Kroger vase or if you have created a beautiful garden tribute.

Some tips for making funeral flowers look more professional:

  • Attach one of your family's calling cards, or make a flat (not folded) white card that says "With sympathy, the X family." Ask for a clear plastic card holder when you buy flowers, or use a hole punch and thin ribbon around the vase.
  • What to buy: long-stemmed flowers and a tall vase, or even a large tropical plant from Lowes, placed in a yard sale basket. Remember, most florists send sprays of flowers on stands, and you want yours to be equally visible.
  • Specific suggestions: long-leafed greenery such as palm fronds, wispy pine boughs, etc. paired with 3 stems of showy Oriental lilies or an odd number of long-stemmed carnations or gladiolus.
  • Colors: I prefer all white or yellow flowers. They seem to stand out best in softly lit funeral homes. You can also use fewer blooms because white and yellow create a greater contrast against the greenery. If you feel that the arrangement looks sparse, add a large white bow around the vase for added color. Funeral flowers are not always known for good taste.

I hope that these tips are helpful to someone! I am curious what you do when you need to send funeral flowers on a tight budget. People tend to have very strong opinions about funeral customs.


Anonymous said...

I think it depends, nowadays a lot of people ask for donations to be given in lieu of flowers.

If long distance, calling a local florist instead of FTD (or whatever) is usually cheaper. A plant might be a cheaper way to go, and sometimes family members like having a plant to take home.


Anonymous said...

having just burried my mom a month ago....we asked for donations, but it was nice to receive the flowers we did, i think just not to overwhelm the place with flowers, she was not a winner of the kentucky derby...

when a spouse of one of my mom's siblings died, (they were 16 kids in her family and lived far away) she sent the flowers to the home, after the funeral, to brighten the place up a little, so she requested a bright cheerful arrangement..the favorite we received (actually 2 ) were an arrangements of yellow mums ( mum, mom...i liked that) they were actually 2 potted moms in a basket, so they now hang on my front porch....and my husbands siblings sent me a planted arrangement, that is still going strong and is so beautiful.....

the food tray is a great idea, but would have been useless in our case as there wasnt a visitation or reception...

but i would have been touched at a homemade arrangement....

Celina in Canada

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

In our area, it is acceptable (and appreciated) to give a plant that has a few blooming flowers stuck in it. After my mom's funeral, we siblings who lived "in town" enjoyed those for many years.

Also, my sister purchased flowers for a funeral at her grocery store at a greatly reduced cost. Not those huge displays but still something very nice.

I don't take time to comment much but I LOVE what I learn here. :)

Sarah B. B. said...

We, too, live in a part of the country where donations have become normal. That way, even if you can only make a small donation, the family is aware of your thoughts. We have really made a point, in our recent family funeral announcements, to request donations in lieu of flowers.

Meredith said...

I think that is an excellent suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Donations? What are they for? Cancer research? Or funeral expenses?

Never heard of that custom.


Anonymous said...

This past 18 months I lost several elderly family friends and family members including my two grandparents (frugal depression-era people who amassed significant wealth over their lifetime, yet retained their low-key, servant lifestyle.) The community around them had also progressed in wealth and culturally, so different from where I live.

I watched with fascination the whole cultural experience...there were family members discussing the floral arrangements, who sent what. Some of them were hundreds of dollars! I myself was incredibly moved as I walked around, viewing the flowers and plants. From my perspective, regardless of size or expense, to see the names of people who took time to remember our dear ones provoked many tears of gratitude and remembrance. There were a few handmade arrangements and those were especially sweet, because knowing the giver and limited resources, it spoke to the broad range of friendships my grandparents enjoyed.

My siblings and I paid a family friend to "do a Meredith" (of course I didn't call it that because it would have been meaningless to anyone else), i.e. she went to Sam's Club and purchased beautiful flowers and arranged them for us. Delivered them just as Meredith explained above.

There was also a group of women from their church who arranged trays of sandwiches and fruit and coffee to be delivered to the break room in the funeral home. This gave dear ones from the church an outlet for giving, and as a family member, it was SO MUCH BETTER to have a destination in the funeral home. Something to do when the event became overwhelming. It was also better than having to reassemble at some church fellowship hall afterwards, when by that time we just wanted to be alone.

And then there were donations. Many, many donations to the Christian organizations my grandparents supported their whole life.

In all, an amazing event.

It was all so precious, every little touch. The point I took away was: Do what you can, be conscious of the culture, but be yourself. It will be very appreciated.

deb meyers

Anonymous said...

The finger food tray is a lovely idea. Another idea is to give stamps- they need to mail out all those thank yous . . . .
Someone once did that for our family- we felt it was extremely thoughtful.
I have done the same thing with flower arrangements- making my own- and have heard no murmuring. Where I live- I have seen many different people (from all walks of life) bring in their own flower arrangements to the funeral home. I feel it also adds a more personal touch. I have made my own cards using printshop software and business cardstock on my computer.
Thanks for sharing, Meredith.

Anonymous said...

Here in the South, it is often a custom to give potted plants instead of wreaths and flowers. I always give a plant that I have gone out and bought, because buying a plant from a florist can cost between $50-$75 for a small one! I tie a pretty ribbon around the pot, or place the plastic pot in a nice basket, and attach a card. This way, the family can divide the plants up after the funeral. I still have a beautiful, large peace lily in my kitchen from when dh's grandfather died two years ago, and dh has one in his office that a client gave him over two years ago after we miscarried a baby. These plants mean a great deal to us.

Anonymous said...

As always, such a useful entry Meredith! I've considered making a funeral arrangement but didn't know how to get it to right place and didn't know (too shy) who to ask.

Anonymous said...

I recently had an uncle die and there were probably over 100 arrangements at the funeral, after the dinner my Aunt was giving all the family several arrangements each. It was at that point I was happy I didn't spend the money.

However a month later it was my Valentines Day, I sent her a box of nice candy and a card saying how much I loved her and my uncle. She called and expressed her thanks since it was a very hard day for her alone and it really made her feel loved. Since then if there is a widow I don't send flowers to the funeral but just a card then give her a birthday or valentine's gift instead.

majellamom said...


donations in lieu of flowers is VERY common here. On funeral cards at the local stores, at the bottom if a family would prefer donations rather than flowers it will say so, and include what organization the donations should go to. Often it is a research organization for a disease if the deceased had that illness, or to a local church if they were lifelong church members, to a fraternal or service organization if they were very involved in that, etc. Sometimes if it is a parent of young children donations will be set up into an account to help the child (to help pay for their education or something like that). I've never heard of donations being asked to pay funeral expenses...however, I do know quite a few people who have given money to a family to help with funeral expenses. When my MIL lost her 3rd child to cancer, an anonymous donor paid for the tombstone.

Anonymous said...

For close family friends, I try to find a photo of the person who has passed. I copy it at a local drug store and provide a copy to the family. I try to choose a unique photo, perhaps one that has a story that the family will later ask about, to remind the family how much the person has meant to so many people. I feel this is also a celebration of life and provides a lasting memory for the family. Please note that I only do this with close family or friends - I think others may find it invasive or difficult.

Anonymous said...

I probably am old enough to be most of your bloggers mother.
This is what I have observed over the years.
So many flowers, too many flowers and at times almost seemed like a waste. Forgive me if I am offending someone.
Years ago I started doing something special for the living one that I was close to.
Sometimes a special book, bake something for them. I always did something in the weeks to come. Immediately after a death people are around and then in a few days the remaining one is alone and the flowers have died. Care is needed then maybe more then ever. These are just my thoughts. Recently my son's dogwalker (he was out of the country) lost her father. I did not know her father and funeral was out of town. I wanted to do something more then a card. So I bought her a gift certificate to a close small eating place that I knew she frequented. She thanked me and said that she had never seen that done before.

Anonymous said...

Larkspur, you're absolutely right. I'm glad you spoke up.

Flowers should never be a substitute for person-to-person acts of kindness, especially in the weeks after a death.

Sometimes, though, for business reasons or simply local custom, flowers are warranted. Perhaps we'll save enough money on our flowers that we can afford to send a special meal or a gift certificate, as you did, after the flowers are gone.

Anonymous said...

This has been such a touching, interesting post. Reading through all these entries brought back some poignant memories for me from when we buried my husband's parents over the course of 3 years. There were several things that touched us very deeply, and none of them cost very much, if anything. One thing that meant the world to us, both times, was that people took the time out of their busy lives to come through the visitation line. There is nothing, to me, that compares with that. The friends and family that my inlaws had accrued over a lifetime was a tremendous testimony to the kind of people they were. People who haven't lost anyone close to them yet don't realize what a precious gift just being at a visitation or funeral can be to a family. And it doesn't cost anything. And like several other posters mentioned, we found the practical gifts very helpful. Prior to the visitation, it is a big custom here in our rural area to take food to one of the homes of the family members so that those coming to see the family, prior to any of the services, can be provided with something to eat. Church dinners after the funeral, with all the food being brought or provided by the ladies of the church and community, are also a way to show sympathy, and it doesn't cost very much. I like the idea, too, of something special being done for the family in the weeks following the funeral. Those weeks are very tiring, "raw", and difficult to get through. Food and meals, gift certificates are wonderful for a time like that. Thank you for an excellent, excellent post, Meredith.

Anonymous said...

I have practiced frugality all my married life but this post was a "pearl of wisdom" - thanks Meridith, for so much information on the topic.

Anonymous said...

My husband's side of the family prefers -- and expects -- expensive, ostentations flowers delivered to the funeral home. At each family funeral I've been to, I couldn't help thinking what a waste of time and money was on display. AFterwards, no one knew what to do with all the flowers.
When an uncle passed away recently, we happened to be visiting my newly widowed aunt when a basket of bagels and similar breakfast goodies was delivered. It was a wonderful idea as she had many visitors and some out of town overnight guests.

Anonymous said...

I realize I'm pretty late responding to this post, but I'll toss in my 2 cents anyway. My mom actually hated flowers all her life, because the smell of flowers always reminded her of a funeral home!

I've come to prefer my husband's family(Jewish) tradition of sending a fruitbasket to the home. That idea can sort of be expanded to include baked cookies, cakes, etc. While I don't hate flowers, I have to agree it seems like somewhat of a waste...