Funeral Traditions

Funeral and Sympathy Flowers 101

July 18th, 2013

Although both funeral flowers and sympathy flowers are sent for the same reasons – respect, condolences, and comfort during times of grief, there are important differences between the two. Determining what is appropriate comes from consideration of the bereaved and your relationship with the deceased. Understanding the significance and various uses of flowers will help you work with your florist to send just the right message.

What’s the Difference?

Funeral flowers refer to tributes and memorials meant to honor the deceased and are sent directly to the funeral home. These flowers are larger with a more dramatic appearance as typically seen in standing sprays and casket covers. Majestic arrangements with striking features provide beauty and are an important focal point during the visitation and ceremony. Depending on the funeral home and the family’s wishes, these flowers are often transferred to the grave site after the service. Though the family commonly selects the flowers that are arranged directly on the casket, other tributes can come from family and friends to show their respects. These types of arrangements are associated with death and the funeral ceremony and should never be sent to the home out of respect for the feelings of those who have lost their loved ones.

Sympathy flowers are intended for the family of the loved one as a sign of hope, support, and friendship and are often delivered to the home or funeral home. These gifts can vary greatly from large houseplants intended for long-lasting stewardship to compact and delicate arrangements that grace coffee and end tables.

By making the distinction between funeral and sympathy flowers
when communicating with your local florist, he or she can get a better idea of what type of arrangement best suits the situation.

Types of Funeral and Sympathy Flower Arrangements

Casket Cover or Spray

Casket covers, also called casket sprays, are designed to rest on the lid of the casket. Because family members make the decision about open or closed casket, they should also make the decision about these arrangements .

Full-couch covers extend the entire length of the closed casket or are affixed to the lid of an open casket. Half-couch sprays or foot sprays extend only over half of the casket. Flower garlands can also drape the casket.

Interior Casket Flowers

Flowers that are designed to go directly in the casket should also be determined by the close family due to the proximity to the deceased. These casket inserts are often sent by younger members of the family such the children or grandchildren. There are many options including flower rosaries, nosegays, corner clusters, satin pillows or crosses, hinge sprays, and sheaves.

Cremation Flowers

When an urn is present at a funeral ceremony, it can be displayed on a pedestal or table. Flowers that accompany the urn help make it a focal point in the room. They can be large or small arrangements that set beside the urn or a florist can create a piece that surrounds it. Like casket flowers, cremation flowers should be selected by the close family.


Standing Spray or Easel

A floral tribute that is designed to stand 1 to 3 feet off the ground with a wooden or metal stand are called stranding sprays or easels. Typically meant to be viewed only from the front, they are displayed around the casket or urn to create a backdrop.There are many different designs available, including symbolic shapes like crosses and hearts. These arrangements can be sent by people who knew the departed or as a service tribute.


Wreaths are traditional funeral tributes that symbolize eternal life. They are placed on stands or hung near the casket or urn display and can be sent by anyone who knew the deceased. Often the choice of individuals and groups wanting to honor the departed for their lifetime of service.



Floral Baskets

These arrangement are available in a vast array of sizes and shapes. Fireside baskets, which usually have a handle are designed to rest on the floor in front of the casket or standing sprays. Smaller baskets can be placed on tables or ledges. This selection is appropriate to send directly to the funeral home or to a family member’s house.


Table or Vase Arrangements

Much like floral baskets, these arrangements are acceptable for both funeral home and home delivery. They tend to be smaller and sometimes are very personalized by utilizing designs and colors that reflect the decease’s interests.



Intended as a gift to the family as a sign of friendship and support, houseplants of all types can be sent to the home or to the funeral home for display. Sometimes fresh-cut flowers are added for the occasion or colored bows or ribbons included.

Practical Considerations

Funeral services are sometimes spread out over multiple days. One thing to consider when shopping for an arrangement is when the flowers will be delivered and how long they will be on display. Standing sprays, wreaths or funeral crosses often contain flowers that do not have direct access to water and can dry out if no one is available to tend them. These options are not a problem if the service is only one or two days. But if the viewing and ceremony are more spread out, opt for bouquets in a basket or container with floral foam so flowers will stay hydrated without much maintenance.

At times, families will request that donations be made in lieu of flowers. This is a request that should be honored. If you had a close relationship to the deceased and feel strongly about sending a floral tribute, considering sending both a donation and flowers as your budget allows. Your bereavement is valid and you should acknowledge it how you see fit. But respect for the families wishes should be foremost. If you decide to send flowers, be sure to include on the condolence card that a donation has been made in honor of the departed.

The Meaning of Flowers

Throughout history and in almost every culture, flowers have been considered expressions of respect and grief for the dead. Beauty and symbolic meaning brought by nature’s art come together to serve as a tokens of sympathy. Any arrangement you choose to send can be created tastefully and hold great meaning. You can read more about the meaning of specific funeral and sympathy flowers here.

When a death occurs, there is often a loss of words. By working with a skilled florist, you can send flowers that celebrate life and convey your feelings. Flowers can help state what is too difficult and painful to relay: our lives are deeply touched by those we love and their absence changes us forever.

What Should I Send to a Funeral?

July 6th, 2012

Funeral flowers are a beautiful way to show sympathy.

When it comes to expressing your sympathy to someone who has recently lost a loved one, you want to be sincere and, most importantly, let the individual know you care. The expression of condolences becomes tricky in a country famous for its cultural and religious diversity. Don’t let yourself become flustered when all it takes is a little familiarity with funeral etiquette to overcome such unneeded stress.  To help you out, FSN Funeral Homes has composed this  guide to maneuvering funeral gift etiquette, giving you one less thing to worry about.

Your Relationship with the Deceased

Your relationship with the deceased is a crucial aspect to consider when determining what to send to a funeral.  If you were not close to the deceased, it is appropriate to send the gift directly to the friend or family member you are closest to.  If you were close to the deceased but not to the family, include a card with whatever you send explaining your relationship to the deceased and explaining how important they were to you.  Whether or not they recognize you, they will appreciate knowing that someone else cared for their loved one.

When do You Send Your Condolences?

Depending on the placement and type of funeral service, it may be difficult to determine when to send a gift.  Typically, flower arrangements should be sent prior to the visitation for a traditional funeral service, but funeral directors should accept them for some time later than that.  Contact the funeral director to find out when would be the best time to send funeral flowers. If you find out about the services late, it is appropriate to send flowers to the grave or family’s home. If you wish to send something upon receiving the news, flowers are a good option, but a note or phone call may be more appropriate until closer to the funeral services. After some time passes, many will have moved on in their mourning, but those closest to the deceased may still be grieving.  Sending a sunny bouquet of flowers after the funeral will let them know they are not forgotten in their grief.

The Recipient

Everyone is unique so the gift for a deceased’s mother will not be the same for a child affected by the death.  Keep this in mind when deciding what to send.  A young child will not understand the thought behind traditional flowers, but if you add a stuffed animal to cheer them up or a keepsake which they can appreciate later, the gift will be more appropriate.  You can also tailor any flower arrangements you send to fit the personality of the recipient.  Work with your local florist to make sure he or she incorporates the recipient’s favorite flowers or colors and that the size of the arrangement is appropriate for its destination.  Also, depending on the recipient’s intimacy with the deceased, a more personal gift may be more appropriate.  For instance, a locket with the deceased’s picture or a simple memorial frame may be the perfect keepsake to console the individual.

The Deceased

The deceased should also be considered when deciding what to send to a funeral.  If the deceased would have preferred donations made to his or her favorite charity, then by all means follow their wishes.  At the same time, remember the deceased would also appreciate that their loved ones be comforted at this time, so flowers or a memorial gift would be a great way to extend this sentiment in the deceased’s honor.

Read more about what to send to a funeral

Military Funeral Honors and Customs

August 18th, 2011

United States Veterans are given honorable, military funerals to commemorate the time they spent while serving our country. Family and friends are comforted in the traditions and respectful services created in honor of their loved one. Serving our country in the military is incredibly honorable. So, with respect to the fallen soldiers who have made this sacrifice, we salute them with tradition, respect and honor in the way of Military Honors.

Military funerals can take place at private cemeteries and national cemeteries dedicated to fallen soldiers across the country. There are 128 national cemeteries and 33 soldier’s lots through out our nation alone. Religious traditions are often tied into the service to honor both the deceased’s religion and military duty.

Draping the Casket with the National Flag

The tradition of draping the American Flag over the casket of a fallen soldier began during the Napoleonic War between 1796 and 1815. The deceased were carried off the battlefield covered in flags to honor their sacrifice. This practice continues to this day, but instead of several small flags, a large American Flag is draped over the top of the casket.

A United States flag is provided, at no cost, to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased Veteran who served honorably in the U. S. Armed Forces.

Continue reading “Military Funeral Honors and Customs” »

Flower Customs for Asian Funerals

July 30th, 2011

White OrchidsSending flowers to a funeral or to a family in grief is always appropriate and appreciated. Different religions and cultures have their own traditions passed down from generation to generation; it is important to respect and honor these traditions when sending flowers for a funeral. You want to make sure that the flowers you send convey the right message.

Significance of Flowers for Asian Funerals

In Asian culture, the color and type of flower is very significant. Each flower and color symbolizes something special.

White, light yellow, light pink and other pale colors are the most commonly used colors for an Asian funeral. These flowers give hope to those who grieve.

In Asian cultures, white is the color that represents death and is very appropriate for funerals.

REMEMBER: Red is strictly forbidden for funerals. It is the color of happiness and celebration, making a mockery of those who are grieving.

The most commonly used flowers for an Asian funeral are: Continue reading “Flower Customs for Asian Funerals” »

Catholic Views on Cremation

July 22nd, 2011

Burying the dead goes back to the early Christian times. The early Catholic Church openly forbid cremation for centuries because of the belief that the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Cremation was seen as a pagan practice that denied the doctrine and faith in resurrection. Early Catholicism viewed burial as a symbol of  hope for resurrection, as well as a continuance of early Christian traditions.

Only in the last 50 years has Catholicism accepted cremation as a means of final disposition. In 1963 the Vatican lifted the ban on cremation for Catholics. Cremation then became a practice allowed under certain  circumstances, providing that the reasons did not counter Christian beliefs.

The Church once used very strict rules for funeral services and sacraments in the event of cremation. The Church did not allow cremated remains (also known as cremains) to be present in the church during the celebration of mass or any prayer vigil. The body had to be present for all services before cremation.

The Order of Catholic Funerals was three separate, and ideally, sequential rites to celebrate the end of one’s life in the flesh, and the beginning of a new one in spirit:

  • Prayer Vigil – a short prayer service that takes place during the time immediately following death.
  • Mass – a celebration in the funeral liturgy.
  • Rite of Committal – another short prayer service held at the cemetery or place of internment.

The ideal sequence of the three is: the vigil, funeral mass and then the rite of committal.

In 1997, the Vatican granted permission for cremated remains to be present for mass and  rite of committal, making Catholic cremation more openly available to families in need. The Church still recommends traditional burial. However, Catholic cremation has quickly gained popularity, and is seemingly necessary for many Catholic families. The reasons for cremation differ, but cost is by far the most common.

Keeping with The Church’s traditions of the sacredness of human life, there are still strict rules on the sanctity of human ashes:

  • The cremated human remains (cremains) shouldn’t be scattered, divided among family or kept at a home.
  • Cremains should be treated with respect, and laid to rest in a cemetery, either in a grave or mausoleum.

According to the Cremation Association of North America cremation rates in the United States have risen from 5% (from nearly 20 years ago) to 39-45% as of 2008. It is estimated that Catholic cremation has risen to approximately 15-20% in the last ten years.

Special Thank you to Shehan365 For the beautiful picture via Flickr.

Hispanic Funeral Traditions

July 20th, 2011

The funeral traditions of the Spanish-speaking cultures are similar, but have many differences and variations from each other. For the purpose of this article, we are generalizing the similarities of customs rooted in Hispanic cultures to give you a brief description of what to expect at a Hispanic Funeral.

Hispanic Funeral Traditions Are Primarily Catholic

Because of the how deeply-rooted Catholicism is in Hispanic heritages, even non-Catholics include Catholic traditions in their funerals.

The Hispanic culture accepts death as part of life. It is the end of the life in the flesh, and a beginning of the life in spirit. Catholic Hispanics celebrate one’s death, because the soul is going “home” once the body has died. The funeral process doesn’t begin after death, but before one passes.

  • Whenever the situation allows, the funeral process begins on the death-bed. A priest will give the dying person their Last Rites, which consist of confession (if possible), communion and pastoral blessing.
  • A family member will stay with the body of the deceased until the preparations begin for the funeral services.
  • A traditional Hispanic Funeral will consist of 3-4 days of services and vigils to honor and pray for the departed soul.
  • A Catholic Priest will lead the services for the funeral. Starting with the wake.

Continue reading “Hispanic Funeral Traditions” »

Traditional Asian Funeral Etiquette

July 16th, 2011

Asian Funeral with Alter

Funeral customs vary greatly in the Asian culture.  The following article refers mostly to traditional Chinese funeral customs.  

If you are attending an Asian Funeral, there are a few rules of etiquette that are very important to follow. The burial process of someone who has passed is taken very seriously in Chinese society. Asian culture teaches that someone who is buried without the proper funeral customs will bring bad luck and disaster to the family. Cremation among traditional Asians is very rare.

Asian culture uses beauty and respect throughout their funeral services. Every detail is covered and has special meaning behind it. The traditions they use have been passed from generation to generation to make the end-of-life transition more beautiful.

What To Expect When Attending An Asian Funeral

The funeral process and rites are based on how traditional the family is, as well as age, social status, and marital status.

Tradition teaches that an elder is not to show respect to someone who is younger. So, if the funeral is for a younger person, their body cannot be brought home (as is custom for an older person). This also goes for an infant or child. The services will be held at the funeral parlor, in a way similar to western funerals.  Since no respect can be shown, there are no vigils, prayers or offerings made, the service and burial will be made in silence.

Wake or Viewing at An Asian Funeral

Traditional Asian funerals will be held at the home of the deceased. If the death occurred inside the home, the casket and service will be held inside. If the death occurred outside of the home, the casket and service will be in a courtyard near the home. Wreaths, flowers and a picture of the deceased will sit on top of the coffin.

Traditional funerals last for 49 days, with the first 7 being the most important. However, if the family doesn’t have the financial means, the funeral will last 3-5 days with the first day being the most significant.
Continue reading “Traditional Asian Funeral Etiquette” »

Why Funeral Flowers Are Still Important Today

May 21st, 2011

Standing Spray Funeral FlowersFrom birthdays to Valentine’s Day, weddings and funerals — flowers are a way to commemorate life’s most significant celebrations and events. Because flowers are essential to almost all family occasions, funeral flowers continue to hold great importance to most funeral traditions and services today.

Words are sometimes hard to find when a friend or loved one passes. Often, flowers better express the sympathy we feel for the family and our lost friend. The love and respect you feel toward the deceased and their loved ones is immediately conveyed by sending flowers. They are a means of communicating one’s love and support for the family, and a sign they are not alone in their burden of grief.

Today, flowers are not just sent to the funeral service, it is also becoming popular to send flowers to the home of the bereaved after the service.  This simple gesture of support can mean a lot to a family that is in the process of grieving the loss of a loved one.  As mentioned before, flowers can sometimes express what words cannot.  Sending flowers to the funeral home where the service will be held is still the most popular way to express sentiment.

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How Flowers and Funerals Got Together

February 24th, 2011

The idea of funeral flowers has had both a practical and a symbolic use for many years.  In the beginning, using flowers and spices were used at a funeral or burial-place as a pleasant way to mask orders. Today, we use funeral flowers as loving tributes to our lost friends.

The History of Flowers & Funerals

Send Funeral Flowers From A Real Local Florist With Flower Shop NetworkIt wasn’t until the 18oo’s that the practice of embalming became a popular practice.  Conservation practices have been done in many cultures for thousands of years, but it is not until the Civil War that embalming become common in the United States. President Lincoln actually became interested in the idea so that Union soldiers could be returned to their loved ones for proper burial.  After the Civil War however, embalming fell out of use, and once again funeral flowers became popular.

In 1914 C. Austin Miles wrote the famous funeral hymn, “In the Garden” which referenced the afterlife being like a garden stroll. This eventually lead funeral homes to develop indoor gardens as the backdrop of the funeral.

Flowers at funerals are also used when it is difficult to know what to say.  People are often at a loss for words in times of grief. Even when the passing is expected, it is sometimes hard to know what to say.

Why Sending Funeral Flowers Is So Important

  • Sending flowers is a wonderful way to express one’s sympathy and compassion for the family, and show respect for the deceased.
  • Funeral flowers often are meant to show one’s  love, and support for the family.
  • Personalized funeral flowers can often spark happy memories of those close to the departed.
  • Flowers also have a symbolic use in that they can create a warm and comforting feeling during the funeral.
  • Flowers can be a great comfort to those close to the deceased and create a special memory for loved ones to recall long after the funeral.

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