Celebrations or commiserations, happy times or sad, flowers do a wonderful job of saying what we sometimes can’t find the words for. They are a symbol of hope and love; in the words of French artist Henri Matisse, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”
Throughout history flowers have been used to celebrate and mourn our loved ones. We wear a beautiful red poppy to remember those who have given their lives in battle, while the pretty blue forget-me-not flower is long-associated with dementia.
Of course, floral arrangements have always been part of funerals. Years ago they had more practical uses, mainly to cover the smell of decaying bodies. It is believed one of the first known uses of funeral flowers was in the Shanidar caves in Iraq. Here, skeletons were found covered in deposits of wildflowers, including hollyhock, thistle, cornflower and grape hyacinth.
Today, flowers are a token of the love and respect for the person who has passed away, and a comfort for the family left behind.
Choosing funeral flowers
The flowers you choose for a loved one’s funeral might have a personal meaning – perhaps they always had a vase of tulips on their windowsill, or you remember the scent of roses in their garden.
If you don’t have a personal association, or if the floral tribute is for someone outside of your close family, you might want to choose flowers based on their symbolism. For example:
- Lilies: a traditional funeral flower that is thought to represent the soul of the deceased returning to a peaceful state of innocence.
- Roses: popular flowers for funerals that come in a variety of colours, but red roses are typically chosen by the spouse or partner to signify their love.
- Gladioli: a traditional funeral flower that makes wonderful standing fan sprays
- Carnations: fragrant and long-lasting, pink carnations are often chosen to symbolise the enduring love of a mother or grandmother
- Chrysanthemums: yellow flowers can represent hope and happy thoughts.
Personalising your funeral flowers
The Co-op recently carried out a survey to find the most popular flower types chosen for a funeral. The report showed that roses were the top choice, followed by lilies, carnations, sunflowers and daffodils. They also found out that a quarter of Britons would like a personalised floral tribute at their funeral.
This could reflect their favourite hobby, sports team, a much-loved pet or something else entirely! In fact, florists up and down the country have had a number of out-of-the-ordinary requests over the years, from a dartboard to a vegetable patch, and handbag to a packet of Werther’s Originals!
Sending flowers to family and friends
It’s not uncommon for people to only request family flowers at a funeral, so before you send any on the day itself, make sure to check the funeral announcement carefully. Charity donations in lieu of flowers is fairly common, but remember you can always send a floral gift to their home before or after the funeral if you would like to.
You could send a bouquet or wrap of cut flowers, but bear in mind that some homes can get overwhelmed with flowers in the first few weeks. An alternative idea is a potted plant or planted basket.
A potted hydrangea looks beautiful and can be moved outside and planted up in the garden too. Orchids are stunning and always give a lift to any indoor space. With a little TLC, plenty of potted plants can keep bringing joy to the recipient for years to come.
Alternatives to flowers
Plant a tree or shrub: You could plant a tree or shrub in memory of the deceased and as a long-lasting tribute to them. A rose that can be planted outside is also a nice thought. You could send this directly to the bereaved, or plant it on their behalf.
Seed cards: These have become quite popular as wedding favours but are an equally nice idea for a funeral. Send a packet of wildflower seeds with your condolence card for the recipient to plant in the weeks or months ahead. When they look out onto the wild flower display they’ll always have a memory of their loved one and feeling of support.
Send a photo: This is a good way to share a special memory too. Send a photo you have of the deceased along with a story about it. If you don’t know what to say to someone, or what to write in the card, then this can really help get your feelings and emotions out.
Gift of time: Whether it’s over the phone, on Zoom or in person, taking the time to talk to those grieving will mean so much to them. You don’t have to send anything physical for them to know you’re thinking of them. You could also offer to go shopping or run any other errands.
Food basket: Food can be of great comfort, especially a home-cooked meal delivered to someone’s home or a thoughtful basket of goodies that they can dip in and out of when they fancy. It’s often the last thing on people’s minds when they are experiencing loss, so having someone take care of the odd meal for you is a great help.
We’re here to help with any questions or requests you have about floral tributes so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.