Sympathy Flowers for a Funeral

White lilies are always appropriate for a funeral.

White lilies are always appropriate for a funeral.

Sympathy flowers play an important role in a funeral. They are part of the ritual that helps the grieving family make it through the ordeal. Just as the eulogy, casket, urn and music set the tone for the occasion, flowers are an integral part of the process. Sending flowers to a wake or funeral is an act of service you perform out of respect for the deceased and sympathy for the living.


Flowers were originally used at funerals to control the odor that permeated the area around a corpse. The scents made the wake and subsequent funeral service bearable for the attendees. In 1874, at the funeral for President Andrew Jackson, the odor was so strong that the funeral director heaped piles of flower sprays on top of the closed casket to mask the smell. In the early 1900s, the Protestant movement in the United States furthered the use of flowers in funerals through the words of the popular funeral song “In The Garden," and services were actually held in garden-like rooms to adhere to the song’s spiritual message of closeness with God.


Flowers are no longer needed to mask the smell of death, and most services are held in churches rather than elaborate gardens, yet flowers continue to serve as a visual expression of the words that are often difficult to express. In addition to sending sympathy flowers to display during the wake and funeral services, sending flowers to the home of the bereaved as an expression of love and sympathy following a death is also customary.


Flowers create a warm and soothing environment. They have become an integral part of the traditions that help make the grieving process more bearable. The bereaved remember a funeral blessed with beautiful sympathy flowers, knowing that others cared about their loved one too. Flowers, while beautiful and life-affirming, are symbolic of the fleeting nature of life and may help the bereaved find acceptance in the inevitable circle of life and death.


You have a wide range of alternatives when choosing sympathy flowers for a funeral. Popular florists such as ProFlowers organize selections of bouquets and plants to provide a guide to the various options. Wreaths, for example, are welcome alternatives because they represent the circle of life. Often sent on a stand, sympathy wreaths are useful to decorate the chapel because they are easily placed to accommodate any space requirements. Casket sprays, on the other hand, are usually ordered by the family since there is only room for one. White lilies are the most common flowering plant you’ll see at funerals. The white flowers represent peace and are even known by names such as peace lily and sympathy lily.

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