The tradition of paying respects with flowers
aking or sending flowers to a funeral is a far from new tradition; there is archaeological evidence to suggest that wild flowers were placed on graves over 60,000 years ago.
Flowers at a funeral or memorial are a way of expressing feelings when words are not enough. Bereaved friends and family understand and appreciate what is meant, especially when it is clear that a little extra thought has gone into choosing an arrangement appropriate to the dead person’s character or lifestyle.
Even if the funeral announcement states that charity donations are preferable to flowers, a simple gift of flowers will not go unvalued.
White flowers are said to symbolize purity and innocence, and white lilies are regarded as traditional funeral flowers, but most varieties and colours are now seen as acceptable.
Flowers can be arranged in many styles. Crosses or wreaths are traditional, but there are other options too. For instance, a military badge design might be created for someone connected with the armed forces, a football shirt in team colours for a keen fan, or a rustic display for someone who loved the outdoors.
More conventionally, a decorative basket or container makes an attractive display.
A spray of flowers can be mounted on a stand. Or, as an alternative to cut flowers, a plant can be a lasting memento, and can be taken or delivered to the family home rather than displayed at the funeral.
Flowers are sometimes subject to the custom and habits of the deceased person and bereaved family, especially if the funeral ceremony has a religious element.
Believers in all forms of Christianity are usually happy to accept funeral flowers, though some nonconformist denominations might prefer the arrangement to be simple.
The Eastern Orthodox tradition attaches particular meaning to white funeral flowers. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints prefer flowers to be sent at the time of mourning, and might find an arrangement in the shape of a cross offensive.
Flowers do not form part of the Jewish Orthodox funeral tradition; more appropriate would be a gift basket or fruit sent during the mourning period.
Opinions vary among Muslim or Islamic cultures; it is best to consult someone close to the family in advance, if this is possible.
At Buddhist and Hindu funerals, flowers are usually welcomed and the thought behind them appreciated. Flowers are traditionally regarded as an integral part of a funeral or memorial, but in a multi-cultural society it is important to find out beforehand what is acceptable.