Sympathy Flowers Etiquette

When someone passes away there are often no words to convey our feelings of sympathy and sorrow or the empathy we feel for our friend or relative who has lost someone close to them.

To give flowers to someone in their hour of grief is a thoughtful and caring act and the recipient will take great comfort from this gesture. Flowers serve as a beacon of hope and say everything we need to and more – but there is etiquette involved.

To avoid a flower faux pas, here’s what you need to know when sending or giving sympathy flowers:

Sympathy versus funeral

First of all, there is a difference between sympathy flowers and funeral flowers. Not a lot of people know this but sympathy flowers tend to be in light shades and quite simple in shape and design, whereas funeral flowers are more bold and dramatic with the purpose being to remember the person and celebrate their life.

It is thoughtful to send sympathy flowers either to the grieving family so they can display them at the wake next to the coffin or to the funeral home where they will also make a welcome addition. It’s also considerate to send the relative a bouquet some time after the funeral, especially if they are a close friend of yours. It lets them know you still care and are there for them as they come to terms with life without the person who has died.

Keep in mind though that you should never send yellow roses to anyone in mourning as it is associated with feelings of joy and happiness which are not the sentiments you want to express at this time.

Religious etiquette

With most religions, flowers are generally considered to have a presence at the funeral of one of its parishioners; we send them to the family, they adorn the coffins and we place them on the grave as a mark of respect. However, with some religions, it’s not deemed appropriate to send a floral token.

Some members of the Jewish faith, for example, believe the lives of flowers should not be cut short and so sending a bouquet to a funeral service or to the home of the deceased family would not be the ‘norm’.

If the deceased is Greek Orthodox, all flowers are welcome and white blooms are particularly favoured. Both Catholic and Protestant religions welcome all types of bouquets and arrangements, while Muslim bouquets should be kept plain and simple.

Whatever the religion of the deceased or their family, it is always wise to ask whether flowers would be appropriate for them at this time as some might prefer a donation to be made to charity in lieu of flowers.

Family members

Arrangements sent by family members such as mothers, fathers, children, brothers and sisters will take priority and will be placed closest to the body, coffin or grave.

Other members of the family such as aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and even close friends can also send flowers and most opt for a traditional standing spray (which can only be seen from one side).

Other more generic arrangements are great options for the wider family circle and friends because they can be brought back with the family and used to brighten up the home.

Sweet sentiments

Any bouquet will be well received and your sympathy gesture will have been made, but what about making a lasting impression with a planter which will serve as a lasting memory sent in honour of the deceased?

While good florists can advise you on appropriate bouquets to send in sympathy, it’s also a nice idea to add in some of your own choices to make it more bespoke and personal. It doesn’t always have to be a standalone bouquet either, so why don’t you accompany your floral tribute with a hamper or another thoughtful gift designed to help a loved one through their difficult time?

The card

This should always be hand-written and should convey the feelings you want to express. In some cases, it’s wise to put your full name and a contact number in case the family wish to thank you – especially if they are not close friends of yours or you have lost contact over the years. This is also particularly important if the bouquet is from a group of people, perhaps work colleagues.

The passing of a child

The death of a little one is particularly heart-wrenching and you cannot begin to imagine what the family is going through at this time. Of course, you will still want to send flowers but there are certain differences you can make when it comes to the passing of a child or baby.

Flowers are usually smaller in size, befitting the stature of the child. Colour-wise, families may want bright colours or pastel shades used and you can always accompany arrangements with a teddy bear or something else representing the child’s favourite toy or movie.

Flowers like wreaths, standing sprays and flowers in disposable containers are intended for funeral home display and not for use in a person’s home, so keep this in mind when making your selection. It is never too late to send flowers either – perhaps you have just heard the news or maybe you want to let the family know you are still thinking about them months after the funeral has passed?

Ultimately, flowers are a reminder that life goes on, which is why they are so perfect and poignant when sent to someone in mourning. The flowers may die but their beauty lives on and in the spring new ones will grow in its place.


Lily Calyx is our in-house flower whisperer, an expert on all things botanical and an enthusiastic orchids collector. She loves discussing the insights of the secret world of flowers, shares her gardening tips and hacks and moons over the latest additions to Serenata Flowers flower range. Ask Lily anything about flowers and we can guarantee she will have the answer.


  1. Really useful info from always learning floristry student. Thank you

  2. ‘The flowers may die but their beauty lives on and in the spring new ones will grow in its place.’

    Love this. The natural beauty of flowers always provide an uplift to the soul, even if just momentarily, no matter the occasion

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