Funeral flowers versus charitable donations

22 July 2015

The classic donation for funerals has always been flowers. The tradition dates back to the very first funerals/burials and possibly even as far back as Neanderthal times.

Headstones and flowers

These days it is much more common for charitable donations to be asked for. The popularity of donations has been steadily on the rise since the start of the century. In 1927 only 6% of obituaries included a request for donations, today this figure is likely nearer the 90% mark.

If an obituary states ‘in lieu of flowers, please send donations to’ then arrange for a donation to the selected charity(s) via the funeral director. Often obituaries state ‘family flowers only’ and include a request for charitable donations to limit the volume of flowers and ensure that a charity benefits.

If you struggle to pick flowers or know what will be appropriate then think of the deceased. What were their favourite colours? What was their personality like? Think accordingly when deciding on an arrangement. If they were bright and bubbly, think bright colours and a classic arrangement such as wreath or small spray arrangement. Big spray arrangements will usually sit atop the coffin and will be decided by the family. They may also decide on a specialist arrangement, such as flowers that spell out words like the person’s name or relation, e.g. Mum.

If you do decide to purchase flowers for the memorial, ensure you have the name and address of the funeral director or the bereaved, wherever the event will be taking place. Also ensure that you have the time and date of the funeral so that the florist can deliver the arrangement on time. Ensure you order early for more complex designs and arrangements.

If you choose to donate to charity on behalf of the deceased and in lieu of flowers then make sure that you do this in a timely manner so that the family can send thank you notes to those who have donated. If the family have specified a charity then donate to them, it is in poor taste to pick your own charity. However if there is not a specified charity then it is a nice idea to choose one that will mean something to the family of the deceased.

It is usually appropriate to donate what you would have spent on flowers plus a little more. Make sure you remember to include a note with the donation which links it to the memorial, such as ‘in memoriam of’ and their name. Donations should be made via the funeral director.

Whatever you decide to send or donate, just remember that the family will be most grateful for the support. The loss of a loved one can be very difficult and donations and floral tributes cement how much the person was loved and how much they’ll be missed.