Attending Funerals and Services

Etiquette and Advice from the Emily Post Institute
Sympathy Etiquette
Flowers and Funerals Q&A


Q.  My co-worker's obituary states that the family has requested donations in lieu of flowers. I know his mother is particularly fond of lilies. Would it be wrong for me to send her a bouquet of lilies with a condolence note?

A. Flowers are a beautiful symbol of sympathy. If you do choose to send flowers, and the family has indicated that they would like gifts to go to a charity, it's best to send flowers as an additional gift. If you want to do something now, send a donation as suggested by the family. Your personal condolence note would be especially kind, too. Since you know that his mother likes lilies, you might want to wait a bit - until the activity immediately following your co-worker's death settles down - and then send her the lilies. It would surely be a meaningful and caring gesture.
Q. My college roommate?s wife just died. I want to send flowers to the funeral home. What type of flower is appropriate?

A. With their beauty, color and scent, flowers serve as graceful tribute to the deceased. While roses, lilies, carnations and other traditional choices have never gone out of style, arrangements that are more personalized and dramatic are increasingly common. Here are some examples of what you could send:
  • Floral baskets and living plants: Virtually any type of plant is suitable and can be chosen to reflect the personality of the deceased. Flowers can be sent to the bereaved individual?s home or to the funeral home.
  • Floral wreaths, crosses and sprays: These more elaborate displays are often sent by a group. They are also a good choice for companies or associations that want to honor the deceased.
  • Casket arrangements: These are traditionally supplied by family members. Lid sprays, often of roses or calla lilies, cover the unopened section of the casket at an open-coffin funeral and the entire casket once it is closed.
Q. My co-worker?s partner died one year ago. Is it appropriate for me to send him flowers on the anniversary of her death?

A. It?s never wrong to show that you care about someone who has suffered a loss, but each person grieves differently. Let the person?s state of mind and personality be your guide, judging whether a condolence would be a comfort or only serve as a sad reminder. In most cases, a card or handwritten note along with an arrangement of flowers is a very welcome gesture. You can also consider making a home-cooked meal and offering to spend time together.


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Emily Post Institute
The Emily Post Institute, created by Emily in 1946 and run today by third generation family members, serves as a "civility barometer" for American society and continues Emily's work. That work has grown to address the societal concerns of the 21st century including business etiquette, raising polite children and civility in America.
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