Funeral and Sympathy Flowers – The Complete Guide

Posted by: Erin Ward in Funeral Advice | July 12, 2021

Originally published by Colonial Funeral Home.

Nowadays, it is almost impossible to go to a funeral service without seeing flowers displayed. Flowers have long been a part of funeral services. In fact, according to some, funeral flowers date back over 62,000 years. Even if you are unable to attend the service, many people choose to send flowers to express their condolences and be a part of the day nonetheless.

To help you understand funeral flowers and everything you need to know about them, we’ve have created this helpful guide to assist you.

Sympathy Flowers vs. Funeral Flowers


One of the most common questions we are often asked is what is the difference between funeral flowers and sympathy flowers? Many people are under the assumption that if you send flowers, you are offering your sympathy so every flower is a sympathy flower. While this is partly true, the real distinction comes down to the size, arrangement, and where they are sent.

Sympathy Flowers


Sympathy flowers are often smaller bouquets that are sent to the home of the bereaved instead of the funeral home. The flowers are meant to express your sympathy and let the grieving family know you are thinking of them during this difficult time. Timing is also another important factor to consider. Funeral flowers must be sent as soon as possible so that the funeral home staff has time to arrange them prior to the service. Sympathy flowers can be sent at any time including months after the service has taken place.  

Funeral Flowers


Funeral flowers are often selected by family members or close friends of the family. Those who were close to the deceased are often responsible for selecting these flowers as they know the deceased’s tastes and what kinds of flowers and colors they would want to be included. The arrangements are often larger displays that can be viewed by anyone attending service, no matter where they are seated. Some of the common types of funeral flowers include wreath and sprays used to decorate the casket or large arrangements shaped like a heart or cross.


What Different Flowers Mean

Many people are often unsure what different types of flowers mean and how they will be perceived by the grieving family. Because of this, it quite common to tell the florist to simply arrange something that looks nice. Rather than doing that though, take the time to learn the meanings behind different flowers. Below are eight of the most common flowers sent to a funeral and what they represent.

  • Lilies – Majesty
  • Peace Lilies – Peace
  • Roses – Love, Respect, Courage
  • Orchid – I Will Always Love You
  • Chrysanthemums (Mums) – I Love You
  • Carnations – Fascination/Love
  • Hyacinth – You Are In My Prayers
  • Hydrangea – Heartfelt Emotions

Different Type of Arrangements


Much like flowers each have their own meanings, it is important to understand the function of different types of arrangements. Below are some of the most common funeral flower arrangements and how they are viewed.


Sprays are arrangements that are only viewed from one side. They are often created into shapes like a heart or a cross.

Casket Sprays

Casket sprays are often selected by the immediate family of the deceased. They are a large arrangement that is used to decorate the casket and is placed on top of it.


Wreaths are circular floral arrangements. Many people believe that they represent eternal life. Inside Pieces Inside pieces are smaller arrangements that are placed within the casket alongside the deceased. They are typically small floral sprays.


Bouquets are the most common type of floral arrangement. They are a group of flowers that are often displayed in a vase or basket.

Religious Views on Funeral Flowers


While you may want to send flowers to express your sympathy, they are not always appropriate. Certain religions do not like to include flowers as a part of the service. Instead, it has become customary for the family request that in lieu of sending flowers, you make a donation in the deceased’s name to a charity or organization they believed in.

Although they are not forbidden, traditional Jewish funerals often take place within three days of death so it is not customary to send them to the service.

The Islamic faith does not refuse flowers, instead, the traditional custom is to place individual flowers on the grave.

At a Buddhist funeral, red flowers are not acceptable but white or yellow ones are allowed. 

If you are unsure of whether flowers should be sent, feel free to call the funeral home and ask. The funeral director who is arranging the service should be able to provide you with more information about the service and whether the family would like to accept flowers and have them included.



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