In my career, I’ve officiated close to 200 funerals, memorials, or graveside services. To the best of my recollection, there have been flowers at every single one. Some of the floral displays have been elaborate and others quite simple. Flowers provide a glimpse of beauty in a time of sadness. Flowers can also honor the deceased loved one when favorite blossoms or colors are used in an arrangement. Flowers are used to mark many of our significant life events from birth and marriage to illness and death.
“In lieu of flowers….” is a common phrase used in obituaries to indicate that the family would like monetary donations to be made to a charity instead of flowers being sent to the visiting hours or memorial service. In these cases, the close family often carefully chose a few floral arrangements for the remembrance time, while encouraging more distant family and friends to make a charitable contribution. Out of these carefully selected arrangements, stems are often removed to leave at the graveside while family members bring the rest of the arrangements home or donate them to a local church or convalescent home.
According to an article on, some florists aren’t happy about this trend. A significant portion of florist’s income is in providing flowers for funerals and memorials. “In lieu of flowers…” cuts into local floristst’s business. Some florists suggest that “in lieu of flowers” is used as a kind of shorthand, and doesn’t always mean that the family is opposed to flowers. “In lieu of flowers….” gives friends and family options in how to memorialize the deceased.
As florist, Kimberly Zachardy suggests, “They should change that phrase, to ‘donations can be made,’ … why do you have to mention flowers at all? A funeral without flowers is very sad. I’ve been to one.”
Personally, I’m a fan of “in leui of flowers.” I like the option of giving to a charity that is meaningful to the family and honors the life of the deceased. When a funeral or a memorial is overrun with flowers, it can be hard to appreciate them all and difficult for the family to dispense of them all. However, as a small business owner, I can sympathize with florists who find “in lieu of flowers….” discouraging.
What has been your experience with flowers at a funeral or memorial? Have you requested “in lieu of flowers….” at the death of a loved one? Would you send flowers even if the obituary expressly asked for charitable contributions? What, if anything, do you think flowers add to an end-of-life celebration?