For decades the professional fundraising industry has made an organized, concerted effort to get funeral directors to promote the donations "in lieu of flowers" idea to bereaved families. It was a message funeral directors were happy to spread because, honestly, flowers make their job a little harder.
The overwhelming majority of funeral directors have since realized that funerals need flowers. As one reported in a recent study:
A funeral without flowers is a big step towards no funeral at all.
The research is fascinating, but the message is simple: Flowers are the most important physical element at a funeral, and are necessary to soften the atmosphere and provide visual comfort. When a family sees a floral arrangement, and reads the name of who sent the arrangement, they are deeply touched because the sender thought so much of them to take the time and expense to send flowers.
The family that does get talked into the "in lieu of" model usually realizes the mistake as soon as the visitation or service begins. Without flowers it is simply too cold.
Mourning can be hard for everyone involved. Sending flowers to those who are grieving helps to let them know you are there to support them. Traditional mourning flowers include things like white flowers and yellow roses.
In some cases, you might want to get the favorite flower of the deceased. Your arrangement can be sent to the funeral home, a graveside service, or a memorial service. Or you might want to send them directly to the home of those who are in mourning. Either way, an arrangement lets the bereaved know that you are thinking of them.
A few years ago when my uncle died, my family asked that instead of flowers, donations be made to a local charity that he supported. People were generous, and we were grateful, but one thing we did not realize was how bare the funeral service looked without many flower arrangements.
We had arranged for one casket spray that sat on top of the coffin, but because there was only one other arrangement, the church looked kind of cold and bare. It seemed like less of a celebration of his life, in a way.
Now, when I see a request for a donation instead of flowers, if I know the bereaved well I send a bouquet and a donation. I’ve never had a family upset that we gave flowers and it really is a comfort to see them at the funeral and the graveside.