Funeral card etiquette - money in card?

I don’t go to many funerals outside of my own family, so I’m asking for help on this one. My husband and I will be going to a visitation tonight to pay our respects to a long-time friend of the family. I’ll be bringing a sympathy card, of course, but my question is about putting money in the card. Is this customary, or is it okay for us just to give our sympathy to the family and give them a card? If we should include money in the card, how much? I guess part of me doesn’t understand the point of giving the family money. Is it just to help out with the funeral expenses, etc? Help me understand! Thanks.

Well, theoretically you give flowers in some sort of suitble funerary display, that are delivered to the funeral home or the persons house. Some people give berevement gift baskets. Many people in the announcement say no flowers, please donate to some charity that the person was favored of [or died from, like diabetes, heart disease, whatever=)]

Money itself is sort of not really done, per se…it isn’t a birthday or wedding…

Did the notice say no flowers? Did it say to make a donation in the name of X to Y charity? If not, you might consider getting a small suitable arrangement from a florist delivered, or even call and ask if the dead person had a favorite charity=)

I don’t think I have ever heard of putting money in a Sympathy card. I think, if it were me and I wanted to give money, I would send the card with a nice plant or flower, and then take the designated family member in charge of proceedings aside at a later date and offered to help out monetarily if needed, or give the money as a gift at the next gift giving opportunity.

Money in a sympathy card…just doesn’t feel right to me, but of course YMMV.


It doesn’t seem right to me either, but my grandma got me worried about it. She was talking about another funeral, and that she was going to send money in the card. Since that person had died of cancer, I recommended to her that she make a donation to the cancer society in the area where they lived.
I just talked to my mom and she said she, my sister, and my grandma had already sent flowers. Nice of them to ask me! She said it’s fine if we just go and bring a card.
Thanks for your help.

Okay, now she just said “get a card and put some money in it,” and I asked her why. She said “I don’t know, that’s just the way we’ve always done it.” She thinks that they used to do it to help the family because they wouldn’t have enough money for the burial. I told her I thought it was kind of bizarre, and she agreed. I’ll see about finding a charity to give the money to.

This might be one of those regional things, in my neck of the woods of upstate New York (the venue for most of my funeral-going), money is common, provided of course it is within the means of the sympathy giver.

First, just a card (no money) is always appreciated. Obviously, the most important thing to the grieving family is to know that you are thinking of them. They’re not really out to make a buck.

However, if you have the means to do so, money is nice. This can be either a donation to a specified charity (information will be in the listing in the paper, and also provided at the funeral home), or with cash or check directly to the family. Both would probably be overkill. The family will put this money toward funeral expenses (well, it’s expected, I guess you don’t know what they will REALLY do with it!), and if there is more money than expenses, the extra will either go toward: a fund for children or the widow, or the family will make an additional donation to the charity of choice in memory of the deceased person.

If you/the deceased is Catholic, you also have a third option, which is the Mass card. This involves a modest donation to the church – I guess the assumption is that a donation to the church is always an option even if it isn’t spelled out as a specific charity.

My general rule of thumb is $25 or so from Mr. Del and I, unless there is some horrific and pressing financial circumstance, like five orphaned children all under the age of 10, in which case we will try to give a little bit more if we can.

This is not really related to the flowers, IMHO. Flowers are often given in addition to money. I often see the “donations requested in place of flowers” or “flowers gratefully declined” and then show up and see a lot of flowers anyway, in my experience they have usually been sent by people who also made donations/gave money.

That’s what I thought. When my FIL recently died, my sister-in-law remarked that there was only $80 in “the box.” She said that she was taught by her MIL that you give money. I believe this is a carry-over from the olden days before insurance. I would say the rule is that if the survivors cannot afford a funeral, it would be best to make a monetary donation. Otherwise, do as the family requests, i.e., donation to medical research, flowers, a favorite charity. I also think it is perfectly OK to just give a card.

I think money isn’t necessary, because it indicates that you think the family is unable to handle the expenses on their own. Now, if they really are unable to handle the expenses, a donation would probably be appreciated. I’ve always liked plants or charitable donations in leiu of cut flower arrangements, which just die. Being Catholic as my family is, having Masses said is always special, but YMMV.

What we have done for folks we know pretty well is to buy a deli tray and take it to them. Very often they’ll have family in town, people stopping by, and visitors never seems to think that they should help kick in for food. The immediate family of the deceased person usually isn’t up to thinking about that stuff right then, so having food magically appear can be a big help.


I don’t think money is necessary.

In fact, my uncle died and we held his memorial service on Saturday. We received some cards from his coworkers, and one of them had $350 in it that I presume had been collected from various people.

We had no idea what to do with it. The inner child in my head wanted to go out and blow it on something stupid, of course. My mom didn’t want it at all - his cremation expenses and the service itself were very inexpensive, and the money wasn’t necessary for us to cover expenses. In the end, we felt real awkward for getting the money.

We’ve decided to donate it to the American Lung Association. My uncle lived life with no left lung, so it seemed fitting.

So if you don’t want to give money, I don’t think you’ll be looked at weird for giving an empty card.

The food has already been taken care of too. I know that there has already been tons of food brought to the house … my grandma and my mom were two of the people who brought food, and my mom is making dinner for the family while they’re at the visitation tonight.
Like delphica said, the money in the card must be a regional thing. Kind of like those big graduation parties we have around here. It’s interesting to me that what seems bizarre in one region seems perfectly normal in another.
To my knowledge, money isn’t a problem for the family. The lady in question was 93, and had been a widow for many years. All of her children, and grandchildren, are grown. Only recently had she gone into the nursing home.

Oh boy, I guess I’m in the minority about giving money. I’ve done it several times, usually just $10 and figuring they can use it in a memorial, or however they wish, really. That’s easier for me, since I live in such a rural area, and work hours that make it next to impossible to get to a decent florist.

My mom has done it quite often as well (probably where I got the idea, huh?), so I’ve never thought anything of it. I guess I didn’t realize it wasn’t really the thing to do.

I got a check in the mail last year when my Dad died and I thought it odd in the extreme. I knew the woman well and knew that she just wanted to find a way to make me feel good and didn’t know how. I donated the money to the ALA in my Dad’s name.

No, I wouldn’t put money in a funeral card…

I have never heard of giving a monetary gift with the sympathy card, which in my opinion is perfectly fine on its own.

If flowers are expected (i.e. if the funeral notice does not state “No Flowers by Request”) they should be sent to the funeral, addressed to the deceased. The request for no flowers to be sent does not extend to friends who may wish to send flowers to the bereaved, which should be sent to the family home. Donations to a favourite charity may also be requested.

This is standard funeral etiquette where I come from but customs may differ in your area.

Never heard of it, either. Well, unless “no flowers but donations to xxx in the name of the deceased…” and in that case the $$ has a specific purpose.

I’ve never heard of it, either. The most important thing, in my little world, is acknowledgement of their bereavement, most easily done by sympathy card or a phone call, or, if you know the survivors well, a visit. I remember to this day in a good light the professional colleague who sent a card saying only, “Sorry your Dad died.”

While it was not my intent, I solidified forever a friendship by tracking down a friend in New York state whose 20 year old son had killed himself that night with the combination of a telephone pole and a car. I just got him on the phone to ask how he was handling it.

I don’t know how I would have absorbed it had somebody stuffed $10, $20, $50 in a sympathy card.

Well, I hope that helps. I would be confused by a monetary gift. The signal gift you can give is to touch that person with your recognition of them when they feel alone by virtue of the now-forever absence of a part of their life.

Don’t go for flowers; there will usually be too many already. I think sending them money would be slightly tacky (sorry your mom died, here’s $20) unless you knew them to be in difficult financial straits.

The gifts we most appreciated when my dad died were the charitable donations (to the hospital where he died, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, if you’re interested) and the food. Food was key. They do NOT want to cook.

Also, phone them, say, two weeks after the funeral. The bereaved may be starting to feel very alone and unlistened-to after things get less intense.

I wouldn’t put money in a sympathy card, but I might anonymously send money to a bereaved family if I suspected they needed it.

I had a daughter who died and somebody anonymously gave us $200. I was so grateful. Not only was the funeral a stretch for us, but her preceeding illness had really drained our bank account.

I was also extremely grateful for every sympathy card. I ws surprised by how much they meant to me.

Before you give food, you may want to talk to someone close to the family and make sure they’re not already drowning in it.

When my aunt died this spring, my grandma was bombarded by a deluge of cassaroles, meat trays, pies, and other assorted dishes. I was able to intercept a good deal of it before it was delivered and pass it on to her husband’s family, but we still had way too much-- it was actually a bit distracting and stressful trying to figure out what to do with it all.

In our case, we asked for donations in leiu of flowers for my aunt’s infant daughter who was basically impoverished. (No insurance, bankrupt, and the child’s father is on disability.) Usually, if a family is open to that, there will be some discreet wording in the announcement, or a box near the register book. However, if there’s no need for the money, it can become a bit of a burden deciding what to do with it. (A lot of people would feel funny about, say, buying groceries with it-- they feel like it should be used for a purpose.) The last thing a grieving family needs is more decisions they have to make and worry about.

My grandparents had a freezer, so when my grandfather died, word went around for people to give my grandma casseroles and meals that would freeze well.

She only had to do light cooking and microwaving for several months, which was a godsend for her.

Stamps. No really. My dad died a couple years ago, and someone gave us 2 books of frst class stamps in the sympathy card. We had no idea how many thank you cards and notes we were going to have to send out and it was so nice to have those stamps there. It sounds stupid, but between drowning in food and plants/flowers, that simple but extremly thoughtfull gesture was wonderful.