"In lieu of flowers, the family requests..."

In every funeral I’ve ever been involved with the family has requested that donations be made to an organization in lieu of flowers. This is always listed in the obituary. And yet, every one of these funerals has been awash in flowers that people sent.

Why do so many people ignore these requests? Is the tradition of sending flowers just that ingrained? Do they believe that the families don’t really mean it?

And if I really meant it, how could I get that across? I thought about writing into my own funeral planning that the family should go around to all the local flower shops and slip them $50 each to insist that anyone who calls to send flowers to my funeral be directed to my chosen charities instead.

For some people, making a donation is more complicated than ordering some flowers, and I think they want to show everyone that they did their part for the next of kin. A funeral with no flowers would look cold.

At all the funerals I’ve attended in the last few years (four), the “in lieu of flowers” notice went in the obit. There were some flowers at the funerals, but 100% of them came from the following sources:

  1. Close family members who wanted there to be some flowers at the funeral, and

  2. The employers of the close family members, or organizations to which the deceased belonged, who have a policy of always sending sympathy flowers and who do not usually read the obit.

Other than that, there were no flowers sent. Everyone else made donations to charity or sent sympathy food.

When the spouse of a co-worker died, there was one of these notices. My group sent flowers because that was what the company would pay for. They would not pay for a donation. And we didn’t know him well enough to want to spend our own money.

Having put the ‘in lieu of…’ in the obit the family then feels obligated to make sure that there are some flowers at the service, funeral home, church, reception.

So it’s not that people are ignoring the family wishes, it’s often the family who want their flowers to be the predominant flowers etc.

I’ve never seen the obituary for the funerals of most of the people I’ve seen buried. I just ask about when the funeral is from somebody that knows. I don’t normally send flowers either. I think many people just find out from others about the funeral so that notice is never seen.

We are a charity and thus certainly cannot be seen to give to another charity, plus that would entail us somehow getting money from the corporate office. ha! So we send flowers.

Many people don’t read the obituary, they just find out from someone when/where the funeral is.

As for making sure people are aware of your wish for people to donate to a certain organization in your name, some charities have envelopes meant for funerals. People can put cash/checks in the envelopes (which include a place for them to put their info, so they get credit for the donation), then the funeral home collects them and sends them all to the charity at once.

If you really really meant it, you could preplan with the funeral home that all flowers are to be refused, and if the funeral director is worth his salt, he will carry out your wishes. You also should make your wishes known now to your family, friends, and co-workers, so they won’t spend money on flowers that will be turned away. If you wish, you could add into the preplanning an item that the funeral home will call nearby florists and advise them that flowers are not welcome. (Most people who place orders for flowers use florists near the funeral home.) It might cost you an extra sawbuck, but if you want peace of mind that your wishes will be respected, it would be worth it.

– Sigmagirl, former newspaper obituary writer

I agree with the people who pointed out that many people get the info word of mouth and don’t really have the details line by line.

I know these things differ by region, but just to offer up another opinion, where I am from (Western NY) one commonly accepted method is to do the flowers from the “inner circle” so to speak, so that there are some (actually quite a few, usually) from Darling Nephew and Beloved Aunt and Fond Sister and Grandchildren or whoever you are. Beyond that, the word goes out that donations to XXX are appreciated. So you might SEE a lot of flowers at the wake, but the majority of people did opt for the donation.

My two cents: it’s rude to outright refuse them and will only end up hurting people who genuinely tried to make a nice gesture. One pleasant thing I have seen instead is to arrange for the funeral director to:

  1. accept the flowers
  2. remove the card so that you/your family can thank the sender
  3. remove any “sympathy” or related decoration
  4. send the plain flower arrangement to a nursing home, rehab center, or hospice (obviously, to one that would welcome them)

Almost everybody gave my dads specified charities a donation in lieu of flowers … I bought a specific flower arrangement because I know they were my dad’s favorite flowers. He had a flag instead of a bunch of flowers on the coffin. My brothers company, and my company sent flowers as it is in the HR manuals on what to do when a family member of an employee kicks off.

Instead of a couple people reading euligies random people stood and shared favorite jokes, stories and some random poetry. Took about 3 hours, there were 120 people there and almost everybody had a story about my dad.

Friends/relatives living out of town, hearing of a death, will often immediately send flowers or a plant, especially if the deceased wasn’t all that close to them.

As an out of town mourner, as soon as I heard of the death, I sent a daisiy with the card, “We All Shine on…” and assumed that no one would be miffed. It was just a daisy. If the intent is there, it’s all good…as far as I’m concerned.

As a slight highjack: When my useless brother-in-law died, his family asked that money be sent to them. Not to his widow, to them.

In my experience it’s only the closest family and friends who donate the flowers. All others stick $20 into an envelope at the wake/sympathy card, allowing the family to donate as much as they want to either the funeral home or the charity of choice.

That’s just freaking tacky.

Tacky is a kind word for them - but even knowing that I was still surprised.

This is a request I certainly HOPE most folks ignored.

Part of the reason it’s all good for you is that you’re not the one who has to come back to the funereal home after burying someone you love and collect all this stuff and figure out what to do with it all. My two best friends and de facto sisters buried their dad today, and even with telling everyone who would listen that they didn’t want flowers and leaving all the cut flower arrangements at the graveside, there was still a shit-ton of plants and figurines and plaques and such. DoctorJ and I collected it all and ferried it back to the house so they wouldn’t have to deal with at least that part, but we can’t help them figure out where they’re going to put all this stuff in their already cramped homes or how they’re going to take care of a couple dozen potted plants that aren’t suitable for planting outdoors.

All that mess is a burden on them. A burden born of a kindly impulse and lack of forethought rather than malice, but a burden nonetheless. And frankly, they’ve got enough burdens right now with getting his social security checks stopped and his credit cards canceled and paid off and paying the medical/funereal bills and figuring out how their mom is going to go on living in a house that is crammed to the rafters with his softball trophies and cd’s and half-worked crossword puzzles.

If the intent is truly to let the family know you’re thinking about them and want to make this horrible time a tiny touch easier for them, please actually think about them enough not to give them one more goddamn thing to deal with. Send a card or letter or restaurant gift card so they don’t have to cook or a donation to their favorite charity or call and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.

If you’re up for putting yourself and DoctorJ out even further, you might be able to get a hospital or nursing home to take the plants to brighten up patient areas.