In Lieu of Flowers: Funeral Etiquette 101
Published August 17, 2020
There are particular objects we associate with specific events. Cakes with birthdays, rice with weddings, presents with Christmas and flowers with funerals. It’s been a longstanding tradition to send flowers in memory of the dearly departed. However, many families prefer financial donations to either help out with funeral expenses or donate to a charity or cause.
For nearly a century, the term “in lieu of flowers” was used to refer to this. This phrase commonly appeared in obituaries and death notices to suggest the preference for financial contributions.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that the Society of American Florists (SAF) considered this a nationwide problem. A behavioral research study was done on flowers’ influence in the bereavement process. The general public believed that the SAF disapproved of “in lieu of flowers” because they’d lose business. However, the results of this study show the real motivation behind this. The researchers found that a lack of flowers hinders the grieving process. The SAF doesn’t dissuade people from donating, but they simply want to highlight the importance of flowers in funerals.
“In lieu” means “instead of,” which suggests that the family does not want flowers at their funeral. The problem many people have with the phrase is that it may come off as a bit aggressive. It suggests that the families would not appreciate flowers, which is quite contrary to reality. Families in mourning, generally appreciate all gestures of love. And flowers are a beautiful visual reminder of a friend’s love and care for the departed.
Because of these, many alternatives have been thought up to use instead of it. Here are fifteen better lines you can use:
- “The family would greatly appreciate contributions made out to…”
- “Flowers are welcome, but you can also send donations to…”
- “While flowers are greatly appreciated, the family also suggests…”
- “The family would be grateful for flowers and…”
- “Memorial contributions may be made to…”
- “The family has designated (charity name) for memorial contributions.”
- “Gestures and remembrances in all forms are greatly welcomed.”
- “Any financial contributions may be made to your organization of choice.”
- “We remember (departed’s name) by making donations to…”
- “The family would greatly appreciate your help paying for (departed’s name)’s funeral.”
- “The family asks for help in paying for (departed’s name)’s funeral expenses.”
- “Due to the unexpected nature of (departed’s name)’s death, we’d like to ask for financial assistance in paying for his funeral.”
- “The family would prefer (specific gift) as a remembrance.”
- “The family invites you to a potluck meal. Please bring a dish of…”
- “The family is not asking for gifts, donations, or flowers; only your presence is required at the funeral.”
If you’re the one attending someone else’s funeral, you’ll want to pay attention to their family’s needs. Funerals can be an overwhelming time for the family, and they may be reluctant to ask for help. If you can reach out to them and help where it really matters, that will be more meaningful than any gift.
About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.