By now I have been to or visited many funerals. Each time I attend a service, I find myself looking closely at and admiring the flowers and arrangements that were sent in honor of the family and the deceased. But did you know that different flowers have different meanings?
• Roses – As one of the most recognizable flowers, roses can be a beautiful part of an arrangement of funeral flowers.
White roses evoke reverence, humility, innocence, and youthfulness.
Red roses convey respect, love, and courage.
Pink roses signify love, grace, appreciation and gentility.
Dark crimson roses denote grief and sorrow.
Yellow roses are given by friends of the deceased to symbolize their strong ties.
When you include a single rose in a bouquet it expresses enduring love for the deceased.
• Carnations – Long lasting and fragrant, carnations are a popular choice for sympathy arrangements. The red carnation evokes admiration while a pink carnation stands for remembrance. White carnations stand for pure love and innocence.
• Lilies – Most commonly associated with funeral services as they symbolize the innocence that has been restored to the soul of the departed. White stargazer lilies symbolize sympathy and any type of white lily expresses majesty and purity. Thought to promote peace, harmony, purity, and innocence after death, the Peace Lily includes all plants in the spathiphyllum genus. Spathiphyllum means “peace and prosperity” in Latin. Peace Lilies are known for the elegant, star-shaped, white flowers and rich green leaves. Christians view white lilies as symbolic of the Virgin Mary. They are also associated with the Easter holiday and Christ’s resurrection, because they appear to die in the winter, but are reborn again in the spring.
• Orchids – Orchids say “I will always love you.” When giving an orchid plant as a gesture of sympathy, it is important to give consideration to color. Pink and white are traditional colors of sympathy. Varieties such as the phalaenopsis orchid and dendrobium orchid are suggested by florists as appropriate plants to denote sympathy.
• Magnolias – White magnolia traditionally embody dignity and perseverance.
• Violets – Represent faithfulness.
• Lilacs – White lilacs represent innocence.
• Tulips and Daffodils – Bright yellow spring tulips and daffodils are a symbol of renewal and fresh starts. For this reason, they are believed to bring encouragement and hope to a person who is grieving or unhappy, so they make a great choice to send as a sympathy gift to the family home of the departed. Tulips represent elegance and grace. Yellow tulips represent cheerfulness, white represents forgiveness, and purple represents royalty. The red tulip is said to represent perfect love.
• Chrysanthemums – Mums are frequently included in arrangements for funeral services. In some European countries, such as France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, and Croatia, chrysanthemums are symbolic of death and are only used for funerals or on graves. In China, Japan and Korea, white chrysanthemums are symbolic of lamentation and grief, whereas in the US, it symbolizes truth and the flower is usually regarded as positive and cheerful, with New Orleans as a notable exception.
• Gladiolus – Gladioli have a tall follower stem composed of multiple flowers that can measure up to four feet tall. Typically used in fan sprays as a classic and elegant arrangement for traditional funeral services. The gladiolus embodies strength of character, sincerity, and moral integrity. They are available in a wide range of colors, including white, pink, red, purple, yellow, orange, salmon, and green.
• Hydrangea – Sending a seasonal spring plant is a nice and appropriate gesture to send to a grieving family. It can be enjoyed indoors and when they feel up to it, they can plant it in their garden. This is a hardy plant that will grow in almost any soil that is kept moist, and the mophead hydrangeas will continue to bloom for many years. The hydrangea is a gift of thanks in repayment for understanding and is given as a gesture of heartfelt sincerity.
• Forget-Me-Nots – Represent true love and remembrance.
Just as there are meanings for each of the various flowers, there is a history behind flowers and funerals. From the earliest records of funeral services, flowers have been used to offset and control the offensive and obnoxious odor of decomposition.
“One of the most famous funerals where flowers were used to mask the odor of decomposition occurred in 1874 when President Andrew Johnson was buried. His body was not embalmed, and by the day of his funeral his body was in such foul condition that undertaker Lazarus C. Shepard closed the casket and heaped loads of fragrant flowers on top and around the burial receptacle. The fragrance of the flowers hid the odor long enough for the funeral to take place.” – Todd Van Beck
In addition, some Mid-Western funeral practices incorporated the role of “The Flower Lady.” The flower ladies (usually six) were chosen with the same care and consideration as the pall bearers. These women were responsible for placing the flowers from the funeral service in the flower vehicle, and then assisting in setting them up at the cemetery. As funeral rites and rituals have waned in our country, their role and significance has become less common.
In an effort to help families and friends with flower arrangements and gifts, Schoedinger offers suggestions to help honor the family and deceased on their website schoedinger.com and select the “Flowers & Gifts” tab or visit http://www.schoedinger.com/store/?icn=top_nav&icc=fs_store
Julie is the Director of Community Relations at Schoedinger Funeral Service.