Perhaps you’ve seen, on a funeral notice or announcement, something like, “In lieu of flowers, the family requests that…”
Sometimes it seems like funerals have their own code or language. What do people mean by this phrase? Does it mean don’t send flowers… at all? Learn about when and how to follow the family’s wishes when they make a request like this one.
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What Does “In Lieu of Flowers” Mean?
In lieu of flowers means instead of flowers or in place of. Funeral etiquette dictates that you should follow the family’s request.
When the obituary says, “In Lieu of Flowers,” it will usually have instructions to follow.
Example: In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the American Cancer Society.
Does “In Lieu of Flowers” Mean Don’t Send Flowers?
These are four words that florists hate to see.
A survey by the American Society for Horticultural Science concluded that, “Except contact of family and friends, participants indicated that receiving sympathy flowers to help deal with grief was equally or more valuable than all rituals associated with funerals.” (Emphasis added.)
Research has shown that flowers increase the capacity for compassion and sympathy. People feel less anxious and depressed in the presence of flowers.
The problem with the phrase “in lieu of flowers” is that people disagree on its meaning. According to most florists, this phrase does NOT mean to restrict friends and family from sending flowers. The family prefers a donation to a certain cause, but once you have done that you are free to also send flowers.
However, there may be a family member that has a violent allergy to certain flowers. If that is the case, then the family will typically mention it. “Due to allergies and sensitivities, the family asks that donations be made to Compassion International in lieu of flowers.”
The consensus seems to be, follow the family’s request. Please donate to the charity of their choice. If you want to send flowers, you can, but only after you have followed the specific instructions.
How Much Should You Donate In Lieu of Flowers?
The rule of thumb is to donate the amount you would have spent on funeral flowers. Always make your donation in the decedent’s name.
If you don’t want to donate as much as you would have spent on flowers (or if you would like to do more), any amount is welcome.
Is It OK to Give Money Directly to the Family?
Funerals are expensive. It is appropriate to give a “funeral donation” to the family.
The key idea is “discretion.” There are so many expenses besides the funeral. Placing money in a sympathy card, along with a note, is a thoughtful gesture. You might say something along the line of “Please use this for anything you may need at this difficult time.”
As a funeral director, I have been handed cards with checks and money, asking me to make sure the family receives it. It is the funeral director’s responsibility to make sure the family receives all donations from the funeral.
What to Ask for In Lieu of Flowers
Remember donations should be made in the name of the deceased. “Please accept this donation in the honor of Jonathan Franklin.”
- A gift to the family’s favorite charity.
- Donations to the “giver’s” favorite charity.
- Contributions to the nursing facility or hospice where the decedent died.
- Donations to the cost of the headstone.
- Funding for research or awareness regarding the cause of death.
Ways to Say “In Lieu of Flowers”
Flowers say so many things to a grieving family. Without a word*, flowers can offer love and support.
*However, you should include a condolence note. Here are some ideas for what to say.
But you will notice lately that many families are using this “in lieu of flowers” phrase. To help out families in the midst of writing an obituary, I have a few alternative suggestions to use:
- Please make a memorial contribution to _____________.
- You may make a contribution to ______________, in a show of support.
- The family would like contributions made to _________________.
- It was (the deceased’s name) wish to make contributions to ______________.
- You may donate to the charity of your choice.
Ways to Say “In Addition to Flowers”
You could send flowers, take a meal over, AND give a sympathy card with a donation back in the day. But not anymore. Now everything needs to be spelled out.
Below is a list of phrases to use to say “in addition to flowers.”
- In addition to flowers, you are welcome to make a contribution to __________.
- Flowers can be sent to Smith Funeral Home. You might also consider __________.
- The family requests both flowers and __________.
- Flowers are welcome but the family also asks for __________.
Gifts for Funerals In Lieu of Flowers
What can you give a family that has requested “no flowers?”
Below are some suggestions that would make anyone feel grateful to receive.
1. Donation to the Specified Organization
You can make a special donation in the deceased name. You can usually choose how to inform the family of your donation.
If they have not listed an organization, you can choose one that you support, or preferably one that you know the decedent would appreciate. Often this is a church, community organization, food bank, clean water charity, tree planting (see below), and so on.
2. Memorial Bird Feeder
This is a lovely gift to send instead of flowers. The cedar wood bird feeder is natural, yet will last for years to come. It feeds the birds and draws wildlife in close to the house, which provides a sense of peace and comfort for the family. And it’s not some knickknack that they will have to find space for (or feel bad about throwing away), as it goes outside.
It’s a beautiful memorial gift, available here in several personalized designs.
3. Photos & Written Memories
You can make a special memory book with photos and quotes. Go through old and new photos, ask the family to give you some photos, and ask friends and other relatives for photos. Take all of the photos and have copies made. Return the originals to the owners of the photos.
People will gladly help out if they know they will get their photos back.
4. Tree Planted in Their Memory
Dedicate a tree as a gift. A tree will be planted in an area of a US forest that has been devastated by fire. The recipient of your gift can go online and learn about the tree. They can even use a map to find it and plan a trip to visit it!
5. Paint a Garden Stone
This is a lovely, meaningful, and hands-on memorial idea.
Steps to painting a garden stone:
- Clean your stone. Wash and dry.
- Rough up the surface with sandpaper, if needed.
- Draw design on the rock.
- Apply paints (acrylic patio paints), allowing to dry between colors. You can use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process.
- Add several coats of outdoor polyurethane to protect against the weather.
6. Handwritten Letter of Comfort (On a Soft Blanket)
Write out a note of comfort to your grieving friend or family member, and put it on a cozy memorial blanket. Be sure to write “in memory of…” on there, too.
7. DIY Care Package
You can include anything you think the bereaved family may need.
Below is a short list of items you will find useful.
- Snacks: nuts, granola bars, peanut butter crackers, or anything else that is quick finger food.
- Canned soups or anything that is just a quick meal when they don’t feel like cooking.
- Weighted blanket
- Journal and pen set
- Bath bombs
- Bottle of wine
- Keepsake box
8. Memorial Portrait
This is a beautiful way to memorialize your loved one. The artist creates the portraits with watercolors.
You can contact the artist with any questions you may have.
9. Give Your Time
Below are a few suggestions of how you may give of your time.
- You can offer to help with childcare during the funeral, after the funeral, or even in days to come.
- Offer to help with yard work.
- Take care of housework for the family for a few days.
- Cook meals.
- Run errands: pick up groceries, take care of banking, or take kids to and from school. (These are just a few suggestions. I am sure you can think of more!)
- Offer to stay with the bereaved if they don’t want to be alone. You can even offer them a place at your home.
Related: How to Help Someone Who Is Grieving
10. Personalized Memorial Plaque
This personalized plaque is a beautiful way to memorialize your loved one. It is a one of a kind gift with your loved one’s name and dates displayed.
Read next: Here’s what to send (instead of flowers)