Flowers play an important part in the grieving process Their beauty and colors can symbolize love, respect, and thoughts of sympathy and concern. Sympathy flowers give a comforting presence to the bereaved person’s family at the visitation and funeral services. Typical sympathy pieces come in many styles and types, such as casket sprays, baskets of flowers, sprays, set pieces, and wreaths. A floral designer should be knowledgeable about design types and construction when designing flowers for funerals.


Sympathy flowers are flowers that are sent to a funeral home or a funeral service to honor the deceased or to comfort the bereaved. Flowers add warmth, vitality, and a softening garden-like presence to the uncomfortable atmosphere before and during the funeral service. Research by the American Floral Endowment and the Society of American Florists Information Committee concluded that flowers at the funeral home and funeral service serve the important roles of honoring the life of the deceased and giving comfort and some relief or softening of sorrow for the living


Typical sympathy flowers include the family flowers, which are ordered by the family to honor their loved one. The family flowers typically include the casket spray, a casket inset piece (usually from younger family members), and sometimes a matching arrangement. A particularly attractive setting occurs when the family orders two matching arrangements for either side of the casket.

When the family comes to the floral shop to order family flowers, the tactful florist will find a quiet or private area for the family to make their decisions. Treat the family in a tactful, compassionate, business-like fashion to guide them through their decisions. Provide books and selection guides to make the process an easier one.

Other sympathy flowers include arrangements, basket designs, easel and flat sprays, and set pieces, such as wreaths, organization symbols, hearts, or crosses. Blooming and foliage plants as well as dish gardens are also typical sympathy expressions. A dish garden is a grouping of different types of plants potted in the same container. Flowers in water tubes, accessories, and bows are often added to decorate plants. The most popular expressions of sympathy vary from region to region. When sending sympathy flowers as a wire order to another area, check the selection guide to choose the most appropriate type.


A casket spray is a floral arrangement that is placed on the top of a casket during a funeral service. A casket spray is ordered and sent by the immediate family members. The type of casket determines the size of the casket spray. Caskets are available as half couch and full couch.

A full couch is a casket with a one-piece lid, which may be closed or open. An open full couch has an inner lid on the right side. A full-couch casket spray is a large casket piece that is placed in the center of a closed full couch. A full-couch lid spray is a large casket piece placed in the center of the open lid of a full couch. The full-couch lid design is placed in a stand that displays the spray sideways or is attached to the wall by a bracket on the wall wide.

A half couch is a casket with a two-piece lid; the head of the half couch is open during the visitation services. A half-couch casket spray is a floral piece that is placed on the right side of a half couch. A half-couch casket spray should be at least a yard wide.

Half-Couch Casket Spray

The foundation for a casket spray is a casket saddle, a container with a rounded base, which fits the curving contours of a casket lid. Casket saddles are molded plastic and available in many sizes and shapes. The flowers and foliage should completely cover the saddle.

The shapes of a half-couch casket spray may be an oval, crescent, or triangular. These designs should be low to allow transporting by the funeral director. Script denoting the relationship of the deceased is often attached to the long streamer on the bow.


The family often orders a casket inset piece to coordinate with the colors and styles of the other family floral pieces. A casket inset piece is a small design displayed inside the casket lid. This design is traditionally sent from the younger family members—children or grandchildren. The casket inset piece may be designed like a corsage and placed on a satin pillow, heart, or cross. Some satin forms come with a floral foam mechanic attached to it. Other options are covering Styrofoam’ shapes (a cross or heart) with flowers by gluing or pinning. Another casket inset piece is a floral rosary, which may be used for the service of a devout Catholic. Rosary forms are available at the wholesale florist. The form has cone-shaped clamps to place around rose buds (or carnations). The floral rosary is draped and secured to the fabric in the lid of the casket by the funeral director.


Many sympathy tributes are arrangements designed in floral foam. The designs are typically oval, fan-shaped, or triangular. Symmetrical styles are the most common, but asymmetrical designs can also be tastefully created as a sympathy tribute.

The containers may be ceramic, plastic, papier-mâché, or baskets. Plastic containers with a handle are available and quite versatile. Papier-mâché containers come in various shapes and sizes and are made of a sturdy, molded, water-holding, paper-like material.

Many types of baskets are available and can be designed with a variety of design styles. A fireside basket is a curved, open basket with a handle A sympathy arrangement may be designed in this type of basket by wiring a small utility container (and foam) to the basket (like the cornucopia technique). The fireside basket may be designed in two ways, either as a centerpiece or a one-sided design. A centerpiece can be designed by placing the foam and container in the center of the basket. For a one-sided design, tip the basket forward and wire the utility container and foam to the front side of the basket near the handl Fireside baskets are often placed on the floor under or near the casket.

A floral designer must take care to design a sympathy tribute with sturdy mechanics. Floral foam should be securely taped to the container. For papier- mache containers, the tape should be stapled to the paper-like rim to secure it. Avoid filling containers with excess water or sending arrangements or easel sprays that are leaking water.

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