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In Lieu of Flowers: 3 Alternative Funeral Gift Ideas

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in_lieu_of_flowersWhen a loved one passes, it’s customary in many cultures to purchase a flower arrangement to commemorate the deceased and share condolences.

In most cases, the arrangements are sent to the funeral home to display during a wake, funeral or memorial service. In other cases, close acquaintances may choose to send flowers directly to the family of the deceased.

Flowers are a beautiful reminder of the lost loved one and can also be a gesture of support from family and friends. But in some cases, families and the departed may not want flowers to be a part of their funeral arrangements.

What Does “In Lieu of Flowers” Mean?

The Society of American Florists marks the 1950s as the decade in which the phrase “in lieu of flowers” became commonplace in obituaries.

It’s remained a confusing term since then for many people, since it can be difficult to determine whether the family really doesn’t want flowers, or if they’re suggesting an alternative in addition to flowers.

When preparing an obituary, the best way to avoid confusion is to be clear about the true intentions of the deceased and the surviving family. Consider using phrases like:

  • Flowers are appreciated, and donations may be made to...” This indicates that flowers are still welcome, but a charitable donation is another way to pay respects.
  • “The family requests a donation to [organization] instead of flowers.” By using the phrase “instead of,” the meaning of the request is much clearer.
  • “Any memorial contributions can be made to [organization]...” Again, by excluding an address to send flowers and instead naming a charitable organization, it’s clearer to funeral attendees that flowers aren’t preferred.

3 Funeral Gifts Instead of Flowers

Whether you’re thinking ahead to your own preferences, or you’re attending a funeral and are unsure how to pay your respects without a flower arrangement, consider these ideas.

1. A donation to a charitable organization.

The surviving family members may request a donation to a specific organization within the obituary, which makes this act of remembrance a simple and impactful decision.

If no organization was named but you’d still like to make a donation in memory of the deceased, think about organizations that bear special significance. For example, organizations that:

  • Align with your loved one’s hobbies. If they enjoyed the outdoors, donate to a national park or local nature preservation.
  • Honor his or her furry friends. Did they have a beloved pet? Donate to a nearby animal shelter or a wildlife preserve.
  • Were their favorite volunteering locations. Did your loved one spend time volunteering at a local soup kitchen or library? Direct your donation there.
  • Treat specific health conditions. If your loved one battled a disease, consider donating to an organization dedicated to curing and treating it.

2. Another type of plant.

A tree, flowering shrub or even a garden stone is a wonderful reminder of a loved one that someone can enjoy while taking in the beauty of nature. When they step into their garden or see the plant blooming and growing in their yard, they’ll be reminded of happy memories with the deceased.

Most greenery will also outlive flowers—serving as a long-standing memory of your loved one’s special life lived.

3. A helpful, practical gift.

The surviving family members will be focused on grieving, so a practical gift is probably the most thoughtful thing you can give them. Consider arranging a meal train or simply providing frozen meals on your own, which require nothing more than reheating.

Another way to help the surviving family members is by arranging a house cleaning or lawn care service. They may be exhausted after losing their loved one and will appreciate you taking these tasks off their plates. 

If they have small children, consider sending a board game, coloring book or other gift for the kids. Something that will keep them entertained and quiet during funeral services and afterwards will be much appreciated by grieving parents.

Avoid Confusion by Documenting Your Preferences Ahead of Time

Details like what an obituary should say with regard to flowers are often overlooked until it’s time for a loved one to make a hasty decision. Avoid putting this stress on your surviving family members by thinking through these details ahead of time. Ensure you’re remembered and honored exactly the way you want—our comprehensive guide to preplanning has more information.

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Kathleen Bloesinger
Kathleen Bloesinger
Believes that one of the greatest gifts we can leave behind is to put a plan in place now, to guide those we love into the future. It’s Kathleen’s privilege to give you sincere and honest information on the many end-of-life choices available to you. Honorably serving Busch families since 2002.

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