Sympathy Designs:
Creating Perfect Tributes

Customers who choose you as the florist to provide the flowers for a loved one’s funeral are inviting you to be part of the final way they honor someone special. When they approach you, they might be overwhelmed or unsure of how to proceed. You can ease their stress and create a fitting tribute by helping them understand the different types of sympathy arrangements and gathering as much information as possible.

Primary Sympathy Arrangement Types

Casket Pieces
These are usually ordered by family members. They are commonly designed as sprays in various sizes but can also be exquisite casket blankets.
Garlands & Small Tabletop Wreaths
These can be used to adorn a crematory urn and are typically ordered by the immediate family.
End Basket Arrangements
These designs generally coordinate with the casket spray or cremation wreath. They are placed on pedestals at either end of the casket or cremation table and can be ordered as a trio or individually. They are typically ordered by the immediate family.
Set Pieces
These are solid or semi-solid floral designs that are generally shaped like hearts, crosses, service organization logos or novelty designs such as a sports team mascots. These special designs can be ordered by family members, friends, coworkers, fraternal organizations or acquaintances.
Standing Tributes
These are suitable for anyone to order and are typically designed as arrangements, wreaths or sprays.
Table Arrangements
These designs are smaller in scale and can easily be taken home by the deceased’s survivors. They are commonly chosen by friends or acquaintances.
Blooming and foliage plants can be used as either table or floor displays and are often ordered by both family and friends.

Questions to ask sympathy customers…

“Will you tell me about your loved one?”
Understanding the deceased’s personality can help you create the perfect tribute. Knowing their age and relationship to the person ordering the flowers is also key. Maybe they loved vacationing in the tropics or were a devoted Chicago Bears fan. Use the information you are given to select flower colors and types, and don’t feel limited to the “typical” sympathy flowers.

“What time do the flowers need to arrive?”
Timing is key with sympathy orders. The flowers should always arrive before a wake or funeral begins so that the family or funeral director has time to place them. If your sympathy order was placed online, or if the customer is unsure of the specifics, always verify details with the funeral director.

“How will the sympathy flowers be used?”
Is the customer looking for a design to be displayed at the visitation? If so, you might suggest larger pieces that are appropriate for funeral homes. On the flip side, if the customer is looking for a floral arrangement or a longer-lasting tribute that the family can take home, a peace lily or other blooming plant might be the perfect choice.

“What size do you have in mind and how much are you looking to spend?”
It’s important to know the scale with which you will be working. This will help you suggest appropriate flowers and designs. To start the discussion, you could recommend a typical sympathy arrangement with a medium price point and physical size to see if this is acceptable to your customer. From here, you have the flexibility to increase or decrease the price point to fit the customer’s needs.

“Will the piece be displayed in a church?”
When flowers are going to be displayed at a church, make sure you are conscious of any religious restrictions. For example, if the funeral is being held in a Catholic church, flowers cannot be placed on the altar. The best practice is to coordinate the funeral flowers with the funeral director. They will be able to inform you of any special needs or requirements necessary and what locations are involved with the service.

“Is this piece going to the cemetery?”
This could dictate the type of vessel that you use for the bouquet. If the bouquet is going to be left at the cemetery, you might consider using a papier-mâché vase instead of glass. As with churches, understanding location will help you direct your customer to the ideal selection.

The FTD® Eternal Light™ Bouquet - ELB

When you are meeting with sympathy customers, be sure to share the exclusive designs in FTD’s Floral Selections Guide. The 2016 version of the guide will arrive at your shop by the end of August.

Additional considerations

Remember that flowers should be an accessory, not the focal point of a funeral service. While red and white are traditional colors for funeral flowers, many modern designs are colorful and represent the customer’s relationship with the deceased or incorporate the deceased’s favorite flowers.


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