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In most situations it is prudent to avoid any overtly religious connotations, especially when sending gift items; In the case of bereavement it becomes necessary to be mindful of religious and ceremonial traditions when conveying condolences. Below you will find several religions and their bereavement traditions listed for your convenience.
Protestant, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian
About the Service: Most commonly take place at a funeral home. A minister will conduct the service with participation from family members.
What to Do: Visit the funeral home during visitor hours.
What to Send: Sending flowers, cards and charitable donations in the name of the deceased is an appropriate expression of your sympathy.
About the Service: A wake or viewing takes place in a funeral home within 48-72 hrs of death. A mass takes place approximately three days later at the church. The body is buried or cremated.
What to Do: Attend the wake and offer condolences. Attend the mass.
What to Send: Sympathy floor arrangements, standing
arrangements, standing sprays, crosses, and hearts. Food and fruit baskets can be sent to the home but not to the funeral home.
About the Service: Burials are performed quickly and a service is conducted in a Mosque.
What to Do: If attending the service remember that men and women sit on separate sides of the Mosque and women have their heads covered.
What to Send: Gifts of food or fruit baskets are suitable expressions of sympathy.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon)
About the Service: The service includes prayers and music followed by a brief service at the graveside.
What to Do: If you attend the service, wear modest clothing.
What to Send: Flowers and sympathy cards are appropriate gestures to send.
About the Service: Is held in either the home or funeral
parlor. The body is wrapped in a shroud and flowers are
placed at the feet of the deceased. Following the viewing,
the body is cremated.
What to Do: Guests may attend the viewing but leave once the cremation takes place.
What to Send: Fruit and fruit baskets are considered the best gift to convey sympathy.
Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform)
About the Service: A rabbi performs the service and the
casket is taken to a cemetery and buried within twenty-four hours of death. Only immediate family attends the service.
What to Do: Once the body has been buried, the immediate family sits in mourning or “Shiva” in their home for the next seven days. It is customary for family, friends and coworkers to come by the home and pay their respects to the family. This is known as a Shiva call.
What to Send: Flowers are NOT appropriate for a Shiva call. Sweet fruit baskets, desserts and food are appropriate gifts but check to see if the food is Kosher (i.e., prepared in accordance to Jewish dietary guidelines). For Kosher items, it is best call in to 1-800-883-8853, and request specifically when ordering.
About the Service: There are three services: one held at
the family home of the deceased within two days of death
and permits the viewing of the deceased; a second is
conducted 2-5 days later by monks at the funeral home; a
third and final service is held 7 days after burial at the
What to Do: Attend the first service and offer
condolences to family. Do not wear red clothing.
What to Send: Flowers are appropriate but instruct the
florist to refrain from using red flowers and instead use
white, the color of mourning. Food gifts are not
What about Cremations?
Many cremations have both a viewing and service prior to the cremation and flowers are considered an appropriate gesture at either event. If you are unsure what to send, check with the funeral, the funeral home, or a member of the immediate family for guidance.