Sympathy flowers are intended to comfort the living.

Sending flowers to express love and support has always been a vital part of our funeral tradition. Customs are changing.

Across the country, cremations are on the rise – traditional funerals and funeral flower orders are in decline.

Has your sympathy business been affected?  

To grow a thriving sympathy flower business for the future, florists must find ways to link flowers to new bereavement practices.

Garlands for life celebrations, floating flowers for ash scattering ceremonies, etc.

How can sympathy flowers remain relevant in your floral business?

Adapting to the trends

Grieving families choosing non-traditional ways to honor their deceased, may be driving this trend of diminishing flower requests.

Business-savvy florists will adapt by offering new products and services that fit evolving sympathy trends.

Selling upscale centerpieces for example; a 15” wreath was used as the floral foam base.

Sending flowers to the home is a popular choice, but florists must be cautious with their pricing. Financially, a $40 vase arrangement is no substitute for a $400 casket cover.

Must home flowers be a budget buy?

Flowers or plants delivered to the home can be a practical option for any budget. But, should they always be considered a budget buy?

Scott Hasty AIFD of J SCOTTS AFLORIST in Orange, TX says “No”. He approaches the situation differently.

Pricing by value

When a family orders flowers for a cremation service, Scott doesn’t recommend lowering the price just because it’s a cremation. Instead, he discusses value with the clients.

“I strongly suggest the family convert the value of their flowers from a standing piece to a conversational design for non-traditional services,” Scott explains.

“I price an arrangement similar to the value of a spray because it’s of the same emotional importance.” The symbolism and visual impact remain the same.

“Since you are buying the family tribute for the memory table, your design should be comparable in value to a traditional family tribute for the casket,” Scott advises his clients.

Flowers serve a purpose

Flowers are a diversion, a conversation piece, a representation of emotional support.

“Flowers can stop people in their tracks when they are in need something to talk about,” offers Scott.

He created this eye-catching design:

  • Dry Maxlife Deluxe floral foam was hot-glued into a heavy container
  • Water with flower food was added, giving weight to the foam
  • Bamboo was inserted into the foam at four opposing corners
  • A column of florist netting was bind-wired inside the bamboo
  • A outer column of florist netting was attached leaving a 2-inch space between
  • UGLU dashes and floral adhesive were used as touch-ups, where needed
  • Short stems of fresh hydrangea were water-tubed, in advance
  • Inserting the tubed-hydrangea through both levels of wire held them in place
  • Branches of Tulip Tree Magnolia and ivy were added to the top for flourish

Scott spends time with the family discovering the personal preferences of their loved one so he can customize their design.

“Being chosen to design the last floral tribute for their loved one is a huge honor,” explains Scott. “Funeral flowers should not have that distinct design look of the past.”

That includes designing flowers for cremations.

Cremations on the rise

In 2016, at 50.1 percent, cremations passed the number of casketed burials and is now the most popular form of disposition.

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) suggests cremations could reach 80 percent in the US by 2035. Japan has one of the highest rates in the world reaching 99.97% by 2014.

A societal change from ‘grieving the death’ to ‘celebrating the life’ may be encouraging the rising popularity of cremations.

Cost may also be a factor. The average cost of a funeral in North America today is $7,000 – $10,000 according to

Meeting the challenge of change

The challenge for funeral directors and florists alike is to keep the grief-comforting traditions – memorials, visitations, and sending sympathy flowers, alive. These customs must function for new end-of-life traditions in ways people can relate to.

“As we look around the globe, we can consider England for example,” says funeral director Bryant Hightower of Martin and Hightower in Carrollton, Georgia. “Their cremations seem to have peaked at about 90 percent.”

“The British have maintained the comforting practice of celebrating life memorials even though cremations are prevalent.”

Why are cremations so popular?

Expense is one reason for considering cremation since it can cost as much as 40-50 percent less than a traditional ground burial.  It’s not the only reason.

Originally, fragrant funeral flowers were placed around a coffin to help hide the offending odors. That’s no longer necessary.

Other deciding factors include religious and cultural beliefs that foster family expectations and a mobile society no longer living near family burial sites.

Many consider cremation eco-friendlier than burials. Bio (or Green) Cremations – using water and potassium hydroxide, are emerging as an alternative to flame-based cremations.

At times, traditional flowers simply no longer fit new sympathy customs. How can you adapt?

Offer remembrance bouquets

One suggestion is a remembrance bouquet. In the moment of loss, people have the emotional need to do something.

We often see small bouquets laid in mass in public places where people gather to express emotion over a loss of life or disastrous event.

Florists might consider promoting the practice of laying informal flower bouquets at the base of memorial tables or gravesite to give service attendees a symbolic way of expressing their grief.

What’s a florist to do?

A funeral without flowers feels incomplete. A memorial service with no body is especially bleak without flowers.

Flowers are symbolic expressions of visible and emotional support. We must remind grieving families and friends to allow flowers speak for them when there are no words.

Brainstorm with your staff ways that you can grow your sympathy business by serving the flower needs of both traditional and non-traditional clientele.

It’s a conversation worth having here in the comments below.

Are Cremations affecting your Sympathy Flower Sales?

What ideas can you share for adapting sympathy flowers to meet the needs of non-traditional services?