Florists would, of course, encourage everyone to send flowers for whatever the occasion and feel that sympathy flowers may not only brighten and warm a funeral or memorial service setting, but also have a positive impact on the emotional well being of the bereaved. 1
In lieu is defined as in place, instead. I think we get the impression that “In lieu of flowers” means “don’t send flowers, please do something else.” Usually the meaning is that as an alternative to flowers, there is an option to honor the loved one another way. The request may be to make a donation to a charity or church. At Bo-Ty Florist, we are very involved in charities and contributions to the community, so we understand the value of these as a meaningful option.
While a contribution to charity in the name of the deceased is always a fitting tribute, the value and importance of flowers sent in sympathy can never be overstated. Sending flowers for a funeral is a strong tradition for many, and it is a part of the grieving process to be able to express yourself in the manner which best conveys your emotions. 2
Our friend, renowned floral designer Haskell Eargle, once said “You never see ‘In lieu of potato salad.’” It was a humorous way to express a florist’s exasperation with the phrase. If I want to bring food- or flowers- and you turn me away with a polite “no thank you,” I may be left with the feeling that I haven’t been able to show my love and compassion for you.
Fortunately, we rarely see “Please omit flowers” any more. As florists, we’d prefer alternatives such as “Memorials may be made to…” or even “The family requests that donations be made to…” simply eliminating the phrase “In lieu of…” that singles out the floral industry in a negative manner.
Flowers are sent to honor the deceased, to comfort the loved ones, and as an expression of sympathy meaningful to the sender. This little poem expresses it well-
I put flowers on your grave
Although it doesn’t seem much
But even though you’re gone
We still love you very much
For more information, please see www.inlieuofflowers.info
1“The Role of Flowers and Plants in the Bereavement Process” The American Floral Endowment jointly with the SAF Florist Information Committee.