Funeral Flowers | Sympathy Flowers
Flower wreaths, and cross or heart arrangementsAppropriate for friends and family members. These arrangements are typically presented on an easel and placed in a noticeable position near the casket. They are shaped like a cross or a heart and wreaths are circular to represent perpetual life. They are delivered to the funeral home and may be taken to the grave site.
Casket SpraysAppropriate for family members only. Also known as casket covers, they are meant to lay directly on the casket either partly covering the lid area or spread out to varying lengths of the casket. Also depends whether the service will have an open or closed casket.
Standing SpraysAppropriate for acquaintances or family members. These arrangments are supported by an easel, off the ground, and with varying shapes (cross, heart, etc). Delivered to the funeral home or church.
Funeral Baskets or PlantsAppropriate for all. Popular as a condolence offering, they are presented in decorative vessels, and placed around the casket (floor, table, chair, etc.), and may be sent to the family home or the funeral home.
Catholic - Fresh flowers are common and is a kindhearted gesture.
Mormons - Accepted but no crucifix or cross arrangement.
Eastern Orthodox - Accepted, more commonly before burial. White flowers preferred.
Hindu - Garlands and sprays more common, but flowers also accepted.
Islamic - Technically not in the teachings to have candles or flowers, but increasingly accepted.
Jewish - Less accepted as food baskets are more commonly sent to the family's home, in particular for Orthodox Jews.
Once a must item at wakes, flowers - wired meticulously into showy displays of affection for the deceased - are quietly disappearing from the funeral parlors of Central Massachusetts.
Instead, mourners are making donations to charities suggested by the family of the deceased.
Occurring slowly over the past decade or so, the practice of making a memorial contribution to a charity rather than sending flowers to a wake has become much more pronounced, especially in the past five years.
The trend means more than $3 million annually for the eight charities most often selected by people in this area to receive memorial donations. There also are dozens of churches, smaller charities and other organizations throughout Central Massachusetts that receive lesser amounts.
However, a gain for these charities does not necessarily translate into big losses for the area's floral industry.
Many florists said they are doing significantly less funeral work than they were five years ago and about half as much as they were a decade ago. But several florists pointed out that people now send flowers more frequently and they tend to do so for just about any reason. Although the florists did not have a specific dollar amount available, they said the other business adequately makes up for lost funeral revenues.
"There are always some flowers ordered for wakes, mostly the family pieces," said Mary Ann Houston of Houston Floral Design, 381 Park Ave.
The cost of flowers selected by a family averages about $300 a funeral, Houston said. About seven years ago, "We were doing 12 to 14 pieces, and that was more than $600," she said.
Houston echoed the thoughts of many other florists, saying, "We didn't dwell on the loss (of funeral revenue). Every industry is affected by change at one time or another. You accept change and make the best of it."
Some funeral directors, like John Masciarelli of Smith-Mallahy Funeral Home in Fitchburg, are greatly saddened by the decreasing use of flowers. "Taking flowers away from the funeral process eliminates something that helps. Flowers are very important to what we do ... very important to the healing process. They are very visual, something uplifting, a good-feeling thing," he said.
Masciarelli and other funeral directors who encourage families to accept flowers go out of their way to assure them that the flowers will not be wasted. Following the funeral, flowers are delivered to nursing homes and hospitals, among other places, where they are rearranged into a variety of decorative pieces.
"Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, including the actions of some people in my profession, flowers have been singled out as being wasteful. People have seen carloads of them being thrown out and that has stayed with them," said James B. Kelly, director of Kelly Funeral Home, 154 Lincoln St.
Kelly takes exception to the publication of obituary language that urges the omission of flowers, saying, "It's very rude and tacky to tell people how to express their sympathy.
"Flowers add value and beauty to the funeral home setting. Flowers are a symbol of life and can easily be equated with the life of the individual in the casket."
In addition to distributing flowers to various nursing homes, Kelly has teamed with Dondy Chysna, a registered nurse and horticultural therapist, to provide flowers for various projects at area hospitals, nursing homes and elsewhere.
"We use every bit of the plant material that comes in those funeral arrangements. Some are pressed into greeting cards, the roses are dried and used in wreaths, others are rearranged into small bouquets and some are used in potpourris. We even reuse the foam bases," Chysna said.
A majority of the people interviewed, including florists, feel that the economic downturn that began six years ago, coupled with changing values and lifestyles, have a great deal to do with the shift to memorial donations.
"People are cutting down in all parts of their life," said Paul Lemay, manager and floral designer at Mastromatteo's Flower Shop, 57 Hartford Turnpike, Shrewsbury.
According to Lemay, when people include the "in lieu of flowers" wording in a loved one's obituary, "they are saying to people they care about, don't waste your money."
Florists say the average price for a flower arrangement has gone from $30 to $50 over the past seven years. Correspondingly, charitable organizations say the average memorial gift has risen from $10 to about $23 in the same time period.
Lemay said some people ignore the family's wishes and send flowers anyway or send something to the home, "but we are definitely seeing fewer and fewer of the 40- to 50-piece funerals. More often than not it's 15 to 20 pieces."
Philip G. Haddad Jr., one of the owners of Nordgren Carrigan Mangsen Memorial Chapel, 300 Lincoln St., said certain traditions regarding wakes and funerals have all but disappeared in today's lifestyles. Back in the 1960s, "people would come to wakes that lasted two and three days, and they would also come to the funeral. They would send flowers that were displayed for the whole period. It was not uncommon to see 40 or 50 floral pieces at a wake," Haddad said.
"The changes do not mean that people care any less for mom and dad. However, they do indicate that there are different priorities in their lives."
Some funeral directors and florists insist that people are being nudged away from flowers toward memorial donations by funeral directors anxious to shed the task of arranging and getting rid of the flowers. A few blamed the newspaper, claiming the idea became popular after obituaries began including the suggestion for a charitable contribution in lieu of, or in addition to, flowers.
But most funeral directors soundly reject the idea that they steer clients to memorial donations in lieu of flowers.
Howard Miller, owner of Sawyer-Miller Funeral Homes in Lunenburg and Westminster, first noticed the trend away from flowers in the mid-1960s.
Miller said that although he personally feels flowers are "a very nice tribute and a very therapeutic part" of the grieving process, "most people feel it is a waste of money to have others send flowers. They feel memorial contributions provide a more lasting tribute to their lost loved one."
Mark Gerardi, manager of Arthur S. Manzi & Son Funeral Home, said choosing a charity "is usually a very, very personal thing to people ... there is usually a direct relationship between the deceased and the charity."
Gerardi sees memorial donations as "a good thing. There's a lot of pressure on charities to find cures for diseases, and people feel they need the help. They feel flowers are wasted."
"Many people actually come into the office to make the contribution," said Corinne Farinelli, Central Massachusetts regional executive director for the American Cancer Society. "They ask how th money is going to be spent and what type of research it supports. They also want to know whether their money will help out here in Central Massachusetts."
The most recent figures show that in Massachusetts, the cancer society receives $860,000 or 11 percent of its total income from memorial donations. Although Farinelli could not specify how many come from Central Massachusetts, she said some of the money helps to underwrite about a dozen research projects, valued at $1.3 million, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Worcester Biotechnology Research Park.
Farinelli sees the increase in memorial donations as consistent with an overall trend in the way people deal with death and dying and the disease of cancer. "They seem to want to take more control ... they are less willing to be a victim in the situation," she said. The Jimmy Fund||Dana-Farber Cancer Institute receives about $1 million annually in memorial donations, according to spokeswoman Karen Cummings. "People remember with donations because they feel something good comes out of it," she said.
UMass Medical Center received more than $100,000 in memorial contributions during its fiscal year ending June 30, most of it donated to its cancer, heart and children's care centers.
"We are constantly asked by patients: What can we do for you?" development director Kevin Courtney said.
The Massachusetts chapter of the American Heart Association "survives on these kinds of donations," said spokeswoman Deborah Burke Henderson about the $500,000 annually that comes in from memorial donations. The amount is about 15 percent of its annual budget. Henderson estimated that 11 percent of the money, or $55,000, comes into the agency's Framingham headquarters from Central Massachusetts.
Charities expend very little in manpower or money to solicit memorial donations, adding a premium to their value.
"We never solicited memorial donations," said development director June Grace of the $50,000 that comes in annually to the hospice program of the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Massachusetts.
Patient-care services of the Visiting Nurse Association of the Greater Milford-Northbridge Area benefited directly from the $104,000 in memorial donations received, according to spokeswoman Carolyn Prout. "People feel memorial donations last longer ... the money benefits others more directly," she said.
Gifts traditionally say, "congratulations," "thank you" and "we're looking forward to bigger and better things tomorrow."
Historically companies have spent tremendous sums entertaining customers and prospects, purchasing exquisite gifts and throwing the annual holiday party for all employees. With downsizing, right-sizing and. outsourcing, customs have changed. So what is the etiquette of gift giving in 1999?
According to a recent survey by Incentive magazine, 43 percent of businesses plan to spend $50 or less per gift. A sample of local businesses indicates they will use the old 20-80 rule. Gifts for the top 20 percent of customers and cards for the rest. Some small businesses will do nothing.
Not everyone celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah. It is wise to choose gifts that do not have a religious theme and are not red and green. If you are giving gifts to people with strong ethnic ties, checking out their gift-giving customs is a good idea.
For instance, the Chinese believe clocks are a symbol of bad luck. Scissors or knives represent the severing of relationships to people from Latin America or Asia (letter openers and desk accessories are OK). Giving flowers becomes tricky as many cultures have designated specific flowers and colors for funerals. The number of flowers is also significant. Red roses are universally reserved for romance.
Some companies are giving gifts in November with a fall theme. Others are scheduling their gifts for January. These gifts may focus on the millennium or just say they are looking forward to continuing the profitable relationship in the new year.
If Fortune 1000 companies, public utilities or government agencies populate your client list, be sure to ask their personnel departments about gift-receiving policies. Many prohibit receipt of more than $25 in a 12-month period from one company by an individual. This may include lunches.
Thoughtfulness, practicality and personalization are the keys to gift selection. Having fun and being creative will make you memorable. Some words of caution: Make sure it pertains to your business, is not offensive, and will come across as intended.
Here is where your contact database may pay for itself. If contact preferences have been entered, you may be able to quickly determine a perfect gift.
Popular presents include gift certificates; watches and clocks; tickets to a performance or a sporting event; calendars and diaries; electronics; books, music or videos; gourmet food baskets; sporting goods; wine and spirits; and cameras. Using a theme from your advertising program or including logo gifts makes the package more memorable.
You may deal with only the purchasing agent at a company, but there are many people who contribute to your company's continued sales. Choosing a gift for everyone to enjoy will create greater good will. This also helps to say "thank you" when individual gifts are not acceptable. Some favorite suggestions are gourmet popcorn, fresh fruit baskets, nuts and specialty cookies.
Many organizations and individuals are championing people who are in crisis or environmental causes. A donation in their name to a favorite charity may be more appreciated than a gift. Some non-profits offer distinctive gifts during the holidays. Entertainment books, calendars and poinsettias are possibilities.
Because your gift is meant to acknowledge your relationship, a thoughtfully written note to accompany it is a must. This personal touch recognizing the relationship creates additional good will.
Presentation and packaging says "you and our relationship are important." A few dollars spent on a basket, crate or other unusual container puts the present in a special category.
Incentive magazine's survey found that company representatives hand deliver 81 percent of all gifts. This is the perfect time to personally say, "It's a pleasure working with you and we look forward to the new year."
There's one other group of people that need a thank you. They are your employees. It is no longer necessary to throw an extravagant dinner party, but a catered lunch during the holidays is appreciated. Some companies hand out bonuses based on profits; others wait until January or February. More companies are giving high-quality logo embroidered clothing.
Some employee groups are electing to help others instead of exchanging gifts and a party. The United Way of Sacramento offers their Gifts of Love program. The list contains a wide variety of groups and heeds from which to choose.
This is a hectic time of the year and all too frequently we forget to just say, "Thank you. It has been nice doing business with you. How can we help you tomorrow?"