In lieu of flowers: How to word a request for an alternative to funeral flowers

What happens if my husband or wife dies in Spain?

What happens if my husband or wife dies in Spain? Image - shutterstock

WHEN a loved one dies, it is very common for relatives to receive funeral flowers from people who want to show their sympathies, but you may prefer to receive something else instead.

This is generally worded as “in lieu of flowers” and literally means in place of flowers.

If you would appreciate a donation rather than flowers, whether it’s to help with funeral costs or because you think your departed relative would prefer that money be given to charity or a good cause, then you want to know how to word it correctly.

Donations to a good cause

The most common thing people ask for “in lieu of flowers” is a donation to charity in honour of the deceased, especially one that was significant to the deceased, although some people may prefer for their guests to donate to a charity of their own choice.

The simplest way to say this is “the family asks for any donations / financial contributions / memorial contributions to go to / be made to…” or “we are honouring (name) with a contribution to (charity)…”

This leaves it to the guests to decide whether they want to give the donation as well as or instead of flowers.

To make it clearer that the donation would be preferred over flowers, other acceptable phrasing includes: “the family welcomes donations to (charity) as an expression of sympathy instead of / in lieu of flowers…”

You could also put something along the lines of “donations made in lieu of flowers will be used by the family to honour (name’s) chosen cause…” this means that guests can give their donation to the relatives of the deceased and they can then make the donation.

Donations to help with funeral expenses

The donations requested “in lieu of flowers” are sometimes to assist in paying for the expenses of the funeral, and there is nothing wrong with making such a request, so don’t beat about the bush. Here are some ways you can put it:

“The family is asking for financial support to cover [name’s] funeral expenses…” or “to ensure that the funeral is a fitting tribute to (name’s) memory…”, these, again, leave it up to the guest to decide if they send flowers, but makes it clear that the family’s main concern is for financial support to be offered.

If the contribution towards the costs of the funeral should be given instead of flowers, you could put “The family would appreciate assistance with funeral costs in lieu of / instead of flowers…” but if you don’t want the guests to feel like they are being pressured, you could write something along the lines of “If you would like to contribute to the funeral funds, please contact the family…”

You may also want the money to be donated for use on something more specific, such as a memorial statue, a piece of cremation jewellery or a trip to scatter the ashes of the deceased. You could clarify this when you ask for the donation.

Something different

Sometimes you don’t want flowers to be gifted, but you’re not looking for a donation either, you could welcome your guests to bring candles to the funeral, you can get them personalised and they are very symbolic. You may want to get family and friends together for a meal where everyone can bring a dish, and gather to have a nice time remembering the deceased.

More practical is asking for a hand in setting up and clearing up after the memorial service. You will probably not feel up to much decorating and later tidying, so help in this way would be much appreciated.

Nothing at all

In some cases, giving gifts is not appropriate, for example, in some religions it is not seen as acceptable or you may just want to keep things simple. As your guests may not be aware of this, you should make it clear.

The most simple way to say this is “No gifts or flowers are required in (name’s) memory” or something along those lines, and you may want to add that the presence and support of the guests is all that is needed at this difficult time. You can also ask people to “please keep the family in your thoughts…”

Flowers and something more

You may appreciate receiving flowers in sympathy while also requesting a donation or other gesture, if this is the case you may want to word it along these lines:

“In addition to flowers, the family would appreciate… / you might like to consider… or alternatively “while flowers are welcome, the family would also be grateful for… / other contributions can be sent to…”

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Written by

David Arias