Sympathy Gift Etiquette

Sympathy gift etiquette and condolences etiquette for elegant ways to express loss and grieving. What does in lieu of flowers mean?

What do you do when you hear about an unfortunate incident in your family or close friends?

Should you call? When should you call? Should you send a note? Is emailing appropriate?

What do you do or bring when you attend a funeral?

Condolences Etiquette

Calls of Condolences

Question: When should you call?

Answer: Immediately when you got the bad news.

When you call simply offer your condolences to whoever picked up the phone. Then identify who you are, "I'm Rachel's colleague, and please send my regards to her." If the caller offers to put you through, you may offer your condolences to Rachel when she comes to the phone.

Unless you are very close, you should refrain from making a request to speak to your friend. She might be busy with funeral arrangements and grieving. Imagine if she had to answer a hundred phone calls from people she barely knows?

Attending the Funeral

At a funeral home, sign the register then offer the family your sympathy in person.

If they are not present, write a letter of sympathy to them. Do not call, as they might be tied up the funeral arrangements.

If you are attending the funeral with someone who could not make it, offer to take a handwritten note from the absentee to include it with the register. Or if you are unable take a note, you may write one on that person's behalf.

See also Sympathy Gift Etiquette below.

Sympathy Gift Etiquette - Funeral Flowers

Sympathy Gift Etiquette is part of Condolences Etiquette

Whether it is a death, or simply someone in hospital due to a very bad accident etc, one can always offer flowers and a card.

Stay away from the 'romantic' flowers. Any good florist will know what to do so when you get flowers, just mention that they are for 'sympathy' purposes.

If the flowers are for people from a different culture, you might want to double check what colors are auspicious.

Read on to find out what 'in lieu of flowers' mean.

Sympathy Gift Etiquette for "In Lieu of Flowers"

From Emily Post's Etiquette, "In Lieu of Flowers" means that the family requests a contribution to a specific charity instead of flowers and believes the contribution will help them to feel that some good has come from their loss."

Instead of spending on funeral flowers, you may send out a cheque to their charity of their choice, with a note saying:

"This donation is sent in memory of Ms A.Hepburn of La Paisible"


'In Lieu of Flowers' Not Mentioned

What is the Sympathy Gift Etiquette and Condolences Etiquette if there "In Lieu of Flowers" ?

If there is no "in lieu of flowers", you should send flowers.

Other options (under Sympathy Gift Etiquette) are to send plant or flower arrangement to the family a few days after the funeral as an indication of your continuing sympathy and love. Cards accompanying should not mention the funeral again, but simply, "With love from all of us."

When attending the funeral in another country and culture, its best to find out from the locals what is the accepted procedure no matter what etiquette books says. Etiquette changes from time to time and differs from different cultures. It is kind not to make a fuss or compare but 'do as the romans do in rome'. Do not question or debate but focus on the time of grieving.

For instance, in asian culture, a cash offering is given very discretely to help with funeral costs as a way of offering sympathy.

Other Ways Of Offering Condolences

There are other ways of offering condolences in Sympathy Gift Etiquette and Condolences Etiquette.

As said earlier, you might not want to intrude on their privacy by calling unless you are very close.

You may wish to send a sympathy card. Read more about Sympathy Card Etiquette . In short, write a brief message with "With Deepest Sympathy" At the Top.

You could offer help in:

  • General funeral assistance such as answering the door
  • Assisting with the funeral with food and drink
  • Receiving visitors
  • Ushering duties
  • Childcare
  • Pet care
  • Making phone calls etc.


Saying Thank You - Accepting Condolences Etiquette

Flowers, cards from friends, contributions from friends, funeral or memorial assistance, personal condolences must be acknowledge with a thank-you note or message. This basically means anything personally written, said or helped.

A simple vanilla colored card may be printed

The family of O'Darlings wishes to thank you for your kind expression of sympathy

And you can include a handwritten note at the bottom.

These days with the convenience of email, you could also send an e-card and a short personal message to thank everyone.

Messages from strangers and the public, while it is kind, may not be personally thanked, but you could issue a general "thank you" message on the board or on the relevant websites.

Thank you for reading 'Sympathy Gift and Condolences Etiquette'!

Go back to Etiquette.

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