Etiquette for funeral casket flowers

Updated April 17, 2017

Flowers do more than beautify a funeral; their soft scents and bright colours serve as a memorial of the deceased and a symbol of life. Members of some religions, such as Judaism and Islam, eschew funeral flowers, and some families prefer to honour the deceased's memory with donations to a favourite charity. Nonetheless, flowers are featured in most traditional North American funerals. Even where other flowers are not used, a special arrangement often graces the casket itself.

Casket Sprays

The traditional flower arrangements for funeral caskets are sprays, with stems and greenery radiating outward from a central large bouquet. These casket sprays come in two popular sizes: full, which covers most of the length of the casket lid, and half, which covers a portion of the lid. Etiquette dictates that full sprays are only used for closed-casket services. For open-casket funerals, half sprays are moved to the centre of the casket when it is closed for the burial or graveside service.

Ordering Sprays

Casket sprays are typically ordered by the immediate family of the deceased. If the deceased had no close family, the spray may be ordered by other relatives, close friends, coworkers or even community organisations.

Alternative Arrangements

Smaller flower arrangements may be placed inside the casket lid to represent minor-aged children or grandchildren of the deceased. These may take the form of nosegays, small bouquets or corsages. Larger, upright sprays--often as matched pairs--flanking the casket are another way of representing the deceased's family.

Placement With Flag

Military veterans are entitled to have a national flag displayed on the casket. As a sign of respect to the flag, flowers should never be placed on top of it. While the flag is typically draped over the casket to indicate military honours, it may be folded into a triangle and placed at the head of the casket when a floral spray is placed on the casket, according to the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery.


There is no single rule of etiquette for flowers at a graveside service. Individual flowers may be dropped into the grave onto the coffin, and standing arrangements may be left beside the completed grave or taken home by family members, depending on local custom, individual preference or cemetery rules. The casket spray, however, is normally placed atop the casket during a graveside service; it may then be placed atop the grave.

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About the Author

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.