Natural funeral flowers
I have been lucky enough in my time not to have to attend many funerals but as a florist, when I have attended a funeral I can't help but notice the flowers. Nothing says funeral like a row of white chrysanthemum letters or a gates of heaven design but while these definitely take time and skill to make, they are almost identical and don't show much about the person they honour.
I am a great believer that funerals should be a personal and meaningful way of celebrating and remembering a person, the flowers should not say "funeral" but instead should be a representation of the person who has passed away.
When my grandpa died last year, we went to his memorial at the crematorium and I found the experience very impersonal, both the religious nature of the ceremony and the traditional funeral flowers did not say "grandpa" to me at all. After the service, we went outside where all the other funeral tributes from the services before ours were lined up and they all looked the same apart from the one I had made for my sisters and me to give to grandpa, which was as colourful and eccentric as he was. Later when we scattered his ashes I cut flowers from his garden to make fresh confetti to scatter with him. It was nice to know that he was going onwards with a part of his garden that he loved.
A break from tradition
I think that funerals are long overdue the sort of overhaul that weddings have had in the past five years. Often people might not realise that they have options when it comes to funerals, where they have one, who gives the service, whether it is religious or not. Often planned at short notice and in the raw stages of early grief it is no wonder that many people, unused to ordering flowers, take the easy option of an off-the-shelf floral design from a catalogue.
I have been a wedding and event florist for some time now and work in a natural style using where possible environmentally friendly and British grown materials. I would love to create naturally styled funeral flowers more often but often people feel they have to have the traditional lily spray or don't know that an alternative exists. I often find that people planning a funeral for a keen gardener or someone who died young would prefer to avoid the formal or "stuffy" designs of traditional funeral flowers and are looking for something more natural.
With an increase in green or natural burials and humanist funerals, alternative funeral flowers will offer a much more personal and memorable way to celebrate the deceased. Whether it be totally biodegradable designs for green burial sites where animals graze, or wildflower tributes for wicker coffins there is plenty of choice and many ways to make a design personal.
In a way, I work like a Humanist Celebrant asking the bereaved to describe the person they are celebrating, what were they like, what was their humour? Favourite colour/song? Hobbies? Do they have a photo? If they were a keen gardener, I could incorporate materials from their garden in the design. Some families like to put personal items in the coffin, what about including of a posy of the deceased’s favourite flowers? If they didn't like flowers we could we do a planted design – herbs for a chef for example.
Choosing funeral flowers needn't be a stressful experience, in fact describing the character and life of the person they are celebrating can be a good way to start processing their feelings. While I know that flowers aren't going to bring back the person you loved, hopefully having something beautiful that truly represents them can be some comfort for friends and family at a difficult time.