The Etiquette for Sending Flowers: Do's and Don'ts

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There are many reasons to send flowers -- to make a romantic statement to the one you love, to wish someone a happy birthday, as get well wishes, or to commemorate a person who has died. But each of these situations has its own etiquette -- a set of recommended do’s and don’ts to make sure your thoughtful present doesn’t accidentally send the wrong message or offend someone’s sensibilities.

There are many things that impact proper flower giving etiquette -- from location, to relationship, to occasion. Here are some tips for proper etiquette for a variety of occasions for which you might send flowers.

Sending Sympathy Flowers

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One of the most popular reasons to send flowers is for sympathy or to commemorate a lost loved one. However, keep in mind that this can often be a very difficult type for people, so you will want to be extremely thoughtful in your approach to sending flowers and ensure you are employing proper etiquette.

Generally, flowers are sent to a funeral home so they can be displayed at a viewing or memorial service. Find out what the plans are for the service before sending -- many people may not want an onslaught of flowers at their home when they are already overwhelmed. The funeral home often handles this and ensures that all gifts are received and displayed. Keep in mind, however, that many people wish to have donations made in their name to a charity in lieu of flowers -- find out if this is what the family has requested and adhere to their wishes. You may think you’re being thoughtful, but there’s nothing more rude than explicitly ignoring the request of the deceased and their family. Additionally, though most Christian denominations display flowers at memorial services, there are plenty of religions (or non-religious families) that do not, so pay attention and make sure you’re not going against the dictates of their faith.

Lastly, be considerate in the blooms you select -- traditionally, flowers sent in sympathy are meant to celebrate the life of the person who has passed so pick something lovely and uplifting. White is the most traditional color and lilies are always a stunning choice. Avoid anything too silly or lighthearted like balloons, stuffed animals, etc.

Sending Get Well Soon Flowers

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It’s natural to want to send a friend or loved one a cheery bouquet to brighten their day when they’re ill. When they’re bed-ridden or can’t leave the house having a brightly colored bouquet nearby can be a very comforting thing. However, keep in mind that due to allergies, risk of infection, etc. many hospitals do not permit the display of flowers. You should always check on the hospital policy before bringing or sending flowers. Generally, it is safest to wait until the person is in the privacy of their own home to send anything along.

Sending Romantic Flowers

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We can’t think of a better reason to send flowers than to tell someone you love them, whether it’s for a holiday like Valentine’s Day or just because. Red roses are always a classic when it comes to expressing your romantic feelings, but the best choice is to go with your special someone’s favorite flowers. It will show them that you care and pay attention to even the smallest detail. If they like blooms that are especially rare or difficult to get, it will be a huge romantic gesture for you to send that.

If you intend to send flowers as a romantic gesture, it’s best to send them to a private location like your loved one’s home. Sending them to a public place like an office might make your partner the subject of unwanted gossip and attention. If your point is to make a flashy public gesture, be sure it’s something your special someone is ok with in advance. If you’ve been married for a long time or your relationship is well-known to each other’s coworkers, it’s slightly less problematic, but still be sure it’s something they would respond well to.

Sending Birthday or Holiday Flowers

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If you want to send flowers to celebrate someone’s birthday, the birth of a child, or any other holiday (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Easter, etc.), there’s a lot of things to take into consideration. First, be considerate and aware of the message you want to send -- if they’re a dear friend, but not someone you’re romantically involved with, don’t send red roses or any other traditionally romantic flowers. And as noted above, it’s best to send them to a private location and not their place of work.

Whether you’re sending flowers for a birthday, a new baby, or a more widely celebrated holiday, the best practice is to pick something thematically appropriate. If it’s someone’s birthday, send them a cheery arrangement of their favorite blooms in their favorite colors -- whether that’s a spray of pink tulips or a multi-colored assortment of gerbera daisies with a balloon. For a new baby, send something warm and cute to celebrate this new life. Depending on the parents and their stance on gender norms, send a blue or pink bouquet for their new baby boy or girl. If you want to be sure not to offend, send something in a gender neutral palette of green, yellow, or orange, etc.

The other holidays are far more specific -- choose an arrangement that speaks to the holiday, whether it’s through appropriate colors (red and green for Christmas, green for St. Patrick’s Day, black and orange for Halloween) or through an arrangement that suggests the holiday (a basket for Easter, a cornucopia for Thanksgiving). Your thoughtfulness and taste in design will not go unnoticed.

Sending Promotion or Work Event Flowers

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There are plenty of reasons to send a coworker flowers -- congratulating them on a promotion, celebrating Bosses’ Day, or just saying thank you for their extra input on a project. But this is probably the trickiest area when it comes to flower sending etiquette. You should be incredibly cautious about what you send, lest someone perceive the flowers as evidence of romantic interest (or worse, a sign of favoritism or harassment). In this case, it’s likely best to send a fruit basket or a less flashy plant than a bouquet of flowers to avoid any confusion about your intentions.

If you follow all of these helpful do’s and don’ts, you’ll soon be considered one of the most thoughtful people around for the beautiful and tasteful flower arrangements you gift to friends and family.

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