Alternative Phrases for In Lieu of Flowers

Different wording can eliminate survivor confusion and offer options

For more than half a century, the phrase "In lieu of flowers..." has routinely appeared in obituaries and death notices when families request a financial donation or memorial gift following the death of a loved one.

Unfortunately, this common phrase often leaves surviving family members and friends uncertain if they should or shouldn't send flowers as an expression of love and support if they desire. 

Two young children standing at a coffin outdoors
RubberBall Productions / Getty Images 

Why Is 'In Lieu of Flowers' a Problem?

According to the Society of American Florists, a national trade association representing all segments of the U.S. floral industry, the phrase "In lieu of flowers..." became a nationwide problem in the 1950s.

Initially used in published obituaries as a polite way for families to suggest financial contributions in memory of the deceased, the inherent difficulty of this phrase is that "in lieu of" literally means "instead of" or "in place of." It does not mean, "You might also consider this option..." or "The family would also appreciate..."

Because of the this-or-that nature of "In lieu of flowers," surviving family members and friends encountering this phrase in an obit or death notice generally interpret it to mean "Don't send flowers" despite the fact that most families appreciate receiving the funeral flowers and the thoughtful, caring impulse behind them.

In fact, families coping with the death of a loved one usually find comfort in any gesture of love and support that survivors make, and they generally do not want to intentionally limit any expression a well-wisher might want to make at this difficult time.

Alternative Phrases

Unfortunately, "In lieu of flowers..." continues to routinely appear in obituaries and death notices today, often due to the need for linguistic brevity because newspaper publishers charge a per-word fee.

It also may appear tacky to suggest how survivors should specifically express their support financially (flowers or memorial donations). It may simply be used due to habit on the part of funeral directors and professional obituary writers alike.

Unless you are absolutely certain you do not want family members and friends to send funeral flowers for some reason, then you should consider using one of these alternative phrases in an obituary or death notice that suggest how survivors can express their love and support without limiting their options:

  • Memorial contributions may be made to...
  • The family suggests sending memorial contributions to...
  • Should friends desire, contributions may be sent to...
  • Memorials may be made to the charity of your choice.
  • As an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions may be sent to...
  • The family has designated [CHARITY NAME] for memorial contributions.
  • Remembrances may be made in the form desired by friends.
  • Flowers are welcome; Contributions may be sent to…

By using one of the above phrases in lieu of the usual wording found in obituaries and death notices, families can lessen the confusion loved ones often feel about whether they may send funeral flowers and help ensure that those who wish to send a tangible, beautiful symbol of their love and support feel comfortable doing so.

2 Sources
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  1. Society of American Florists. History of the Society of American Florists (SAF)

  2. Aoun SM, Breen LJ, White I, Rumbold B, Kellehear A. What sources of bereavement support are perceived helpful by bereaved people and why? Empirical evidence for the compassionate communities approach. Palliat Med. 2018;32(8):1378-1388. doi:10.1177/0269216318774995

By Chris Raymond
Chris Raymond is an expert on funerals, grief, and end-of-life issues, as well as the former editor of the world’s most widely read magazine for funeral directors.