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Understanding Sympathy Terminology

In the sympathy business, there are many temrs used to describe various components of funeral service, including the flowers. Overlapping terminology used by florists in different regions of the country in reference to funeral arrangement styles sometimes be confusing. The followeing section provides definition of sympathy designs, along with other funeral-related terminology.

Basket Arrangement - An arrangement in a container of wicker, plastic, or metal with or without a handle. The width of the container is equal to or greater than the height. It can be displayed on the floor or on a stand. In the South, plastic containers are often used. If a basket arrangement in a wicker container is preferred, it should be specified.

Blooming Plant - A flowering potted indoor plant such as an azalea, chrysanthemum, or spring bulb.

Casket Cover Designs

  • Blanket - A design of flowers with a draping base, such as burlap, on which flowers and/or foliage are fastened. The design may cover the entire top of the casket, and it may even flow to the floor.


  • Scarf - A design of flowers, often placed on fabric, that drapes over a small portion of the casket.


  • Spray - A spray designed to cover a major portion of the top of a casket. A full couch casket spray is deisnged to be placed on a casket that is fully closed.

    A full couch lid spray is designed to be placed on the rack immediately behind the open lid of a fully open casket. This spray appears as if it is sitting on the lid.

    A half couch casket spray is designed to be placed ont he lower portion of the lid of a half-open casket.
  • Casket Lid Inset - A cluster of flowers placed inside the casket, often a tribute from the grandchildren. It may be placed on a pillow, fan, etc.

    Couch - A classic, older term referring to the casket.

    Cross - A structure consisting of an upright or standard with a transverse beam called an arm. Serveral variations include the following: Latin or Christian cross, Celtic cross, Maltese cross, Cross of Lorraine or Tubercular Leage Cross, and Red Cross.

    Easel - A frame, usually three-legged, made of wood, metal, or branches that displays and supports sprays and set pieces

    Fireside Basket - A design set in handled, low-sided wicket basket.

    Grave Covering (Grave Blanket) - Seasonal greens, usually trimmed with flowers, cones, or bows, placed on a frame and used to cover a grave.

    Green Plant - A non-blooming indoor plant.

    Heart (Set Piece) - A set piece in the shape of a heart, usually featuring one flower variety and trimmed with a small flower spray. Other variants include the following.

    • Bleeding Heart - A white heart as a background for a spray of red roses. Often ribbons extend the effect; construction may vary.


    • Broken Heart - AA white heart as a background to a zigzag placement of red flowers.


    • Open Heart - A heart with the inside of the form removed (also in the shape of a heart), often designed with one type of flower and ribbons. An alternative can be a grapevine heart wreath designed with a flower cluster and ribbons.

    Needle Pak - A mechanic for set pieces made of pine needles wrapped in serveral layers of tissue on a cardboard base. Pillows, wreath bases, and casket saddles are available in this form. The mechanic is frequently used on the West Coast.

    Pall - A fabric piece placed on the casket. In the south, any design placed on a casket.

    Pedestal Arrangement - Flowers and foliage set in a container; it is designed to be displayed on a pedestal.

    Pillow - Flowers and/or foliage, usually of one color and variety, imbedded directly into a styrofoam or needle-pack pillow form. A cluster of flowers is usually placed in one corner of the design, which is displayed on an easel. It may also be called a standing pillow.

    Rosary - Blooms secured into a rosary form, most often made with rosebuds, usually displayed on or in the casket.

    Satin Cross, Heart, Pillow - Small set pieces made of satin fabric in the shape of a cross, heart, or pillow; they are usually set inside the casket lid.

    Set Piece - A design that has a specialized shape or form which is created with floral products and is usually constructed using styrofoam, floral foam, or a moss form as a base. A set piece is usually placed on an easel. Examples: heart, cross, clock, gates ajar, Bible, anchor, harp, empty chair, broken wheel.

    Sheaf - An informal tribute made to look as natural as possible. The materials are secured into a central tying point, which is finished with ribbon, leaving the stems exposed below the tie. It is made to tie flat on the casket or grave.

    Spray - A one sided flower design, flat on the back side, which can be displayed in various ways, for example, casket spray, easel spray, or flat spray.

    • Easel Spray - A spray designed to be displayed on an easel. It is also referred to as a standing spray.


    • Flat Spray - A triangular spray of greenery with flowers and a satin bow that is often designed in styrofoam. The sprays are often grouped by funeral directors to foam arches, crosses, or other shapes.

    Vase Arrangement - A design palced in a container of ceramic, glass, plastic, metal, or papier-mache. The container's height is twice its width, and does not have a handle.

    Visitation - A memorial time before the funeral (the day before or immediately before) to express condolences to the bereaved family. Visitation is often held at a funeral home, and flowers are usually in place at this time.

    Wake - A visitation, often an expanded length of time, to include a celebration of the deceased person's life.

    Wreath - A ring or circle of flowers and/or foliage symbolizing eternity. A variation is a ribbon or foliage-wrapped wreath with a flower cluster.

    Flowers convey a beautiful, living testimony of the sender's respect for the deceased and concern for comforting the living. Flowers speak a silent eulogy during funerals. As in the early days of mankind, flowers continue to play an important role in the sympathy and grieving process.