Families often ask that contributions be made to a charitable organization in lieu of sending flowers. Although there are many charities that promote this, it is a decision that the surviving family needs to make.
Why do people send flowers? Having flowers at a funeral ceremony symbolizes life and beauty verses one without that can appear stark and plain. Flowers are a way for family and friends to show they care. If a friend lives in another state and is unable to attend the service, sending flowers is an expression of caring does make an impact on the family.
Some people may be a bit apprehensive or even ashamed to send contributions for flowers while some never get around to it. Sending flowers to ceremonies especially if you cannot be there physically meets some very special needs for the family. It is a convenient and great expression of sympathy and can often speak volumes when you are at a loss for words on the death. Flowers have always been a symbol of caring.
On the other hand, flowers are perishable and can be seen displayed at a visitation, ceremony or burial site. The grieving family may take a few plants or arrangements with them. Because flowers do have a short lasting time, people often wonder if it would be better to send a charitable contribution in the deceased name. Donations such as this can have a lasting effect and would benefit others.
There are some benefits to sending flowers or making a contribution in lieu of. Sometimes, people may feel flowers are more personal in nature as opposed to a monetary gift to a charity. It's best to assess the situation of the family and then determine which would be more meaningful to them. If they specifically note to make a contribution, then it is a simple decision. Sometimes, if the deceased died from cancer or struggled with an illness with no cure, it would make sense to make that contribution. Consider what the family would appreciate more.
What usually happens to the flowers after the service is they go to the place of burial. The family may take a few of the arrangements or plants and take them home. The mortuary generally does not take donated flowers since some believe the flowers are a gift to the deceased.
Whatever you decide to do in each case, know that either is appropriate and can be dictated by the families wishes or the situation of the death.