Sympathy Gift Etiquette: A Few Common Questions
“Is it too late to send a sympathy gift?”
Ideally you should send a card and or gift within the first two weeks after being notified of the death. I’ve heard this from sympathy etiquette experts, but my personal opinion is that it is never too late for expressions of sympathy. Many people are afraid of “bringing it up.” I think that in most cases grieving people still want to talk about their loss to someone who is a good listener. They have not forgotten their loss and they will probably appreciate that you have not either. This is a perfect situation to use an “I’m thinking of you” card with your gift.
“Can I send a gift when the family has requested charitable donations?”
It is still acceptable to send flowers or a sympathy gift even if the family has stated that they are accepting donations in lieu of flowers. You should make a donation though as well. You may want to state in a card or note, that in addition to your donation you would like to offer a gift.
By the way, charities report the total amount of money donated and the names of individuals who made a donation, but not the amount of money each person donated. People often wonder about this. So, the amount of money you donate will not be revealed.
If you wanted to donate a small amount and then also send a gift, that is okay, but remember that the family usually cares deeply about the charities that they have selected and it means a lot to them to be part of supporting the charity they have designated.
“What kind of sympathy gift is suitable for someone I do not know very well?”
For a co-worker, acquaintance, distant relative or someone you do not know well stick to classic sympathy gifts. A floral arrangement of white lilies or roses and sympathy gift baskets are popular choices.
“Who do I send the sympathy gift to?
According to the rules of etiquette you would send the gift to the closest relative of the person who has died. If you knew the person who died, but did not know anybody else in the family, you should explain how you knew the deceased.
Proper Sympathy Gift Etiquette for Various Religions
There are a few major religions that have strong convictions either regarding sympathy flowers or gifts of food. People and cultures vary within a religion so you may find that these rules of etiquette do not apply to all individuals within a particular religion.
In the Jewish faith it is not appropriate to send sympathy flowers. You can send sympathy food baskets, but you should send a fruit basket or a kosher gift basket.
Hindu and Muslim customs also do not welcome flowers, but gifts of food are usually acceptable.
Food gifts are not appropriate for most Buddhists and also it is not okay to send flowers that are red, but white is okay. Besides avoiding gifts of food for Buddhists, most cultures and religions welcome gift baskets as a kind and thoughtful gesture of sympathy. Sympathy gift baskets are a great all-purpose gift and there is such a huge variety to choose from.
The three religions that have sympathy gift etiquette restrictions:
• For Hindu and Muslim Faiths avoid flowers
• For Buddhists avoid food and red flowers
• For the Jewish faith avoid flowers