The Greatest Honour
As florists, we are privileged to create meaningful arrangements for the biggest moments in our clients’ lives. Funeral rites in every community, culture, and generation are packed with emotional charges that must resonate throughout our designs. It’s a blessing to be a part of these profound life moments, but when the orders come in, it can feel a bit like a curse.
For starters, funeral work is always unexpected and usually the turn over is quick. It can be a headache to sort out what we have in containers and floral product and to determine what we can get in the store before the funeral. It’s tough to convince staff to stay late on a Saturday night after a long week to create 26 pieces for a funeral that need to be delivered the following morning.
It can also be trying if 15 people come in to order the funeral arrangements and you need to play therapist, judge, and jury with the always complicated family dynamics that occur when a loved one is gone. It’s a fine line to walk in assuring a client in mourning that her arrangement will have the same look and feel as her brother’s and sister’s but will also have an individual flavor like her mother’s love for each of her children.
SO WHY DO WE WANT THIS KIND OF WORK?
On a business level, there are obvious advantages of funeral pieces. They have higher price points and they clear out product in the cooler. Older product that can’t be sold because of diminished vase life — but still looks spectacular — gets to go to a oneday funeral (think: wide open roses and lilies and bits and pieces leftover from a wedding).
When I work with new designers in our industry, I hear grumbling about this. They think we are selling half dead product to funeral celebrations. I want to set this straight. Over the years, new recruits scowl as owners ask them to use last week’s product, thinking they are ripping off the client. This is not what is happening but no one talks about this, so I want to let you know what’s up. Owners ask this of us knowing that it’s a one-day celebration. They expect you NOT to use the moldy, broken flowers but rather to use the gorgeous, full-blooming product that will let the client enjoy the flowers at their showiest moment. Older product smells better in bloom, has deeper tones, and is at the peak of its existence. Usually, with older product, you get to use extra stems, knowing that if these blooms don’t get used up, they will be thrown out. This allows you to create incredible designs. The floral product, too, is at the end of its life. It seems fitting that it’s used to celebrate a life well lived while it celebrates its last big show.
Another reason why funeral orders should be welcomed is for your designers. Day in and day out, your designers struggle through another «bloomin’ bonanza» order sent through a wire service. The lack of original designs can stifle them. Creating large, personalized pieces with thought, emotion, and beautiful product breaks up the monotony of everyday arrangements and allows for a flow of new ideas. Funeral work can bring a charge of purpose with its underlying intention of love and remembrance. Telling designers the story of the person they are memorializing will allow for special touches that will manifest a statement for the dearly departed’s loved ones.
Some shops turn away from this work. Why? Some communities have funeral homes that have gouged shops with a 20 to 30% finder’s fee or that have favoured one shop over others. These tales of the middleman cutting into profit margins and steering long-time clients into the arms of the competition can leave a bad taste in your mouth. I have seen shops wipe their hands clean of funeral work, but I say NO!
Funerals and memorials are a part of what a full-service shop must offer. No, I don’t want you to make underhanded deals with funeral homes or start advertising at old age homes to get a jump on the business. But when you build your customer base, I do want you to tell them you’re here to help celebrate their life — all of it! That means when Peggy gets engaged, then married, and has babies (in whatever order that happens…) you got her. Her divorce party (complete with wine and Botox!)? You got her! And when something happens to one of her loved ones, you are also there. Let her know that every celebration, be it joyful or bittersweet, has your love and understanding attached.
The flower shops and studios that survive the test of time will tell you stories of the generations of families they have proudly served. When you nurture a community and the members within them, you become a staple. Your blooms mark their tests through time. For designers, it’s the ultimate honour. Embrace it.