Graveside Visitation Ideas

Graveside Visitation Ideas

Visiting the gravesite of a loved one can evoke a lot of thoughts and emotions. Oftentimes, spending time at a special person’s final resting place can provide solace and a sense of closeness to that person. For some, the idea of visiting a grave may cause some apprehension since they don’t know what feelings may arise during the visit.

My father passed away in December of 2011 and the first time I visited his grave I remember thinking, “What do I do now that I am here?” I knew that visitors often left flowers on their loved one’s graves; however, my dad was unlike most people and didn’t particularly care for flowers. Hence, I was at a loss for what to do and felt a little empty inside upon leaving the cemetery. If you find yourself in a similar situation, hopefully this blog will give you some graveside visitation ideas to make your time more impactful.

When to Visit

Public cemeteries are open daily making it convenient for guests to spend time at a loved one’s grave. There is no “rule” as to when or how often family members and friends should visit a gravesite, but there are certain days that are more popular.

  • Anniversaries of marriage, birth and death
  • Traditional holidays: Valentine’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • Memorial Day and Veterans Day
  • Mother’s Day and Father’s Day
  • Yom Kippur and Rosh HaShanah

What to Do During Your Visit

What To Do At Grave Site

Many possibilities exist as to what you can do when visiting a grave and there is no right or wrong choice. The most important thing is that you are paying tribute to a loved one in a manner that is meaningful to you.

Decorate the Grave

Flowers are the most common decorations found on graves. A simple, single flower or something more substantial such as a floral arrangement or wreath can be used to decorate a grave. Many times visitors place their loved one’s favorite flower or plant on the grave. Or, they may leave behind a flower or plant based on its symbolic meaning.

  • Calla lily: faith, purity, and holiness
  • Carnation: love and affection
  • Daisy: innocence, purity, and happiness
  • Fern: sincerity and humility
  • Hydrangea: honesty and gratitude, amends and understanding
  • Lily: purity and beauty
  • Red rose: love and affection
  • Tulip: confidence, affection, and enduring love
  • Yellow rose: friendship and gratitude
  • Zinnia: friendship, remembrance, and goodness

Family and friends often decorate graves around the holidays. You will see a lot of lily arrangements and floral crosses around Easter. On Memorial Day and Veterans Day, small American flags and patriotic flowers are regularly seen on the graves of those who served our country. Grave blankets, which are woven evergreen arrangements that are laid out over a grave space, are popular during the winter holidays.

Grave Blankets Woven Evergreen Arrangements

Sometimes decorations including small flags, wind chimes, and mementos such as miniature statues and figurines are placed on graves. Children’s graves are often decorated with stuffed animals, small toys and bright, colorful flowers.

If you are planning to decorate the final resting place of a spouse, family member or friend, be sure to familiarize yourself with the cemetery rules. Items that are not typically allowed include lights, large banners or flags, glass vases, and fences. In memorial parks, where grave memorials are flush to the ground, artificial flowers may not be permitted during mowing season.

Leave Behind a Coin

Leave Behind A Coin On A Grave

When visiting a cemetery, you may have seen coins on graves and wondered what they represented.

As part of military tradition, coins are placed on a soldier’s marker to let family members know their loved one’s grave had been visited. Pennies are placed if you didn’t know the deceased, but want to express appreciation for their service. A nickel signifies you attended boot camp with the person who passed away, while a dime means you served with the deceased. Lastly, a quarter represents you served with the deceased and were with him or her when they died.

Visitors to Benjamin Franklin’s grave have been tossing pennies on his grave for decades. The practice can be attributed to Franklin’s well known quote, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” and is thought to bring good luck to coin-tossers. Through the years this tradition has expanded. Family and friends have begun leaving pennies on their loved one’s graves as a way to pay respects and wish them good luck in their afterlife.

Coins are also sometimes left at graves as an alternative to flowers and other decorations; which can be costly. This practice represents the importance of honoring the dead and is especially popular in certain parts of Latin America.

Have a Picnic

Have A Picnic At The Cemetery

You may choose to have a picnic at your loved one’s grave. It might be nice to have the person you have lost’s favorite drink, dish, or dessert. You could make it a social occasion and take along another family member or friend for company. Another idea is to bring along a book to read to yourself or out loud to your loved one. You could read your loved one’s favorite book or a book you think he or she would have enjoyed.

Many cemeteries have features such as benches, picnic tables and gazebos. Having a place to sit near a loved one’s grave can make the visit more comfortable, especially for older individuals who may not be very mobile.

Clean the Gravesite Area and Marker

Clean The Gravesite Area And Grave

Most cemetery grounds are well maintained, regularly mowed and attractively landscaped in common areas. However, you may visit a grave and want to do some basic clean up around the marker. Picking up leaves, pulling any weeds and edging the grass can enhance the appearance of the grave space. For some, taking care of a spouse, family member or friend’s final resting place can be therapeutic.

You may notice your loved one’s marker is dirty or has lost its shine over the years. Most markers can be cleaned with water and a mild detergent such as Ivory or Dove. For best results, use a soft, lint free cloth. Brushes, especially those with coarse bristles, can scratch a marker and shouldn’t be used. A thin layer of wax that doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals can be applied to act as a barrier from the elements. Cleaning a bronze marker can be more intricate than cleaning markers made of other materials and may require additional steps to get the desired results.

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Talk with Your Loved One

Talk With Your Loved One At Graveside

We all wish we could talk with someone we love who passed away just one more time. Visiting a grave and speaking to your loved one can be a way to help fulfill this yearning. You might take the opportunity to tell your loved one something you didn’t get a chance to before he/she passed away. You can tell them how much you miss them or share what is happening in your life and the lives of others. Talking with your loved one can help reconnect you to the special person in your life you have lost.

Have a Remembrance Ceremony

Have A Remembrance Ceremony For Loved One

Some family and friends may choose to have a modified memorial service at a gravesite. These gatherings generally take place around the anniversary of a loved one’s birth or death and can be either formal or informal. Oftentimes, memories are shared, scripture is read or a poem is recited.

Gatherings can even take the form of a celebration. Cheerful music can be played, funny stories can be told or a toast can be made in honor of the person who has passed. If children are going to attend, you may choose to have them do some type of activity such as writing their loved one a short note and placing it in a balloon to be released.

Social Media Post

Social Media Post

Creating a social media post and sharing it with family members and friends is another, more modern way to commemorate your loved one. A picture of your loved one’s gravesite along with a special tribute will surely be appreciated by those who knew the deceased. Social media posts are also a great way for those who live far away or aren’t able to physically go to the cemetery to see that special someone’s final resting place.

Cherishing the Moment

Cherishing The Moment

At first, visiting a loved one’s grave can be difficult, but over time it can be a joyful time of reflection. It can also play an instrumental part of the grieving process. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, respected grief expert, author, and counselor, explains, “I have learned we cannot go around the pain of our grief. Instead, we must learn to embrace and express it. This is hard but absolutely necessary work.” As you mourn the loss of a loved one, think about the positive impact a visit to the cemetery can have on your emotional well being.

Looking back at my first visit to my father’s grave the saying, “I wish I knew then what I know now.” is certainly appropriate. Shortly after my father passed away, I came to work for the Darby families businesses and my office is located in our cemetery. Throughout the years, I have witnessed families honoring their loved ones in many special ways and now know the possibilities of what you can do when visiting a cemetery are practically limitless.

It’s important to know you don’t have to have a specific plan when visiting a loved one’s final resting place. You can simply spend some quiet time at the grave allowing yourself to be in the present moment letting your thoughts flow freely. No matter how you choose to spend the time during your visit, you will hopefully be able to reconnect with the past in a way that enables your loved one’s memory to stay alive and strong.

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Jill Darby

Jill is a member of the Marketing Team and copywriter for Trigard Memorials and all affiliated companies. She grew up in the funeral industry, as her family owned funeral homes in the Midwest. After graduating from Miami University, Ohio in 2003 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, Jill worked in sales and customer relations for a global funeral product manufacturer. Her experience also includes merchandising, cemetery operations, and aftercare. Jill and her husband, Rich enjoy spending time with family, traveling, watching college basketball, and spoiling their 5 grandchildren.

A Guide to Etiquette for Grave Flowers, Wreaths & More

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In some cultures, many people feel that one of the best ways to honor and respect the dead is through decorating their graves with flowers, wreaths, or other symbolic gifts and gestures. Some feel a deep responsibility to complete this task, and think of it as a sign of disrespect if their relatives’ graves go unadorned. This is especially true in smaller communities where friends and neighbors frequent the same cemetery .

Overview: A Guide to Etiquette for Grave Flowers, Wreaths & More

  • Artificial Silk Peony Bouquets ($13.99)
  • Plastic In Ground Cemetery Grave Site Vase ($12.99)
  • Benchmark Bouquets Pink Roses and White Lilies ($41.08)

Jump ahead to these sections:

While this is a guide on the etiquette surrounding cemetery decorations, those unwritten guidelines are generally trumped by the individual cemetery’s rules. Before decorating your loved one’s grave, make sure you understand the standards at each location. If the rules aren’t available on the website, call or stop in the office to make sure your decorations follow the parameters set forth by the staff. They may also be able to provide a written policy if you email the cemetery superintendent.

You may also be able to determine the general rules by looking at the other graves in the cemetery. If you see that only fresh flowers are used, then you may learn that silk arrangements are not allowed. If you see that there are no displays placed in the ground near the headstone, it is probably a good guess that the cemetery staff usually removes such decorations.

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Understanding General Rules & Etiquette for Flowers at Cemeteries

General rules of etiquette for flowers at a grave image

Again, you must make sure you understand the cemetery’s rules before spending time and money on a display. Here are some general rules that many U.S. cemeteries ask you to follow.

  • Generally, fresh or silk floral displays are allowed. Some cemeteries only allow fresh flowers. If this is the case, the cemetery staff typically removes the wilted flowers once a week. In some places, silk flowers are permitted in indoor mausoleums. If they’re allowed, consider purchasing silk flowers online to make an affordable custom display. fromgraveside burial servicesare usually removed in less than a week. Since fresh floral arrangements are typically used for a funeral, those displays are removed by the staff within a week. If you would like to remove ribbons or buds from the displays, it is best to do so sooner rather than later.
  • Some cemeteries, like national cemeteries, only allow you to decorate graves around the holidays. National cemeteries allow people to decorate around Easter and Memorial Day. They also allow families to decorate graves for a more extended period around Christmas. Other cemeteries may allow decorations for the previously listed holidays, but they also include Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Veteran’s Day, and All Souls Day.
  • Some cemeteries allow loved ones to place items into the ground near the headstone. Floral displays, often shaped like a cross or a wreath may be placed in the ground next to the headstone. One can also buy plastic vases that have a long, pointed stem, that can be placed in the ground, like this cemetery vase from Amazon. Some cemeteries allow such decorations as long as they do not interfere with the work of the grounds crew.
  • Some cemeteries allow decorations outside of the mowing season . Maintaining the grounds of a cemetery can be a difficult job. Mourners cannot expect mowers to remove each decoration before mowing and to replace the item after the job is done.
  • Some cemeteries do not allow any gifts or small items to be placed on the grave. People leave all manners of things on graves. You may see stuffed animals, small toys, notes, and other personal items placed on graves while other cemeteries have staff that immediately remove such items.
  • Some cemeteries allow mourners to plant bushes or perennials. Although this practice is not common in modern cemeteries, some older graves are decorated with flowers and shrubs that return each year.
  • Grave blankets can be a beautiful way to decorate a grave throughout the holidays. Some cemeteries may not allow grave blankets , so make sure you understand the rules before you follow this tradition.
  • Many cemeteries do not allow mourners to attach items to the gravestone. Some may attempt to attach wreaths or floral displays by wrapping them around the stone. This not only makes the stone difficult to read, but it also may be against the cemetery policy.
  • Some cemeteries do not allow pinwheels, wind chimes, plant hooks, bird feeders, or solar lights that stick in the ground. Placing those items on your loved one’s grave without permission of the cemetery can be a waste of money and time.
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Choosing & Laying the Right Flowers for a Grave

Choosing and placing flowers for a grave image

If you recently lost someone, you may desire to bring flowers to your loved one’s grave. Here are some suggestions to walk you through the steps of decorating a grave if you have never done so.

Learn the rules of the cemetery regarding floral displays

Most cemeteries have websites that list the rules for floral displays. If there is not a mention of flowers on the website, call or visit the main office before you purchase anything.

Since some cemeteries remove flowers on all the graves quarterly, you may want to time your visit so the flowers will stay on the grave for as long as possible.

Consider your loved one’s feelings regarding cemetery flowers

Some people have strong opinions about floral displays in a cemetery. Perhaps your mom always thought that plastic flowers were tacky.

Maybe this knowledge will help you determine what kind of flowers to bring. Maybe your loved one always told you that they would rather that you bring flowers for her while she was alive and not after she was gone. This may prevent you from taking an arrangement to the cemetery.

The FTC Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to accept caskets purchased anywhere.

This means you can buy your casket online, saving up to 85% off the funeral home pricing.

Consider if it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall

For the most part, try to place displays on your loved one’s grave that are appropriate for the season. Think about what grows naturally in your area during particular seasons to help guide you. Consider using light and bright colors for spring or summer, like this bouquet of fresh roses and lilies. Use reds, yellows, and rust colors during the fall. Decorate with reds, greens, or blues during the winter.

One exception to this rule of thumb is if your family member particularly loved one type of flower. Even if it’s fall, and your grandma loved purple irises, decorate her grave with the irises.

Laying the flowers on a grave

Be considerate of other visitors when you visit a cemetery. A cemetery is not a place for boisterous activity or loud discussions. In addition, it’s seen as poor etiquette and disrespectful to walk over a headstone.

Many people choose to talk to their deceased loved ones as they place flowers on the grave. Others may offer a prayer. You may want to use the time as silent reflection. Others may find the experience so emotional that it causes them to cry.

Keeping flowers fresh on a grave

Some cemeteries can be pretty lax regarding their floral policies. They might not ever remove flowers from a grave, which can be good or bad depending on the family.

Some people think that faded and torn synthetic flowers are an eyesore. Others may view an undecorated grave with disdain.

If you know that the workers in your loved one’s cemetery aren’t strict about removing wilted flowers, you may want to replace the flowers yourself at least once a quarter. Some people may replace the flowers monthly.

Talk with your family members or friends about your loved one’s grave flowers. Some of your family members may be upset if you remove their flowers to make room for yours. Consider creating a plan for arranging flowers on a loved one’s grave, or figure out a way to compromise with your family. In the end, the flowers are meant to be a remembrance of a loved one, so keeping that goal in mind can help smooth any ruffled feathers.

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Did you know?

Federal law requires funeral homes to accept caskets from anywhere.
This means you can buy your casket online, saving up to 85% off the funeral home pricing.

Maintenance for grave flowers

When you place flowers in a built-in vase on a grave, remember that your display must be able to survive gusty winds, heavy rain, and drifts of snow. You may consider placing a piece of styrofoam to fit snugly in the bottom of your base to keep the flowers secure. It might also be nice to clean the headstone, too.

Follow the Rules and Cemetery Etiquette

When it comes to placing flowers on graves, you need to follow your heart. If you feel as if this is something that would have been important to your loved one, then do it. If decorating your loved one’s grave is a part of your mourning process, do it.

The most important thing to remember is to follow the cemetery rules. In fact, when you pick out the final resting place for your loved one, you may consider these rules before making your decision. If you want to be able to place small gifts, Christmas trees, Halloween decorations, or a lilac bush on your loved one’s grave, make sure you choose a cemetery that has an open decoration policy.

How to Choose the Right Flowers to Place on a Grave

choose cemetery flowers

Choosing the right flowers to place on the grave of someone you loved can be a source of stress and confusion. You want to find the perfect arrangement, but with so many to choose from, you’re afraid you’ll get it wrong.

Here are some ideas and recommendations to consider that will hopefully make the decision easier for you.

Know Your Cemetery’s Rules

First of all, most cemeteries will have a set of rules regarding the placement of flowers. Make sure you know these rules prior to making any flower decisions. This is particularly important when it comes to National Cemeteries, as their rules can be quite strict.

There’s no point in purchasing and placing flowers that will immediately be thrown away because you didn’t obey the rules.

Artificial or Real Flowers?

The next thing to think about is do you want to place real or artificial flowers. We recommend artificial flowers for cemeteries for several reasons. First of all, they obviously last longer. A fresh flower arrangement will be dried up and look bad within a few days of placing them. Whereas artificial flowers can stay looking great for up to a year.

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Artificial flowers will also stand up to wind and other harsh weather conditions, and finally…artificial arrangements are significantly less expensive than real flowers (especially if you buy them online).

When Will You be Placing the Flowers on a Grave?

Consider when you’re going to be placing the flowers, because it will have a big impact on your selection. Some flowers just look at fit better in certain seasons than others. Obviously, any day is a great time to leave flowers, but here are the most popular times to do so.

cemetery daisies

  • Valentine’s Day – Red roses are very popular choices.
  • Spring / Easter (4/12/2020) – Bright pastel colors are popular for Spring and Easter. Calla Lilies are a great choice for Christian representation, and Daffodils are also a good choice.
  • Mother’s Day (5/10/2020) – Like Valentine’s Day red roses are the most popular choice for Mother’s Day. As always, Mom’s favorite color and/or flower type should always be considered.
  • Memorial Day (5/25/2020) – Red, white, and blue arrangements are extremely popular on Memorial Day, particularly when honoring a veteran or other US patriot. Carnations and poppies are popular, as well.
  • Father’s Day (6/21/2020) – More traditionally masculine colors, such as dark blues, are popular for Father’s Day. However, this is also a good time to consider team colors from Dad’s favorite team or Alma Mater.
  • 4th of July – Like Memorial Day, patriotic colors rule the cemetery for Independence Day.
  • Veteran’s Day – Once again, this is a good time to stay with the Memorial Day choices.
  • Fall / Thanksgiving (11/26/2020) – Traditional Autumn colors such as yellow, oranges, browns, and dark purples are perfect for the season.
  • Winter / Christmas – Arrangements with Poinsettias and Hollies are extremely popular for the winter and Christmas seasons. Look for strong colors that will stand out in gray or snowy conditions.

Special Dates:

For special dates like these, your flower choices should be more personal. Consider using the same type and color of flowers you may have given the deceased while they were still with you. Otherwise, think about what they would like, or alternatively, what you would like.

What Style of Flower Arrangement Should You Use?

Wreaths are customary at funerals as symbols of life, death, and the immortality of the soul. A wreath is typically used at a grave site as a symbol of hope that the spirit has moved on and surpassed the death of the body. Crosses are obviously Christian in nature, and symbolize eternal life.

Some arrangement styles, such as headstone saddles, vases, and flower pots don’t have any particular symbolism, but are used simply because they look nice.

What Type and Color of Flowers Do You Bring to a Cemetery?

cemetery tulips

Below are the symbolic meanings of many flowers that are popular in cemetery flower arrangements. Hopefully, one or more of these symbolic representations will remind you of your loved one, and spark some ideas.

Roses are the most popular flowers you will find in cemeteries. Each color has its own symbolic representation. Red roses are symbolic of passionate love and are a popular choice for a spouse. A pink rose represents friendship. Yellow roses are symbolic of zealousness, however they are also a popular choice for Texans. A white rose symbolizes purity. This is more indicative of the color white, rather than the fact that it’s a rose.

The Poppy represents consolation, but is also very symbolic for veterans. The connection dates back to World War I, when a Canadian military surgeon, who was also a poet, was struck by the sight of the red flowers on a ravaged battlefield. He wrote a poem titled, “In Flanders Field”, where he discussed the fallen soldiers buried under the field of poppies.

Calla Lilies symbolize marriage and fidelity. While they are grown in other colors, they are most often white, which represents purity.

The Sunflower is representative of adoration and dedication. It’s also a very popular choice for cemeteries in Kansas or for former Kansas residents buried elsewhere.

Peonies are symbolic of healing. From the cemetery perspective, it regards the emotional healing of those left behind after someone has passed away.

The Zinnia represents thoughts of friends.

Daisies symbolize innocence and purity.

Carnations are another flower who’s meaning varies by color. Red carnations represent flashy, pink is indicative of gratitude, and white signifies remembrance.

Amaryllis is a flower symbolic of splendid beauty. It’s also used to indicate worth beyond beauty.

The Chrysanthemum symbolizes fidelity, optimism, joy and long life. A red chrysanthemum conveys love, while a white chrysanthemum symbolizes truth and loyalty.

Daffodils symbolize regard and chivalry. They are indicative of rebirth, new beginnings and eternal life. They also symbolize unrequited love. Since they are one of the first flowers to appear in the Spring, they are a popular choice for Spring and Easter arrangements.

The Lilac symbolizes youthful innocence and confidence. The white lilac symbolizes humility and innocence, the field lilac symbolizes charity, and the purple lilac symbolizes first love.

Lilies symbolize purity and refined beauty. The white lily symbolizes modesty and virginity, the orange lily symbolizes passion, the yellow lily symbolizes gaiety, while Lily of the Valley symbolizes sweetness and purity of heart. The Easter lily is the symbol of the Virgin Mary.

The Orchid is symbolic of delicate or exotic beauty. It symbolizes refinement, thoughtfulness and mature charm. It also symbolizes proud femininity.

Tulips signify a declaration of love. They also symbolizes fame and perfect love. They are very popular in the Spring.

In regards to flower colors, ideas can come from what was the person’s favorite color. Alternatively, team colors from their favorite sports team or their Alma Mater are also great choices.

Can You Have Flowers Delivered to a Cemetery?

Most cemeteries will accept flower deliveries, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will placed on a particular grave site. Check with your cemetery to see if they offer placement services.

If they don’t offer placement services, but cemetery is owned by a church, there might be volunteers willing to place the flowers for you. Another option is to see if there are any local grave tending services. If so, they will place your flowers (for a fee).

How do You Keep Flowers from Blowing Away in a Cemetery?

cemetery roses

The best way to keep your flowers for the longest time possible is to anchor them to the headstone. If they’re placed on the stone, but not anchored, they’re likely to blow away, or possibly even be stolen.

If they’re placed on the ground, it’s likely the groundskeepers will remove them next time they mow. Depending upon the time of year, that could mean that your flowers only stay on the grave site for a few days.

For saddle arrangements, wreaths, and even bouquets, a headstone flower anchor will make sure that your flower arrangement stay secured to the headstone. This will ensure your flowers are still on your loved one’s grave for the longest time possible.


While there’s a lot to think about when choosing flowers to place on a grave, remember that there is no wrong choice. Anything you do from your heart to honor your loved one will be seen as such.




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