Q. Is it appropriate to send acknowledgments to everyone who attends a funeral? Should mass cards be acknowledged? And how much time can you take to send acknowledgments?

My policy is to mail acknowledgments to those who sent flowers, food, etc. or made a contribution to a charity or institution in memory of the deceased. Mass cards fall into the latter category, since people usually do contribute something. I also send acknowledgments to someone who wrote a personal note (either a stand-alone note or a handwritten note added to a printed card) as opposed to simply signing a condolence card. People who were particularly helpful should also be acknowledged, i.e. someone who picked up out-of-town relatives from the airport or babysat when necessary.

I have never received a printed acknowledgment for simply attending a funeral– and do not expect one. I don’t send them myself and have usually thanked attendees in person at the funeral. That said, it’s a nice thing to send acknowledgments to everyone if you wish– and have the time and energy. A big question is “How large is the funeral (or memorial service)?” It’s one thing if ten people attend; another if 300 show up.

What should you say in an acknowledgment? Something like, “Thank you for the wonderful fruit basket. I/We appreciate your thoughtfulness,” is appropriate. Or, “Cancer Care was my mother’s pet charity. Thank you so much for your contribution in her memory.” Or, “What would I have done without you at this difficult time? I so appreciate your comfort and support.” You can use your own correspondence cards, as long as the design and ink color are appropriate. Blue, black or grey print is best; red does not fit the occasion. These cards are perfect because they only have room for a few lines plus your signature. The funeral home may supply printed acknowledgment cards gratis, or you can buy them online or in a stationery store. Just add your own brief handwritten message at the bottom to personalize, as in, “Your note meant a lot to me,” followed by your signature.

Try to send acknowledgments within three months, although people will forgive anything when they know you’re grieving. It’s less daunting to write a few acknowledgments per day or per week than to face a huge list all at once. Consider asking family members to share the task if you need help. 


If you have a question for Florence, please email her at fisaacs@florenceisaacs.com.


Florence Isaacs is the author of several books on etiquette, including My Deepest Sympathies: Meaningful Sentiments for Condolence Notes a.... She writes two advice blogs for Legacy.com: Sincere Condolences and Widow in the World, a new blog for bereaved spouses and partners.  


Image via Flickr Creative Commons / shimelle

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