If you’ve been to a few different funerals, you might have noticed that some include flags as part of the ceremony. This is especially true for military funerals, and there is a complex history of flag code that goes along with this tradition.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Are Funeral Flags for Processions or Caskets?
- What Size Funeral Flag Do You Need?
- How Much Does a Funeral Flag Cost?
- Where Can You Purchase a Funeral Flag?
While anyone can be buried with any flag of their choosing, it’s typical to be buried with a United States flag to honor someone’s service or patriotism. When choosing a funeral flag, there are a few things you’ll need to know, however.
From sizes to price to how to find the right flag, this guide is a cheat sheet for funeral flags. We’ll explain everything you need to know about funeral flags to honor your loved one’s service or love for their country.
What Are Funeral Flags for Processions or Caskets?
A funeral flag for a procession or casket is a flag specifically designed to be included in a funeral. There are specific rules for how a funeral flag presentation goes at a service or memorial. These are just specific flags that are deemed usable for a funeral service.
In the United States, funeral flags are usually the United States flag. However, anyone can be buried in any flag of their choosing. This could be a state flag or any flag that has significance to the deceased.
How are flags displayed?
How specifically are these flags displayed at the funeral? There are three main ways, depending on the type of ceremony:
- Closed casket: At a closed casket ceremony, the flag is draped over the casket so the blue union field is at the head and over the left shoulder of the deceased. It gives the impression that the flag is embracing the deceased.
- Half couch (open casket): For a half couch casket that is partially open, the flag is placed in three layers over the closed half. The blue fold is always on top.
- Full couch (open casket): If the casket is fully open, the flag is folded in a triangular shape and placed in the center part of the head panel. It rests above the left shoulder of the deceased.
This custom has existed since the Napoleonic Wars when the dead were carried from the battlefield and covered with a flag. Today, this flag funeral procession is used around the world to honor those who served the country.
The flag is placed on the casket through a procession. This is typically performed by active-duty service members. After the service, the flag is given to the next-of-kin as a keepsake to honor their service.
Who can use a burial flag?
While it’s often believed that only veterans can only use a burial flag, this isn’t true. Anyone who was patriotic, even if they didn’t serve in the military, can be granted the same honor as the military.
Burial flags are used by anyone who requests one. The only key difference is that funeral flags are provided for free by one’s branch of service and the Department of Veterans Affairs. For those who simply wish to use a burial flag without belonging to a military branch must purchase one at their own expense.
What flags can’t be used?
There are some rules about which flags can and can’t be used during a memorial or funeral service. For a flag to be used, it needs to be deemed “usable.” This means it needs to be a standard US flag in good condition.
Violating US flag protocols could make the flag unusable. These protocols are set by the US Flag Code. If the flag has any other markings or advertisements on it, or if it’s damaged or touches the ground, it’s no longer considered usable for a funeral ceremony.
What Size Funeral Flag Do You Need?
Funeral flags need to be a specific size. They’re actually larger than most caskets, and this allows them to create that well-known draping effect, adding to the impression of the individual’s service.
Casket flags are 9.5’ by 5’. This gives them enough size to be folded according to Flag Code, and they’re easy to drape on caskets of different shapes and sizes. Whether you get a flag from the VA or on your own, it should be this size.
How Much Does a Funeral Flag Cost?
If you served in the military in any way, you might be eligible for a free funeral flag from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. This is true for anyone who no longer serves in the military as well as active servicemen and women. The only time you are no longer eligible is if you were dishonorably discharged.
Otherwise, if you have no affiliation with the military, you will need to purchase the flag yourself. These can be found at the proper casket size for anywhere from $50 to $150 depending on the material. Many of these flags are handmade, so they’re a cherished keepsake. Some even donate veteran’s burial flags to be used again.
Where Can You Purchase a Funeral Flag?
There are a lot of places you can purchase a funeral flag if you need one. Whether you’re honoring an active-duty member or someone who was passionate about their love for their country, there are so many places to find the perfect funeral flag.
Department of Veteran’s Affairs
As mentioned above, burial flags are provided at no cost to drape over the casket or urn of any veteran. This is a simple process. A funeral director can help with obtaining a VA flag, but you can also apply yourself by completing VA Form 27-2009.
You can also arrange this with a local post office. Post offices are the primary place that issues these burial flags, so call your local post office to see if they can assist you with this process.
Your funeral home
Your funeral home can also help you find the right funeral flag for your needs.
They might have some in-person to purchase for the casket, or they might have connections with high-quality suppliers. Your funeral home is a great resource.
US Flag Store
It should come as no surprise that you can find any type of burial flag imaginable online. The US Flag Store has a variety of flags at competitive prices.
They have 50+ years of experience being the nation’s leading flag supplier, and they specialize in US flags, state flags, and military flags that fit the standard casket size.
Veteran Flag Depot
Another supplier of US veteran and burial flags is Veteran Flag Depot. This online retailer specializes in cotton flags made to government specifications.
They also have a variety of add-ons like display cases for holding onto the flag for years to come.
The largest online retailer for all things also has a selection of casket flags. These can be purchased on short notice, perfect for a last-minute casket flag.
That being said, like with all things purchased online, be mindful of choosing a quality supplier.
Honor a Veteran with a Funeral Flag
Burial flags are a simple but powerful way to honor someone who dedicated their life to their country or patriotism. Draping a flag over the casket or doing a flag procession is a way to show respect after a death, and it also gives the family an extra heirloom to keep forever.
As you can see from the guide above, burial flags have special requirements that you might not consider when shopping for a flag on other occasions. If you get a flag for free through the VA, you don’t have to worry about it being the proper size. Otherwise, you’ll be responsible for ensuring this flag meets the typical requirements.
Many people choose to include funeral flags as part of the funeral ceremony. For someone who loved their country, there could be no greater honor.