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Mourning Flag, Bunting & Ribbon Etiquette

Many people wonder about proper etiquette when it comes to flying flags in periods of mourning. They want to show their respect, but they want to ensure that they are doing so appropriately.

Mourning ribbons, buntings and flags are a great way to respectfully acknowledge a death, but how exactly should you go about displaying these items? How long should they remain on display for?

While mourning ribbon and flag etiquette varies depending on the specific scenario, there are a few general aspects of mourning protocol that it is important to be aware of. Here, we'll review the basics of mourning flag etiquette based on details provided by the Flag Research Center.

Traditional Mourning Flag, Ribbon and Bunting Etiquette

No. 123 — 1 April 2005
distribution code: PFS, CFS, NFS, DSS, FB, NAVA, NIFDA, XCFS, XDSS, XFB, Consult, NFB

The Flag Research Center often receives questions concerning proper protocol in regard to mourning.

In Western tradition black has always been considered the proper color to symbolize mourning. Occasionally white and/or purple have been associated with black, but they are neither standard nor recommended. Mourning bunting, pull-downs, drapery, ribbons, etc. of black are appropriate. Plain black flags are not recommended since they have also been used as a symbol of anarchism.

American flags traditionally fly at half-staff as a symbol of mourning, but there are circumstances where this is inappropriate. When the length of a flagpole, the permanent attachment of a flag to a staff, or the existence of obstructions such as shrubbery or a balcony make it difficult to half staff, attaching black ribbons above a flag is an alternate mode of expressing mourning. A ribbon twice the flag length and no more than 10% the flag width should be tied in a bow above the flag and below the finial, such that the two resulting streamers correspond roughly to the flag length (see image below).

Public buildings of all kinds should express mourning only by the authority of appropriate authorities. For example, in the case of the death of the pope, mourning on public buildings in the United States (half-staffing, draping in black) should be undertaken only if the President issues an executive order authorizing it. The Flag Research Center will notify its paid clientele of such an eventuality.

Following Proper Mourning Protocol: Displaying Your Mourning Flag, Ribbon & Bunting Correctly

With the mourning protocol above in mind, here are a few additional tips for making sure that your mourning flags, ribbons and buntings are displayed properly

Choose a Mourning Ribbon That is the Same Size as Your Flag

Mourning Ribbon

If you have chosen to display your flag with a mourning ribbon instead of lowering it to half staff, you'll want to be sure you have chosen a mourning ribbon that is sized appropriately.

The mourning ribbon should be approximately as long as the flag itself, and should be no wider than 10% of the width of the flag.

The image to the right shows what a properly sized mourning ribbon should look like. Keep in mind that double mourning ribbons are available as well.

Browse our variety of available black mourning ribbons here.

Display Mourning Buntings on Buildings and Grounds

Mourning flags and ribbons aren't your only options when it comes to showing your respect during periods of mourning. It is also appropriate to display mourning buntings and banners on the buildings and grounds. These buntings and banners are typically black and purple, and may feature other artwork such as the logo of a fire department or police department depending on the individual being mourned. These items can be used in funeral processions as well.

Browse our selection of mourning ribbons, buntings and flags here to view your options when it comes to mourning decor.

Have Additional Questions About Morning Ribbons, Buntings and Flags?

Want to be sure you're properly showing your respect? Get in touch with our flag experts today! Call us at 1-888-697-3524 or contact us online and we'd be happy to assist you with setting up your mourning decor appropriately.

Wondering When You Need to Follow Mourning Protocol?

We've got you covered! You can find further details about half-staff dates and flag rules here.