Ceremonial Flag Folding Tutorial


Today we'll be looking at when and why a ceremonial flag folding process is performed, what is the proper way to handle a U.S. flag, what is the significance of the 13 folds, types of American flags used during ceremonies, and what is a display case and when to use it. So let’s get started!



Folding the American Flag

In the army and navy, the flag is lowered daily at sunset and carefully folded into the shape of a tri-cornered hat which is emblematic of the hats worn by colonial soldiers during the war for Independence. The red and white stripes of the flag are wrapped into the blue at the end. This type of special folding is reserved for the U.S. flag only.

Ceremonial flag folding can also take place during military funerals when a special U.S. flag is draped over the coffin. The honor guard detail will perform a ceremony that includes the folding and presenting of the flag of the United States to the next of kin.

When a proper military funeral is not requested or more than one family member would like to keep the ceremonial flag, additional flags can be bought, folded and displayed in a special case.

Some of the other instances for the flag folding ceremonies include honoring the flag on special days, like Memorial Day or Veterans Day, and during retirement ceremonies.


Proper handling of the flag

It is paramount that the flag is not dishonored by touching the ground. At least two people should be part of the ceremonial folding process. While keeping the flag parallel to the ground, one should hold it firm while the other performs 13 triangular folds. When the ceremony is concluded, the flag should resemble a tri-corner hat with only the stars showing and no red being exposed.

Folded American Flag 


Significance of the 13 folds

There is no official meaning to each of the 13 folds, but there are several suggested scripts that can be used during flag folding ceremonies. Have a look at the American Legion's proposed symbolisms here.


Different types of American flags used

During military burials, a 5 x 9 ½' G-Spec cotton American flag is draped over the casket before the folding ceremony. G-Spec stands for 'Government Specification' - it has bigger stars than your regular 5 x 9 1/2' cotton U.S. flag. When family members are looking for an additional one to display, they can purchase either the  G-Spec or the regular cotton 5 x 9 1/2' flag. In both instances, cotton material is recommended due to tradition.

For retirement ceremonies, a 3x5’ cotton U.S. flag is utilized. It is folded using the same ceremonial procedure of at least two people holding the flag parallel to the ground and doing the 13 folds.


The use of display cases

Display cases are a nice way to store and display the folded ceremonial flags while keeping them protected from dust and dirt. These cases come in a variety of designs and finishes. Make sure to pick the right size for either your 5 x 9 ½' or 3x5' flag.

Display Case


We hope you enjoyed our video and blog post about ceremonial flag folding. Feel free to leave your feedback on our Facebook page - type @FlagsOnlinecom into the search bar to find us.

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  • Maria Wyatt