A state funeral is a national tribute which is traditionally reserved for a head of state. The United States conducts state funerals on behalf of all persons who hold, or have held, the office of president as well as a president-elect and other persons designated by the president. Foreign countries also mourn the loss of a former head of state and their participation generates its own protocol.
Military regulations provide guidance for how the United States conducts a state funeral and all involved ceremonies. While military regulation, tradition and protocol influence state funerals, personalized plans are developed to reflect family desires. Typically, family desires determine the number, location and sequence of public ceremonies and observances consistent with military regulations.
For example, in keeping with the wishes of the family, President Nixon's funeral took place over a two-day period from April 26-27, 1994, and included ceremonies in New York and California, but no ceremonies in Washington. President Reagan’s funeral took place over a seven-day period from June 5-11, 2004, and included services and ceremonies in Washington and California. President Ford’s funeral took place over a nine-day period from Dec. 26, 2006, to Jan. 3, 2007, and included services and ceremonies in California, Washington and Michigan.
The following list identifies the customary elements of a state funeral.
NOTE: This does not reflect the schedule for every state funeral. Each presidential family tailors the funeral to their wishes.
Explanation of Special Terms
NOTE: Lying in state occurs in the U.S. Capitol ONLY.
Information gathered from Army Pamphlet 1-1 and historical documents.