A sad part of military etiquette is honoring service members who have fallen in the line of duty. Remembering them honors their sacrifice and that of their families. It also underscores the importance of the commitment to duty made by the living. At military balls, weddings, reunions and other formal occasions, one beautiful, thoughtful way to honor those who have died is a Fallen Soldier Table. Each element on the table symbolizes something specific.


Place a small table in the hall or dining room, where guests can see it but where it will not be in the way. You might place it in a corner to the side of the head table, for instance, or to the side of the entrance door.


Spread the white tablecloth on the table, ensuring it is straight and symmetrical.


Set one place, with a clean, white place mat, plate, bread plate, cloth napkin and utensils. This setting represents your wish that the fallen men and women of the armed forces could be present at the happy occasion with you.


Insert a white taper candle, representing the light of hope, into a simple candle holder. Place it to one side of the center of the table, beyond the place setting.


Place a long-stemmed rose into a simple bud vase and set it on the other side of the table, opposite of the candle. The rose represents the families who love and keep faith with the men and women who serve.


Tie a ribbon into a bow on the vase. A yellow ribbon represents loyally in waiting for those who are serving away from home, while a red ribbon symbolizes the memory of and search for those missing in action.


Invert the wine glass or champagne flute, and place it upside-down to the right of the plate. This represents the fact that the fallen comrade will not be able to participate in the happy toasts at this event.


Place a lemon wedge on the bread plate to represent the bitter loss of the life of the fallen soldier.


Sprinkle salt over the lemon and the bread plate. The salt represents tears shed for the soldier who is missed.


Place an empty chair at the table in front of the place setting to represent the missing comrade.

Items you will need

  • Small table to seat one person

  • White tablecloth

  • White place mat

  • Plate

  • Bread plate

  • White cloth napkin

  • 1 place setting of dinner utensils

  • White taper candle

  • Candle holder

  • Long-stemmed rose (any color)

  • Bud vase

  • Red ribbon or yellow ribbon

  • Wine glass or champagne flute

  • Lemon wedge

  • Sprinkle of salt

  • Chair

  • Military-issue boots, hat or helmet (optional)

  • Spotlight (optional)

  • Printed dedication or prayer (optional)


  • You may add a helmet or military uniform hat to the table or place a pair of empty boots on on the floor to further symbolize the fallen.

    Many groups choose to conduct a brief, respectful ceremony centered on the Fallen Soldier Table. The script for such a ceremony is simple. It consists primarily of describing the symbolism of the various elements on the table and reminding those present of its purpose. It may end with a moment of silence, a toast to the fallen, a prayer, or some combination. The speaker may feel more comfortable with a printed script to follow.

    The table may represent a specific person, or it may stand for all those who have died in a certain conflict or all conflicts. Feel free to adapt the Fallen Soldier Table to your own honorees and occasions, so long as you keep the tone respectful and formal.