What Is Mourning Stationery?

Mary McMahon

Mourning stationery is formal stationery which is associated with a funeral, memorial, or mourning period. There are a number of different types of mourning stationery, ranging from plain black bordered correspondence paper to memorial cards which are designed to be kept as mementos. Many printing companies offer this stationery as part of their services, and funeral homes are often happy to help people make arrangements with such firms. It is also possible to purchase pre-packaged mourning stationery which is often quite suitable.

Traditionally, mourning has been a period accompanied by minimal public interaction.
Traditionally, mourning has been a period accompanied by minimal public interaction.

Traditionally, mourning has been a period accompanied by minimal public interaction for the primary mourners, especially in the case of widows. However, many people need or wish to communicate with the outside world, making some sort of formal stationery highly advisable. While one could use formal personal stationery for correspondence, this stationery is viewed as preferable in some societies, as a mark of respect for the deceased.

Mourning stationary may be used to send sympathy notes.
Mourning stationary may be used to send sympathy notes.

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During a period of mourning, people may choose to use black bordered paper for basic correspondence; such mourning stationery can also be customized with the name and crest of the sender, just like regular personal letterhead. It is also not uncommon to purchase sets of small thank you cards in somber designs to show appreciation for polite inquiries, gifts of flowers, and other marks of respect made to the deceased and his or her family. Such thank-yous are traditional and expected in most cultures, although a brief delay is not unacceptable, as it is assumed that the mourners are in grief.

Mourning stationery can also be handed out to attendants of a funeral or memorial. Many people like to print up memorial cards or brochures to commemorate the deceased; these range from classic prayer cards with religious themes to small booklets with photographs, poems, and other tributes to commemorate the lives of fun-loving people. At a formal funeral, programs may be printed on mourning stationery and distributed to the people who attend. Such memorial cards, programs, and booklets are traditionally kept, and they can also be sent to mourners who were not able to attend the funeral.

Obviously, most people want to avoid the need for mourning stationery. However, if aesthetics are especially important to you and you use personal letterhead, you may want to consider having this stationery printed in a classic, timeless design, so that it will be available when you need it. You can also use such stationery to correspond with people in mourning; the black band on your letterhead will be viewed as a thoughtful indicator of your respect. It is also a good idea to have a small stock of somber blank cards on hand for writing personalized condolence notes, and this wiseGEEK writer hopes no one needs to be reminded that keeping basic stationery on hand for writing thank-you notes is absolutely essential.

Programs at a funeral might be printed on mourning stationery.
Programs at a funeral might be printed on mourning stationery.

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Discussion Comments


Mourning stationery does not have to be dark and gloomy. Some people have them made with a picture of a cross or angel. Other people prefer flowers on the cards. It's really a personal preference and there is no rule about how it should look.


Mourning stationery is not a new idea. It has been used since the Victorian era in Britain. Mourning after the death of a loved one was a very important aspect of life in the Victorian era and there were specific rules and traditions involved. For example, wearing a black dress for a certain period of time and avoiding social events were a part of this.

Mourning stationery was widely used at the time, not only to inform others about the loss and funeral, but also for thank you notes and to decline invitations to events. The stationery was mostly white paper bordered with black, but many other designs also existed.

Although most of the other Victorian mourning traditions are no longer followed, mourning stationery continues to be used today.


I was not aware that special stationery exists for times of mourning. But that does make sense since regular, cheerful stationery would be unfit for the situation. But I don't think anyone prepares mourning stationery beforehand, at least that's not something I would think to do.

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